The late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr. has been revered as a Filipino National Hero, one of only three to be recognized by the national government. He was also, for decades, been famously known as the arch nemesis of then strongman and dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos who ruled the Philippines for 20 years. The world watched as the two of the most brilliant minds in Philippine politics go head to head to a collision course that would lead to a momentous revolution, one kind that the world would see for the first time. Ninoy was also labeled, among many things, as the Greatest President the Philippines never had, as famously pronounced by the great statesman Jovito Salonga.
He was also proclaimed as the most Charismatic and Dynamic Opposition leader of his time – the Wonder Boy of Philippine politics. Youngest War Correspondent at age 17, youngest Mayor at age 23, youngest Vice Governor – then Governor of Tarlac, and believed to be destined to become the youngest President if Marcos hadn’t imposed Martial Law in 1971 and ruled by decree.
He was also accused of being a Communist, in relation to his (and then Opposition) seemingly sympathetic alliance with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing the New People’s Army. One accusation which was used by Marcos to imprison him for 7 years, making him Prisoner Alpha on the very wake of Martial Rule. Although time and again, Ninoy would reiterate to the public that, “I am not a Communist. Never was, never will be.”
But aside from the many things Ninoy was called, either by his supporters or critics, there is one thing that was widely missed in his persona and ideals.
That of which him being a Christian Socialist.
Merely 2 years before his fated assassination at the tarmac of Manila International Airport, Ninoy spoke in a symposium in Los Angeles that has what now become one of his famous speeches. In this 2 hour delivery of what could be called the summary of his experiences, ideals, and principles, his true ideology was explained towards the end of the symposium – in the question & answer portion. There, he answered point by point what should be done with the country and its fight for freedom. And widely missed detail, but perhaps (in my personal judgment) the most important of all, was when he explained himself as a Christian Socialist.
Ninoy Aquino may not be a Communist, but he and the Liberal Party have always been placed at the Center – Left, meaning [they] have always subscribed to progressive, liberal, and populist ideals. Still maintaining the position of being a moderate, it was also nonetheless obvious that he was inclined to a moderate form of Socialism. I have now transcribed points of those ideals on that fateful symposium, and present just exactly what kind of socialism he wanted to happen.
February 15, 1981
Freedom Rally Symposium – Movement for a Free Philippines
Willshire Ebell Theater, Los Angeles, California
When asked regarding his stand on foreign investments if he was to become President
On Foreign investments:
Foreign investments are in the Philippines to give employment to our people. We should watch against predatory foreign investors who are exploitative of the Filipino people, but I cannot accept that all foreign investments are exploitative. There are many foreign investments that are helpful to our country, because there are many foreign multinationals that have the technology which we do not have. We do not have the technology in digitals and computers, who will teach us this?
The idea is not to kick out foreign investment but to regulate foreign investment so that it will be mutually beneficial to both countries. When they become exploitative, they should be expectorated , but when they help the economy, they should be encouraged.
When asked about the relationship with the Communist Party of the Philippines
We should allow every voice and every idea to ventilate their views in the public market. We should legalize the Communist Party of the Philippines and give them exactly the same forum to expound on their ideas. And once they have expounded their ideas, and the Filipino should opt them, then I think we should, in the spirit of democracy, accept majority rule.
I will not accept a dictatorship of the right , much less will I accept a dictatorship of the left. But it should be the Filipino people, in the ultimate sense, who will judge which ideology and which cause that they should endorse.
And on a single occasion, he was asked about being a Christian Socialist, and so he defined:
1.) An equal opportunity for advancement and the full development of a human being. This means that the poorest person in the land must be given the equal opportunity for education. Not all men are created equal in their talents, some are more brilliant than others. But we must give every citizen of the republic the equal right and the equal opportunity to quality education.
2.) The Christian Socialist believes that the great legitimizer of government is the ballot, not the bullet. Therefore, because we believe in the ballot, we believe in the majority rule. So that if the majority should opt and should win in a contest, then the minority should accept the majority mandate. But we put a collatilia – that the majority, even if it wins, must respect minority rights.
3.) We do not believe in the exploitation of man by man. Meaning, we do not believe in unbridled capitalism where the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. In a developed country like America, you may have capitalism. But in a developing country like the Philippines with very meager resources and a developing economy, we must harness our meager economy and maximize their benefits. Therefore, there should be a centralized economic planning and the government must give the direction as to prevent any overlap. An example:
- In the Philippines today, because it is profitable to have condominiums and office buildings, all the millionaires in the Philippines are putting up all of their money in buildings and condominiums to the detriment of our industrial development. They go where the quick buck is, but I believe that we should go where the long range of the interest of the Filipino is.
4.) I do not believe in the monopoly of basic industries. Why should one family monopolize one electric company in the Philippines? or why should one family monopolize the ownership of one airline company in the Philippines? or why should one company monopolize the telephone company in the Philippines? Since the government is funding all of these to begin with, these families are borrowing from government institutions and must depend on government guarantees, then I say let the government own them and let the people share in the profit.
Christian Socialism, therefore, is nothing more than democracy.
All these ideas were uttered almost 30 years ago, amidst the turmoil that enveloped the Philippines under a 20 year right-wing Dictatorship. But to sum it all up, the present status quo of the society in the Philippines still hasn’t changed. Where our regional neighbors in Asia have long since progressed and developed, we on the other hand have remained idle and stalled with the same problems and the same dysfunctions in our still obsolete and corrupt institutions and government. It makes just the right sense, that the late senator’s ideals are still very much the feasible solutions that were never applied, but we could still do, in the present time.
Maybe we do not need to label ourselves as Christian Socialists, Center Leftists, Liberals with Communist tendencies, just to identify ourselves against Rightist Capitalists with Fascist tendencies. But just looking at the progressive and practical ideals that a National Hero, who called himself a Christian Socialist, once tried to offer his people in what he saw as what his country really needed. It may not be a final solution, but a logical solution no less. Maybe there is no need to call ourselves anything at all, but simply Free Filipinos.
“We should not depend on one man. We should depend on all of us. All of us are expendable in the cause for freedom. Therefore I say, stand up now and be a leader – and when all of us are leaders, we will expedite the cause of freedom.”
– Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr.