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Benigno Aquino

Benigno Aquino

Benigno Aquino (1933-1983) of the Philippines was a leading opponent of the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. His opposition ended in August 1983 when, after living in exile in the United States for three years, he returned to Manila and was gunned down at the airport. His death precipitated massive demonstrations against President Marcos.

"Nino" Aquino was born in 1933 in Tarlac Province, Luzon, to a prominent family. At age 22 he became the nation's youngest mayor in his hometown of Concepcion. Just six years later he became governor of Tarlac province. In 1967 Aquino once again made history when he became the youngest senator elected in the country's history. Meanwhile he married Corazon Cojoangco; they raised five children.

Aquino became famous for his oratorical gifts and his brilliant mind, as well as his immense ambition. He emerged as the leading candidate for the presidency in 1973 when President Marcos was scheduled to leave office after completing the maximum two terms as president. The Marcos government had already begun its campaign against Aquino, labeling him as a Communist sympathizer because of the contacts he had established with insurgency leaders in central Luzon.

Aquino's ambition to be president was dashed when President Marcos declared martial law and dissolved the constitution. Marcos took all power unto himself and jailed his political opponents, including Aquino. Aquino spent over seven years in prison and was found guilty of murder, subversion, and illegal possession of firearms. Aquino denied these charges as well as the legitimacy of his trial and conviction by a military tribunal. In 1980 he was allowed to go to the United States for a heart bypass operation, and he remained in exile as a research fellow at Harvard University until his ill-fated return in 1983.

Following the assassination, and after appointing his own investigative commission of cronies, President Marcos was pressured to appoint a five-person non-partisan investigative board led by Judge Corazon Agrava. Marcos and the military stated that the assassination was carried out by a lone gunman in the pay of the Communist Party. The alleged gunman, Rolando Galman, was shot at the airport immediately following the shooting of Aquino, so he could not be cross-examined. The military carried out its own investigation and reported, not surprisingly, that no military personnel were involved in the death.

The official commission's majority report found that Aquino was not slain by the alleged Communist hireling as claimed by Marcos and the military but was the victim of a "criminal conspiracy" led by the military and including Gen. Fabian Ver, the armed forces chief of staff, the highest ranking general of the country, and a close friend and cousin of President Marcos. Ver's indictment included complicity in attempting to cover up the crime.

The commission's findings were astonishing, although from the beginning most Filipinos doubted the official version of the assassination. Almost no one believed that military generals would order the execution of Aquino on their own initiative, although no proof was ever presented that directly implicated the president. It is true that Aquino posed a threat as a possible unifier of the dispersed opposition. He had been the president's principal adversary for decades.

Ironically, the democratic opposition to Marcos was strongest after it lost its most famous leader. In death Aquino became more powerful than ever. The assassin of Aquino could never have known how seriously the authority of President Marcos would be undermined by his act. As Marcos lost credibility, the economy of the Philippines deteriorated so that by 1985 the nation was in political and economic chaos. At the same time, the opposition used the assassination to its own advantage so that Marcos was forced to relent on many of his most onerous policies. The press began publishing critical commentary and the elections for the National Assembly resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of oppositionists elected.

In December 1985 the court exonerated General Ver and the others charged with Aquino's murder. Marcos promptly reinstated Ver to his former position. But popular unrest with Marcos' rule was growing steadily and within weeks would coalese around Aquino's widow, Corazon.

Further Reading

A biography of the Aquino family written by Nick Joaquin is The Aquinos of Tarlac: An Essay on History as Three Generations (Manila, 1983). Other sources include Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen Thompson Hill, Aquino Assassinated: The Story and Analysis of the Assassination of Philippine Senator Benigno S. Aquino (1983) and National Library of Australia, Benigno Aquino: A Select Bibliography of Articles in Periodical Publications Held in the National Library of Australia (Canberra, 1983). For detailed analysis of the assassination, see the weekly issues of Asia Week and Far Eastern Economic Review beginning August 21, 1983.

Additional Sources

Aquino, Benigno S., Testament from a prison cell, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines: Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation, 1984.

Benigno, Teodoro C., Ninoy, the heart and the soul, Manila: Office of the Press Secretary, Bureau of Communications Services, 1988.

Hill, Gerald N., Aquino assassination: the true story and analysis of the assassination of Philippine Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., Sonoma, Calif.: Hilltop Pub. Co., 1983.

Joaquin, Nick., Ninoy Aquino in the Senate: final chapters of The Aquinos of Tarlac: an essay on history as three generation, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila: Solar Pub. Corp., 1986.

Ninoy Aquino: the man, the legend, Metro Manila, Philippines: Cacho Hermanos, 1984.

Policarpio, Alfonso P., Ninoy: the willing martyr, Philippines: Isaiah Books, 1986.

White, Mel, Aquino, Dallas: Word Pub., 1989. □

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Aquino, Benigno

Benigno Aquino

Born: November 27, 1932
Tarlac Province, Luzon, Philippines
Died: August 21, 1983
Manila, Philippines

Filipino politician

Benigno Aquino of the Philippines was a leading opponent of the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos (19171989), who governed the Philippines from 1966 to 1986. Aquino's opposition ended in August 1983 when, after living in the United States for three years, he returned to the Philippine capital of Manila and was assassinated (killed) at the airport. Aquino's death touched off massive demonstrations against President Marcos.

Youthful accomplishments

Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino was born on November 27, 1932, in Tarlac Province, on the island of Luzon, to a prominent family. He was the grandson of a general and the son of a Philippine senator who was also a wealthy landowner. His ambition and energy stood out early when, at age seventeen, he was sent by the Manila Times newspaper to report on the Korean War (195053). The war was between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and was a war in which the United States and China eventually joined.

At age twenty-two Aquino became the Philippines' youngest mayor in his home-town of Concepcion. Just six years later he became governor of Tarlac province (a position similar to governing a state). In 1967 Aquino once again made history when he became the youngest senator ever elected in the Philippines. Meanwhile he married Corazon Cojoangco, with whom he eventually raised five children.

A fallen leader

Aquino became famous for his gifts as a public speaker and for his brilliant mind, as well as his great ambition. He became the leading candidate for the presidency in 1973, when President Marcos was scheduled to leave office after completing the maximum two terms as president. Aquino's ambition to be president was never realized, however, because President Marcos declared martial law (a state of emergency in which military authorities are given temporary rule). At the same time Marcos dissolved the constitution, claiming supreme power and jailing his political opponents, including Aquino. Aquino was charged with murder, subversion (intention to undermine legal authority), and illegal possession of firearms. Although he denied the charges, Aquino was found guilty and was convicted by a military tribunal, or military court, and spent over seven years in prison. In 1980 he was allowed to go to the United States for a heart bypass operation. He remained in the United States as a refugee until returning to the Philippines in 1983. Upon arriving at the Manila airport he was shot and killed.

Following the assassination President Marcos was pressured to appoint a five-person, politically neutral investigative board, led by Judge Corazon Agrava. Marcos and the military stated that a lone gunman who had been hired by the Communist Party had carried out the assassination. The alleged gunman, who had been shot at the airport immediately following the shooting of Aquino, could not be cross-examined. The military carried out its own investigation, and reported that no military personnel were involved in the death.

The official commission's majority report found that Aquino was not slain by the alleged gunman, as Marcos and the military claimed, but was the victim of a "criminal conspiracy" by the military led by General Fabian C. Ver, who was the armed forces chief of staff. He was also a close friend and cousin of President Marcos. The commission's findings were astonishing, although from the beginning most Filipinos doubted the official version of the assassination. No proof was ever presented that directly showed Marcos was involved, but almost no one in the Philippines believed that military generals would order the execution of Aquino on their own. Those who suspected Marcos's involvement noted that Aquino posed a threat as someone who might unite the opposition and who had been the president's main rival for decades.

Aquino's legacy

As it turned out the democratic opposition to Marcos was strongest after its leader's death. As Marcos lost the trust of his people, the Philippine economy also fell apart. By 1985 the nation was in political and economic chaos, with Marcos under attack by the press and by the strengthened political opposition, which did well in elections.

In December 1985 the court proclaimed that General Ver and the others charged with Aquino's murder were not guilty. Marcos promptly returned Ver to his former position. Popular unrest with Marcos's rule grew steadily, however. Within weeks a political movement formed around Aquino's widow, Corazon. She was elected president of the Philippines in 1986, unseating Marcos.

For More Information

Hill, Gerald N. and Kathleen Thompson. Aquino Assassination: The Story and Analysis of the Assassination of Philippine Senator Benigno S. Aquino. Sonoma, CA: Hilltop Pub. Co., 1983.

White, Mel. Aquino. Dallas: Word Pub., 1989.

Cite this article
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"Aquino, Benigno." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Aquino, Benigno." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/aquino-benigno

"Aquino, Benigno." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved November 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/aquino-benigno