Screengrab from 700 Club

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo on Wednesday called the death of ex-senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. a “defining moment for an entire generation” that should also be marked by Filipinos to remember other martyrs for freedom.

In her statement for Ninoy Aquino Day on Aug. 21, commemorating the 1983 assassination of Aquino at the Manila airport that now bears his name, Robredo deplored efforts to downplay the slain former senator’s heroism and rehabilitate the Marcos dictatorship.

“These days, it has become fashionable among certain quarters to dismiss the significance of Ninoy’s sacrifice, or worse, to question the validity of the movement it inspired. These days, there are those who insist, out of self-interest or ignorance, that the Marcos regime ‘was not so bad after all,’ pushing a revised version of history that is not only dishonest but dangerous,” Robredo said.

“The simple truth is, Ninoy Aquino was a Filipino who gave his life for his country. His love for his homeland was seen not in easy talk or slick PR stunts, but instead blazed brightly through long years of imprisonment, of exile, and in the end, of martyrdom. Many talk about being willing to die for our country. Ninoy was one of the courageous few who actually did,” she added.

“So when we celebrate the 21st of August, it is not just Ninoy Aquino we remember, but all those like him, both the nameless and the heralded, who gave of themselves so that we could be free. In this remembrance, we express both our deepest gratitude for the sacrifices made on our behalf, and, perhaps more significantly, our persistent commitment to defend the freedom they won back for us,” she said.

Jailed opposition senator Leila de Lima urged Filipinos not only to honor Aquino’s deeds but also continue his fight for freedom, “especially now that [President] Duterte’s leadership becomes reminiscent of the fascist dictatorship.”

Isinakdal si Ninoy ng korte militar batay sa mga imbentong paratang, kabilang ang kasong subersiyon. Malinaw ang layunin nito: Ikulong, gipitin at patahimikin ang mga tulad niyang lider ng oposisyon. Sa kabila ng dinanas niyang matinding hirap at pangungulila sa piitan, pinili pa rin niyang lumaban,” de Lima said in a statement.

Pinili niyang manindigan kaysa magbulag-bulagan sa tunay na estado ng bansa: ang pagbagsak ng ekonomiya, mga brutal na paglabag sa karapatang-pantao at lalong pagkabaon sa hirap ng mga Pilipino habang nagpapayaman ang mga nasa gobyerno at crony ni Marcos,” she added.

Aquino was among those arrested in 1973 shortly after the imposition of martial law in the Philippines and was incarcerated for seven years.

Following a heart attack, he was allowed to leave for medical treatment in the US and returned to the country on Aug. 21, 1983, when he was assassinated while exiting a plane at the Manila International Airport.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Aquino’s death should remind Filipinos of the need to safeguard freedoms.

“His sacrifice altered the course of our nation’s history and still continues to ignite the spirit of heroism among our people,” he said.

“May this auspicious occasion remind us of what we had lost so that we may remain committed to our solemn duty to safeguard the freedoms that we now enjoy,” he added. (