COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
After taking her sufferings with dignity and grace, the most prominent victim of extra-judicial killing, 11th president of the Republic of the Philippines, Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino or Cory, is now laid to rest.
Back in the martial law years, President Ferdinand Marcos practically reorganized Philippine society; creating new enemies from within, dividing people into new warring factions, alienating others, setting aside more others, and redistributing the resources of the land.
Democracy turned into autocracy. The judiciary was made into a rubber stamp and at the dispensation of Malacañang. The bicameral Congress was dissolved into a unicameral body but only subordinate to Pres. Marcos’ issuance of presidential decrees. Corruption was excessive while foreign debt increased and the peso was several times devalued.
After Marcos’ fall in the February 1986 Uprising, no smart thinking politician or cynical military leader would have done what Cory did, especially after having lived in that era of fear and distrust, accompanied with political and economic opportunism. It would take an innocent but brave soul to see goodness and hope in a beleaguered land.
It has to take Cory to do the work of retrieval and reconciliation to put order into the house again. It has to take Cory, not compromised by politics but exposed to its intricacies to ascertain how men work. It has to take Cory, to gather lost sons and daughters, sweep the broken pieces of a shattered nation, and sow trust among men again.
Three days after Pres. Aquino took the oath of the presidency in February 1986, she announced that she will “free all political detainees” including the top leaders of the CPP/NPA/NDF. Thus in the first week of her ascendancy, Pres. Aquino released a total of 517 prisoners including Jose Maria Sison, CPP chairman and Bernabe Buscayno, NPA commander-in-chief.
After releasing the political detainees, Pres. Aquino restored the writ of habeas corpus and started peace negotiations with the armed groups. By April, the government started negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front. By June, it held initial talks with Condrado Balweg of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army. By August, it started formal negotiations with representatives of the National Democratic Front.
Side by side with this gathering act, Pres. Aquino faced the tremendous task of house cleaning by creating the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Presidential Commission on Human Rights (PCHR). PCGG undertook the long retrieval of the stolen national treasury while PCHR accounted for the human rights violations of the previous regime. Even the military establishment started to “regain moral footing” in its slow process of renewal.
The year that followed, a new constitution was drafted with the aim to return to the democratic system of governance, and the laying of the foundation for a more equitable social order. Congress was restored with its two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The three branches of government were from then on to function independently and with equal powers. Other features of the 1987 Constitution simply provided for the restructuring of the bureaucracy and Philippine society like the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and the Party List system.
What Cory did was an act of faith, determination, and courage; from the time she challenged Marcos in a snap election, the “People Power” revolution, to the time she turned over the presidency to Fidel Ramos as her successor. She even withstood several coup attempts during her volatile term of office. She merely persevered to keep the nation intact and preserve the Filipino people’s new found freedom. And like an indomitable and unfazed mother, she kept her smiles and her prayers.
Cory, the restorer, the unifier, with all her inherent grace declared: “I thank God for being a Filipino” and “I thank you for making me one of your own.”