Cory’s Moral Force Lives On
The outpouring of affection and adulation after the death of former President Corazon Aquino signified not only a grateful people’s mourning, but also a celebration of what she fought and stood for. The hundreds of thousands who lined the 30- kilometer funeral route both wept and applauded, as the casket bearing her remains passed by.
Cory embodied the pride and hope of a long beleaguered nation. She was the first female in modern history who successfully led the struggle against the dictatorship and who was installed by the people to restore democracy in her country.
The 1986 People Power revolution served as an exemplar of nonviolent movements around the world. Since then, people power had ushered in democracy in Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, South Korea, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and South Africa.
Cory not only led her people to freedom. She also demonstrated the value of integrity in governance. She did not cling to the emergency powers she had right after the revolution. Instead, she chose to convene a constitutional commission, which was tasked to frame the fundamental law that would provide the framework for the newly restored democracy.
She upheld the constitution and remained an incorruptible leader throughout her six-year presidency. Even if she came from a landowning family, she pushed for the passage of an agrarian reform law.
23 years have passed since the People Power revolution. National morale is at its lowest. Corruption and criminality are widespread. Trust in government has been severely eroded. Most congressmen are pushing for constitutional change in order to extend their terms of office. Poverty and social inequality have gotten worse. The economy’s survival depends on remittances from overseas workers.
In 1986, as we saw millions of Filipinos massing to defy army tanks in defense of freedom, we said to ourselves: “Never again will our rights and dignity be trampled upon by a tyrant.” But now, we realize that the morality play did not end with the fall of the dictatorship in 1986. The struggle between good and evil goes on to this very day in Philippine political life.
Many of us had wrongly assumed that the “Cory magic” was gone. But now, we find strength and encouragement in what we witnessed in the past week. Through their outpouring of love and support for Cory, Filipinos reaffirmed their dedication to democracy. The overwhelming turnout in the streets, despite the inclement weather, should serve as a warning to those who have designs to undermine our hard-won freedom. The memory of Ninoy and Cory Aquino remains a force that will continue to energize and sustain the people’s idealism. We hope that the recent demonstration of national unity is a prelude to a better Philippines.
Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta was a member of the Constitutional Commission convened in 1986 by then President Corazon Aquino. He served as Deputy Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from 2003-2006, and is currently Professor Emeritus of De La Salle University.