Is Ninoy Aquino a national hero?
A special nonworking holiday falls on Feb. 25, as it marks the 32nd anniversary of EDSA I or People Power Revolution, which ended the rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Among its most celebrated icons is former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., an administration critic whose assassination in 1983 catalyzed EDSA I and other protests against the Marcosian regime.
Now, Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV has claimed his uncle is a national hero. A reader asked VERA Files Fact Check if the claim is true or “fake news.”
We checked. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) supports the claim.
In a Senate hearing Jan. 30, Bam Aquino said:
“Si (Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy) criticizes me always for being a cosplayer of my uncle, noh. I don’t mind, to be honest, because my uncle’s a national hero so mabuti nga na idolo ko siya (it’s good that he’s my idol).” Source: Senate hearing on fake news, Jan. 30, 2018, watch from 40:58 to 41:08
The Philippines has officially no national hero, according to the NHCP, the authority tasked to, among others, “declare historically significant sites, structures, events and personages” and “resolve historical controversies or issues.”
In an interview, the research, publication and heraldry division of the NHCP said:
“The official position of the NHCP is that heroes are not legislated, they are made by public acclaim. The role of the NHCP is not to force people to stick to a particular position when it comes to heroes and historical figures, but to present to the people all of the facts concerning the hero - the positive, the negative, the good or the bad - and let the people evaluate for themselves the worthiness of a person as a hero.”
Aquino is considered a national hero because he had inspired many others as “a figure who stood against a totalitarian regime,” the NHCP added.
“Kung titingnan natin ‘yung naging impact niya on a national scale, maraming nagmartsa sa EDSA dahil kay Ninoy (If we look at the impact he made on a national scale, many marched on EDSA because of Ninoy). And for that Ninoy for all accounts and purposes can be considered a national hero.”
For historical figures to be national heroes, they have to reach a point where the public accepts the idea, and their acts during their lifetimes had material impact on a national level, NHCP said.
Aquino was shot in the head Aug. 21, 1983 on the tarmac of then Manila International Airport, later renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport, upon his arrival from the United States where he had been in exile during the later years of the Marcos regime.
Aug. 21 was declared a special nonworking holiday on Feb. 25, 2004 to commemorate his death.
The NHCP does not subscribe to the idea of “a hierarchy of heroes,” which means no hero is regarded as superior to others.
In 1995, former President Fidel Ramos created under Executive Order 75 a national heroes committee, with NHCP as secretariat, tasked to study the proclamation of national heroes.
Following a set of criteria, it suggested nine: Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino and Gabriela Silang.
No further action was taken, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts noted on its website, saying the reason was that it may trigger proclamation requests and debates over controversies surrounding the heroes.
While the public decides who a hero can be, the NHCP said its decision must be “according to the material contributions that they made towards nation building.”
Marcos, who was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016, was regarded a hero by many because of his war record.
But the NHCP, which published a study in opposition to the burial, said Marcos’ military record was “fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies.” (See VERA FILES YEARENDER: Despite Marcos burial at LNMB, facts about his fake heroism remain)
“There’s overwhelming evidence that Marcos cannot be a hero,” the NHCP said in the interview.
Proclamation No. 269, July 17, 2017
NHCP, Why Ferdinand E. Marcos should not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, July 12, 2016
National Commission of Culture and the Arts, Selection And Proclamation Of National Heroes And Laws Honoring Filipino Historical Figures, May 18, 2015
Interview with Research, Publication and Heraldry Division of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Feb. 14, 2018
Official Gazette, Republic Act no. 9256
Official Gazette, Executive Order no. 75, March 29, 1993
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative.)