Corazon Aquino, Freedom Fighter
Former Philippines President Corazon (Heart) Aquino died the other day. She not only was the first woman President of the Philippines she was a good President. She was as important to the world as she was to Filipinos.
First, after her opposition politician husband Benigno Aquino was assassinated, she rose to the top of spontaneous “Peoples’ Revolution” against Dictator Ferdinand Marcos that bloodlessly ran the dictator and his shoe fetishist wife Imelda out of the Philippines. People power massed around her and surrounded armed soldiers sent by Marcos to put down the “Revolution.”
Secondly, her powerful leadership of millions of protesting Filipinos led President Ronald Reagan to nod approval of the revolution and allowed Filipino Air Force rebels to use American facilities from which to support the anti-Marcos revolution.
A representative scenario of her “People Power” was election night when a group of Catholic Nuns sat atop ballot boxes so the votes inside couldn’t be tampered with by Dictator Marcos’ thugs bent on stealing the election for Marcos. He did steal the election but that led to a tidal wave of protest that turned Marcos out of office and into exile in Hawaii.
Thirdly, Corazon Aquino inspired people all over the world to rise up and throw off dictators of all sorts but primarily in Eastern Europe where “little” people looked to the Philippines for an example of how to drive a dictator from power.
Fourthly, she protected the Philippines new found democracy her government brought to the country by beating back six attempted military coups.
She was a remarkable woman, a remarkable President.
She did not run for reelection setting another political precedent. Nonetheless, through giant egos, corrupt elections and a continuing terrorist threat from homegrown Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists – The Abu Sayyaf, have not destroyed the Philippines left behind by President Aquino.
Once the keystone to America’s interests in Southeast Asia, the Philippines have cut most of their intimate ties with the United States over recent years and the American military no longer is ensconced as it once was in huge American naval and air bases there as it has for decades. Those forces have moved to the island of Guam.
Nonetheless, American forces, special and Marine, are in the Philippines helping the Filipinos fight the Abu Sayyaf and will remain there unless President Obama writes off the Philippines. Thus continues the intimate relationship of American and Filipinos that began in the 1930s when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent General Douglas McArthur to the Philippines to organize and command the Filipino Army.
That army was incorporated into the American Army when the Japanese attacked the Philippines and launched an invasion and brutal occupation that lasted three years. The Japanese controlled many of the country’s cities but very little of the backcountry because Filipinos and Americans didn’t surrender when ordered to in 1942 and organized guerilla warfare that led to most of the country being guerilla controlled by the time the Americans returned.
After the war with the Japanese Communist rebels took up arms and once again Filipinos and Americans fought together against the rebel “Huks.” It took ten years but they were beaten back and down. Now it’s the Abu Sayyaf and Americans and Filipinos are fighting together again against terrorists this time.
In the meanwhile, thousands of Filipinos joined the U.S. Navy under a special arrangement during which 25,000 Filipinos were enlisted into the U.S. Navy and that number maintained for well over 50 years. At any given time, 25,000 of the best and brightest Filipinos competed by examination to be one of these men. At first they were limited to being only stewards but eventually filled many ranks and jobs in the Navy.
Many became U.S. citizens and brought their families to the United States. They live in large numbers in California. In San Diego, for example, there are more Filipinos (250,000) than American blacks.
Part of that successful advance by Filipinos in California can be attributed to President Corazon Aquino and the example she set for Filipinos worldwide as well as the respect for freedom she marshaled all over the world.
She was a good woman, a good President and a fine example of what freedom means and is. We regret her passing.