A news item in the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported the successful march of thousands of peasants from various parts of the country, from Northern Luzon to Southern Mindanao, to Mendiola. There, the chants and speeches inevitably led to mentioning Cory Aquino’s failure to implement genuine agrarian reform during her term. Satur Ocampo, a senatorial candidate, specifically called on presidential candidate and senator Noynoy Aquino to make a public stand for genuine agrarian reform. This may be, in part, to rectify the failures of her mother in that aspect of her governance. Remember, one of the first promises of Cory during her electoral campaign against the dictator Marcos was to “implement agrarian reform and give the land to the farmers.” This did not happen, of course, as the Aquino administration pushed for an agrarian reform program far from thoroughgoing and comprehensive as its title suggested.
In the last paragraphs of the news item was a quote from Noynoy, answering Satur’s challenge.
But Aquino, who was in Cebu, did not take Ocampo’s potshots sitting down. “Satur should be the last person to call my mother a failure. The freedom of expression he is enjoying and the freedom given to all political prisoners under Marcos, he owed to my mother. Is that failure?” asked Aquino.
(This reminded me of a story Satur once related about Cory Aquino. It was after the strike of farm workers broke out in the Cojuangco-owned hacienda, the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, in 2004. The militant groups, in solidarity with the farmers, wanted to picket Cory’s house in Times Street, Quezon City. It also happened to be during the height of Hello Garci protests. Cory called on Satur to her house. She was irate. Cory told Satur of her immediate family’s limited involvement in the hacienda. She then reminded Satur: “Tandaan mo, ni-release ko si Joma (Sison).” Remember that after the Edsa uprising, said Cory, she released the political prisoners. Satur, then a rebel negotiator, went aboveground to negotiate peace with the Aquino government.)
Noynoy’s reaction had nothing to do with agrarian reform. But it reflects precisely how he thinks. It illuminates us on how he came to shun the Left in his senatorial lineup for 2010 elections: He did not want the leftists to be part of his lineup because “masama ang loob niya” that the latter picketed Cory’s house in 2004. He was angry with the Left, whom he believed did not acknowledge Cory enough for her role in restoring formal democracy in the country.
The statement that we (least of all, Satur) owe our so-called democracy to Cory Aquino shows Noynoy’s and the Aquino’s aristocratic attitude towards history and their role in it. We do not owe Edsa solely to Cory Aquino, least of all, to Noynoy. They, however, owe everything to us, the people.