Benigno Aquino Jr. - the man whose assassination sent the Philippines into a political tailspin

Just weeks before his assassination last year, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. was asked why he would risk returning to the Philippines after a three-year exile in the United States.

The risk was high, he told reporters in Boston, but as the chief political rival to President Ferdinand Marcos and with Marcos apparently losing political control, now was the time for courage.

Courage, he added, was the trait most admired by Filipinos.

In his younger years, Senator Aquino led a life of high-risk politicking in the former American colony struggling with democracy. In his home province of Tarlac, he was elected a mayor at age 22, a governor at 28, and a senator at 34. In 1972, he was jailed when Marcos declared martial law; Aquino was expected to defeat Marcos in 1973 presidential elections, which were not held.

He spent nearly eight years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement. The experience, he said, gave him the faith and strength to endure.

In 1977, he was sentenced to the firing squad for alleged murder, possession of firearms, and subversion. The trial was a sham, he said, and US pressure helped keep him alive. His sentence was reduced to 20 years; in 1980 he was released for a medical operation in the US.

Aquino, who was considered a pro-American centrist, took up a fellowship at Harvard University, and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and his family lived outside Boston. In June 1983, he announced his plans to return to his homeland. On Aug. 21, he was killed as he was being escorted from a China Airlines plane at Manila International Airport.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.