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Cory must be ‘grieving for us, what we have become’

MASS FOR DEMOCRACY ICON Pangasinan Archbishop Soc Villegas blesses the tomb of former President Cory Aquinio at Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City on her 10th death anniversary. —EARVIN PERIAS

Ten years since she died, democracy icon Corazon Aquino must be “grieving for us”

This was the message in the  homily of Pangasinan Archbishop Soc Villegas in Thursday’s Mass attended by some 100 people, mostly family members, close friends and allies of the late President at Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.

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As in past commemorations of the birth and death  of Cory and her husband, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the country’s modern heroes who fought a dictatorship, their tombs were adorned with yellow flowers, as the color is associated with the victorious struggle against the Marcos dictatorship to win back the Filipinos’ freedoms.

These days, yellow is being disparaged by supporters of the Duterte administration and critics of the Aquino family.

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“We can wipe away the tears of grief because I think it is the other way around: It is President Cory grieving for us at where we have gone, what we have become, who we are right now 10 years after she had passed on,” Villegas said.

It was a poignant reflection led by the archbishop before a crowd aligned with the democratic and liberal policies, and beliefs of the Aquino couple, as well as those of their only son, former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

President Duterte has adopted more draconian policies, such as the bloody war on illegal drugs. He also has, time and again, threatened to impose martial law throughout the country, supposedly in the name of peace, order and national development.

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Villegas is one of the Catholic clergy members facing sedition charges, along with Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition stalwarts, for allegedly plotting the ouster of Mr. Duterte. All of those charged have denied the allegation.

Former President Noynoy Aquino remembered his mother as someone who “represented not just an ideal but actually somebody who lived the life of being the servant of the people in its totality whether officially in a public capacity or in a private capacity.”

Inspiration to all

“She provided and continues to provide an inspiration to all that no matter the challenges we face, once upon a time, we overcame what seemingly were impossible odds. And what we were able to do then tells us that we can do so when we have the same or even worse challenges today. If we were able to overcome then, we will be able to overcome these challenges now,” Aquino told reporters after the Mass.

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Villegas emphasized in his homily how the late President’s deep faith and strong relationship with God had guided her leadership.

“Who am I? I am not Corazon separated from God, separated from the Philippines. To whom do we belong? This heroic woman teaches us in life and in death, we belong to God because democracy without God is malignant governance. Economics without God is atheistic capitalism. Anything without God is ugly and destructive. Anybody separated from God is lost,” he said.

Villegas remained hopeful that “this episode in our history will come to an end and we will see a new light … we will not be left in darkness because a new dawn, a new day has come upon us.”

Protecting legacy

Other Cory supporters commemorated her 10th death anniversary and sought to protect her legacy as an icon of democracy.

For Sen. Francis Pangilinan, honoring the memory of the late President meant fighting efforts to revise the meaning of what she did.

Cory was installed as Philippine leader in February 1986 following a bloodless mass uprising on Edsa that unseated dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

She became a central figure of the opposition against Marcos after the assassination of her husband Ninoy in 1983.

Pangilinan pointed out inaccurate stories being spread about Cory online.

“The enemies of freedom have weaponized digital media to spread the propaganda erasing this triumph of democracy. We won our freedom in Edsa. We must protect our freedom and our history against revisionism,” he said in a statement.

Cory, he said, was “the shining icon of democracy.”

“She has inspired not only Filipinos. The Philippines started the trend of peaceful people power for the whole world,” he said.

The lessons from her struggle must not be forgotten, the senator said. “She symbolizes the people’s triumph in the hard-fought struggle against the dictatorship. It’s a lesson that should never be forgotten, especially now.”

Sen. Leila de Lima said Cory’s legacy still lived on in the hearts of millions who were touched by her fortitude, humility, dignity and heroism.

De Lima, a vocal critic of Mr. Duterte and who is detained on what she called fabricated drug charges, said Filipinos should be inspired by Cory’s courage in the face of overwhelming odds and injustice, violence and impunity during the Marcos era.

She taught people “to overcome their fear, to fight tyranny and restore our democracy,” De Lima said. “Despite the threats and harassment from the abusive regime, she accepted the challenge to lead the country so that it could rise from the dictatorship.”

Like Aquino, Filipinos should do their part to improve the situation of the country so that the lives, the dignity and the rights of people will be respected, she added. —WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

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