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HTA in the News

The martyrdom of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. on August 21, 1983 must be properly commemorated to remind everyone Despite their respect for him, fellow senators of the late Sen. Agapito “Butz” Aquino overruled his instructions to forgo a wake. In fact, the Senate held a wake and a Mass in the session hall for the first time in nearly two decades in his memory.

He returned to the Senate for the last time on Wednesday, with his colleagues extolling his courage, honor and pivotal role in the country’s struggle to regain freedom and democracy.

Butz, an uncle of President Aquino, died on Monday afternoon of natural causes. He was 76.

Explained Senate President Franklin Drilon: “Yes, we have overruled Butz, and for the first time in my 18 years in the Senate, this is the first time that we are holding Mass in the session hall. That’s how we love your husband,” he said, addressing Butz’s widow, Popsy.

Drilon led the chamber in remembering the senator, an “honorable man who once dazzled our nation with his courage and principles.”

Legacy of nationalism

In his eulogy, Drilon said: “Today, we share the deep and immense grief of his family as we bid goodbye to former Sen. Agapito ‘Butz’ Aquino. We join the Philippine nation in thanking him for his legacy of nationalism, of decency, of courage, of honor and of principled leadership.”

Butz’s cremated remains were brought to the Senate on Wednesday, where his family was presented a resolution expressing the Senate’s sympathy and sincere condolences for his demise.

Also present on Wednesday were Butz’s former colleagues in the Senate, including Leticia Ramos-Shahani, Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., Rodolfo Biazon, Nikki Coseteng, Heherson Alvarez, Santanina Rasul and Rene Saguisag.

Perfect timing

In her response, Butz’s daughter, Roxanne, talked about her father’s stories and how much love flowed from them.

Her father also loved to entertain, sing and share jokes. His timing was perfect, she added.

Roxanne recalled how her father told her how he would sometimes play a joke on his colleagues whenever he led prayers in the chamber.

“He told us he would start the session by praying, ‘Lord, please grant humility,’ and here, he would name the senators whom he felt needed that humility. And he could get away with it. He was that type,” Roxanne said.

But for all his tendency to joke around, her father also loved the truth, Roxanne said.

“He lived his life [being] true to his beliefs,” she added.

And he loved God as well, Roxanne said. He was probably smiling down at them and saying “son of a gun” upon knowing he was the reason that Mass was held at the session hall after 18 years.

Foray into public service

In fact, she recounted, when Aug. 21 happened, the “happy-go-lucky” brother of martyred former Sen. Ninoy Aquino had a conversation with God, after which he took stock of his talents and what he could do with them. That was the start of the August 21 Movement (Atom) and her father’s foray into public service, she said.

Roxanne also thanked the Senate for helping the family fulfill its wish to bring her father home to the Senate to meet his colleagues again.

Drilon said the late senator would always be remembered for his “audacity” in leading protest actions after the assassination of his brother in 1983.

Birth of Edsa people revolt

“He was the first public figure who called for Filipinos to gather and provide civilian protection to the elements of the Armed Forces and the Philippine Constabulary,” Drilon recalled. “That was the birth of the Edsa People Power Revolution.”

The Senate President said Butz also made his mark in the Senate by standing his ground and voting against the ratification of the US bases agreement, even if his constituents had wanted it and even when his sister-in-law, then President Corazon Aquino, was urging the Senate to approve the treaty.

“It was a principled vote because he thought and believed that was what was good for our people. And I think history has proven Butz Aquino right,” Drilon said.

The late senator was also cited for his hard work on rural development and cooperatives, and for pushing for corresponding legislation that addressed these issues. He was the force behind the Magna Carta of Small Farmers, the Seed Act and the Cooperative Code of the Philippines.

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Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 21, 2015