Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bread & Freedom: A 1975 Ninoy Aquino Letter

Below is a reproduction of a letter that Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino Jr, at the height of his hunger strike in prison during Martial Law, wrote to one of his lawyers, Raul M. Gonzalez, one of the few persons who would visit and talk with him periodically in his prison cell. This letter is published for the first time.

April 7, 1975
6:25 pm

Atty. Raul Gonzalez
p e r s o n a l

My dearest Raul:

I'm afraid this will be my last letter. I feel very, very weak and my coordination is bad. My knees are wobbly and as of this moment, I've already lost 13 pounds (161-148). But I cannot rest till I've written you a few words of thanks for everything.

I'm sure you've come across--in your readings--some of the teachings of Confucius, the great Chinese sage on the dichotomy of life which he postulated in his ying-yang principle. Marx calls its dialectics. Mao calls it the law of contradictions. To Lenin, it is the law of opposites.

Give it any label, it is still the ying-and-the-yang. According to the Old Guru, in every strength there is a lurking weakness (the Achilles heel) and in every dark cloud there is a silver lining.

If we are to apply this principle to our present situation, there must be a lurking weakness in the seemingly awesome powers and strength of Marcos. And this weakness, I think, lies in the field of morals and moral leadership. True we have lost the bulk of our LP following especially among the governors, mayors and councilors who have been cowed into submission and subservience. But what we lost in quantity, we have gained in quality among the religious, the students, the enlightened labor elements and the middle intelligentsia.

Hence, when you tried to dissuade me from taking the final plunge, I tried to explain to you the need to snatch the moral leadership in the present struggle. We must show by example, not mere words, to our people that there are still a few who would willingly risk death to attain liberation.

Describing the state of affairs in Hitler's Germany in the middle thirties, Niebuhr had this to say: "Our society is like a woman who throws a garish dress over underwear that is unwashed for months, soiled and rugged." He could say the same thing about our society today. Our job is clear: ours is to expose the truth.

Disproportions of power anywhere in the human community are fruitful of injustice, but a system which gives some men absolute power over other men results in evils which are worse than injustice. I think that you will agree with me that this is so.

Some observers have commented that in the hierarchy of values of the Filipino, security comes before liberty because the mass still wallows in poverty, are devoid of special skills that provide regular income, are exposed to the perils of an economy controlled by a few rich and they therefore fear insecurity more than they fear the loss of liberty. While I agree with the analysis of the situation, I cannot accept the conclusion that the choice is either bread or freedom. To the Latin Americans, it is 'Pan o Libertad.'

I submit the conjunction should be 'and' and not 'or.' It should be bread and freedom and this is attainable under an honest and just regime.

In the boredom of my isolation, I often engaged in mental gymnastics and built castles in the air. I had plans of working with you on some national projects that will give our people both bread and freedom, security and liberty.

I saw you doing the homework, while I did the field work. I saw you doing the planning and I the implementing.

Senator TaƱada on several occasions told me of your unselfishness and dedication, of your practical approach to problems, of your down-to-earth observation of everyday human affairs. These are the qualities needed by today's leadership. But above all these traits, you possess the integrity of character that could not be cowed by fear or threats to life. These last qualities are vital to greatness--and make the difference between the ordinary public servant and the statesman.

I'm afraid, my dream-plans will now have to be shelved. But I hope you'll continue the good work in your usual selfless dedication. I hope to clear a little patch in the forest and my effort will not be in vain if behind me come the tillers.

Please give your wife my warm affections and I sincerely believe you are what you are because of her. Tell her I shall await with bated breath our inevitable reunion in the celestial kingdom of Love!

Affectionately yours,


No comments:

Post a Comment