Cory Aquino’s historic speech before the U. S. Congress Seven months after President Corazon C. Aquino was hurled to power by the will of the People, the US Government invited her to give a speech before the joint session of the United States Congress. Teddy Boy Locsin who was former Cory Aquino’s Executive Secretary during her administration, told the back-story of the said speaking engagement in a certain news program during Cory’s wake.
He said that when Cory Aquino asked him to write the speech for her the instruction was “basta ikuwento mo lang kung ano nangyari sa akin at kay Ninoy, how Ninoy was imprisoned and assassinated and how I got elected.. simple lang, ikaw na bahala”. But it was not easy. Teddy Boy found it hard to start the speech and was quite unsatisfied in what he wrote which made it harder for him to end the speech. But as the date of the former President’s engagement got nearer, Locsin was not yet finished with the speech. For some reason according to him he can’t seem to finish it.
Until Cory took the initiative of finishing the speech herself. Hours before the actual speech, an aide of the US congress offered the teleprompter (a device placed near or on a television camera that displays scrolling text, allowing a person to read a script while appearing to speak spontaneously to the camera) to Cory for her to get used to and help her with her delivery. Together with Teddy Boy and some US Secret Service assigned to them, Cory encoded the speech on the teleprompter in her hotel room. While Cory Aquino was practicing her speech, they saw the US Secret Service crying.
The strange thing is according to Teddy Boy, the guards were trained to be emotionless, but for the reason they didn’t know, the guards were moved by Cory’s speech. When Cory asked Teddy Boy if the speech was okay, Teddy Boy said, “Mam, I Think this will do”. And true enough, even before Cory delivered her speech, the US Congress composed of representatives and senators gave her the longest standing ovation and applause for a foreign leader. During her speech, she was always interrupted by applause from the Senators and Congressmen. She became the first foreign leader to address a speech in the US Congress.
The eloquent half-hour speech began and ended with standing ovations, and was interrupted by applause eleven times. It was, said House Speaker Tip O’Neill, the “finest speech I’ve ever heard in my 34 years in Congress. ” Above the din of cheering officials, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole said to Mrs. Aquino, “Cory, you hit a home run. ” Without missing a beat, Aquino smiled and replied: “I hope the bases were loaded. ” Later that day, the U. S. House of Representatives voted to give the Philippines an assistance package of $200 million dollars. REACTION
When she addressed the United States Congress after becoming President of the Philippines, in a speech so well written by Teddy Boy Locsin, for the first time in my life I became so proud to be Filipino. In the speech she represented a victorious and proud Philippines — they loved her, they loved us. I was not there at her time. I wasn’t there to witness a huge part of Philippines History, the time of despair and cruelty, but thanks to our technology, we, the younger generation could hear and watch it over and over again. Cory Aquino was indeed, more than any other, the real miracle of 1986, though she was a reluctant candidate.
She was a housewife, totally unqualified for the position of President. She was a private person who was thrust into the limelight and was prevailed upon to run and become President by a country in desperate need of moral leadership. But then, the result of her actions, the peaceful end of a dictatorship and the return to democracy, which is often cited as miraculous was not what was surprising. It was the fact that there was, out of the blue, the woman in yellow who had the guts to stare down a dictator, the political will to resist injustice and cheating and the wisdom to test the people’s acceptance of her leadership.
On the over-all, the Aquino administration made important gains in the aspects of bringing back democracy, restoring investor confidence in the economy and enacting legal and constitutional reforms. Despite these achievements, her presidency faced several threats and numerous problems— hungry opportunists who felt it was “their” turn and then there were the failed coup d’etat attempts. Before, the campaign then against her was to say she did not have experience in governance but the response was to say that Cory, the housewife, did not have experience in corruption and cheating.
I suppose Cory Aquino’s life was a meaningful and remarkable one. She was a symbol of motherhood, simple, caring, responsible and always on guard for her children rendering into them to have the best of whatever life had to offer. In all her life she did her best in all of her roles — as wife, as mother, as president, as private citizen. I am hoping that her contributions to our country will live forever in our hearts. She will serve as our inspiration and her mournful death will be our lesson to think and be awakened especially this coming election, to choose the right leader for our country.
We Filipinos should start moving before anything reaches the SOBRA NA stage. This is our tragic flaw that we act only when things are already too oppressive. We, Filipinos must work together because if we are united truth, honesty and goodness will prevail. Restoring Democracy by the Ways of Democracy Speech by President Corazon C. Aquino United States Congress – Joint Session September 18, 1986 In burying Ninoy, a whole nation honored him. By that brave and selfless act of giving honor, a nation in shame recovered its own. A country that had lost faith in its future found it in a faithless and brazen act of murder.
So in giving, we receive, in losing we find, and out of defeat, we snatched our victory. For the nation, Ninoy became the pleasing sacrifice that answered their prayers for freedom. For myself and our children, Ninoy was a loving husband and father. His loss, three times in our lives, was always a deep and painful one. Fourteen years ago, this month was the first time we lost him. A president turned dictator and traitor to his oath, suspended the Constitution and shut down the Congress that was much like this one before which I am honored to speak.
He detained my husband along with thousands of others; senators, publishers and anyone who had spoken up for the democracy as its end drew near. But for Ninoy, a long and cruel ordeal was reserved. The dictator already knew that Ninoy was not a body merely to be imprisoned but a spirit he must break. For even as the dictatorship demolished one by one the institutions of democracy-the press, the Congress, the independence of the judiciary, the protection of the Bill of Rights-Ninoy kept their spirits alive in himself. The government sought to break him by indignities and error.
They locked him up in a tiny, nearly airless cell in a military camp in the north. They stripped him naked and held the threat of sudden midnight execution over his head. Ninoy held up manfully through all of it. I barely did as well. For forty-three days, the authorities would not tell me what had happened to him. This was the first time my children and I felt we had lost him. When that didn’t work, they put him on trial for subversion, murder and a host of other crimes before a military commission. Ninoy, challenged its authority and went on a fast. If he survived it, then, he felt, God intended him for another fate.
We had lost him again. For nothing would hold him back from his determination to see his fast through to the end. He stopped only when it dawned on him that the government would keep his body alive after the fast had destroyed his brain, and so, with barely any life in his body, he called off the fast on the fortieth day. God meant him for other things, he felt. He did not know that an early death would still be his fate, that only the timing was wrong. At any time during his long ordeal, Ninoy could have made a separate peace with the dictatorship, as so many of his countrymen had done.
But the spirit of democracy that inheres in our race and animates this chamber could not be allowed to die. He held out, in the loneliness of his cell and the frustration of exile, the democratic alternative to the insatiable greed and mindless cruelty of the right and the purging holocaust of the left. And then, we lost him, irrevocably and more painfully than in the past. The news came to us in Boston. It had to be after the three happiest years of our lives together. But his death was my country’s resurrection in the courage and faith by which alone they could be free again.
The dictator had called him a nobody. Two million people threw aside their passivity and fear and escorted him to his grave, and so began the revolution that has brought me to democracy’s most famous home, the Congress of the United States. The task had fallen on my shoulders to continue offering the democratic alternative to our people. Archibald Macleish had said that democracy must be defended by arms when it is attacked by arms and by truth when it is attacked by lies. He failed to say how it shall be won. I held fast to Ninoy’s conviction that it must be by the ways of democracy.
I held out for participation in the 1984 election the dictatorship called, even if I knew it would be rigged. I was warned by the lawyers of the opposition that I ran the grave risk of legitimizing the foregone results of elections that were clearly going to be fraudulent. But I was not fighting for lawyers but for the people whose intelligence I had implicit faith. By the exercise of democracy, even in a dictatorship, they would be prepared for democracy when it came, and then, also, it was the only way I knew by which we could measure our power even in the terms dictated by the dictatorship.
The people vindicated me in an election shamefully marked by government thuggery and fraud. The opposition swept the elections, garnering a clear majority of the votes, even if they ended up, thanks to a corrupt Commission on Elections, with barely a third of the seats in parliament. Now I knew our power. Last year, in an excess of arrogance, the dictatorship called for its doom in a snap election. The people obliged. With over a million signatures, they drafted me to challenge the dictatorship. And I obliged them.
The rest is the history that dramatically unfolded on your television screens and across the front pages of your newspapers. You saw a nation, armed with courage and integrity, stand fast by democracy against threats and corruption. You saw woman poll watchers break out in tears as armed goons crashed the polling places to steal the ballots but, just the same, they tied themselves to the ballot boxes. You saw a people so committed to the ways of democracy that they were prepared to give their lives for its pale imitation.
At the end of the the day, before another wave of fraud could distort the results, I announced the people’s victory. The distinguished co-chairman of the United States observer team in his report to your President described that victory: “I was witness to an extraordinary manifestation of democracy on the part of the Filipino people. The ultimate result was the election of Mrs. Corazon C. Aquino as President adn Mr. Salvador Laurel as Vice-President of the Philippines. ” Many of you here today played a part in changing the policy of your country towards us. We, Filipinos, thank each of you for what you did: or, balancing America’s strategic interest against human concerns, illuminates the American vision of the world. When a subservient parliament announced my opponent’s victory, the people turned out in the streets and proclaimed me as President. And true to their word, when a handful of military leaders declared themselves against the dictatorship, the people rallied to their protection. Surely, the people take care of their own. It is on that faith and the obligation it entails, that I assumed the presidency. As I came to power peacefully, so shall I keep it.
That is my contract with my people and my commitment to God. He had willed that the blood drawn with the lash shall not, in my country, be paid by blood drawn by the sword but by the tearful joy of reconciliation. We have swept away absolute power by a limited revolution that respected the life and freedom of every Filipino. Now, we are restoring full constitutional government. Again, as we restored democracy by the ways of democracy, so are we completing the constitutional structures of our new democracy under a constitution that already gives full respect to the Bill of Rights.
A jealously independent Constitutional Commission is completing its draft which will be submitted later this year to a popular referendum; when it is approved, there will be congressional elections. So within a year from a peaceful but national upheaval that overturned a dictatorship, we shall have returned to full constitutional government. Given the polarization and breakdown we inherited, this is no small achievement. My predecessor set aside democracy so save it from a communist insurgency that numbered less than 500.
Unhampered by respect for human rights, he went at it hammer and tongs. By the time he fled, that insurgency had grown to more 16,000. I think there is a lesson here to be learned about trying to stifle a thing with the means by which it grows. I don’t think anybody, in or outside our country, concerned for a democratic and open Philippines, doubts what must be done. Through political initiatives and local reintegration programs, we must seek to bring the insurgents down from the hills and, by economic progress and justice, show them that for which the best intentioned among them fight.
As President, I will not betray the cause by which I came to power. Yet equally, and again no friend of Filipino democracy will challenge this, I will not stand by and allow an insurgent leadership to spurn our offer of peace and kill our young soldiers, and threaten our new freedom. Yet, I must explore the path of peace to the utmost for at its end, whatever disappointment I meet there, is the moral basis for laying down the olive branch of peace and taking up the sword of war.
Still, should it come to that, I will not waver from the course laid down by your great liberator: “With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the rights as God gives us to see the rights, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and for his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. ” Like Lincoln, I understand that force may be necessary before mercy.
Like Lincoln, I don’t relish it. Yet, I will do whatever it takes to defend the integrity and freedom of my country. Finally, may I turn to that other slavery: our $26 billion foreign debt. I have said that we shall honor it. Yet must eh means by which we shall be able to do so be kept from us? Many conditions imposed on the previous government that stole this debt continue to be imposed on us who never benefited from it. And no assistance or liberality commensurate with the calamity that was visited on us has been extended. et ours must have been the cheapest revolution ever. With little help from others, we Filipinos fulfilled the first and most difficult condition of the debt negotiation the full restoration of democracy and responsible government. Elsewhere, and in other times of more stringent world economic conditions, Marshall Plans and their like were felt to be necessary companions of returning democracy. When I met with President Reagan yesterday, we began an important dialogue about cooperation and the strengthening of the friendship between out two countries.
That meeting was both a confirmation and a new beginning and should lead to a positive results in all areas of common concern. Today, we face the aspiration of a people who had known so much poverty and massive unemployment for the past fourteen years and yet offered their lives for the abstraction of democracy. Wherever I went in the campaign, slum area or impoverished village, they came to me with one cry; Democracy! Not food, although they clearly needed it, but Democracy! Not work, although they surely wanted it, but Democracy!
Not money, for they gave what little they had to my campaign. They didn’t expect me to work a miracle that would instantly put food into their mouths, clothes on their back, education in their children, and work that would put dignity in their lives. But I feel the pressing obligation to respond quickly as the leader of a people so deserving of all these things. We face a communist insurgence that feeds on economic deterioration, even as we carry a great share of the free world defenses in the Pacific.
These are only two of the many burdens my people carry even as they try to build a worthy and enduring house for their new democracy, that they may serve as well as a redoubt for freedom in Asia. Yet, no sooner is one stone laid than two are taken away. Half of our export earnings, $2 billion out of $4 billion, which was all we could earn in the restrictive markets of the world, went to pay just the interest on a debt whose benefit the Filipino people never received. Still, we fought for honor, and, if only for honor, we shall pay.
And yet, should we have to wring the payments from the sweat of our men’s faces and sink all the wealth piled up by the bondsman’s two hundred fifty years of unrequited toil? Yet to all Americans, as the leader of a proud and free people, I address this question: has there been a greater test of national commitment to the ideals you hold dear than that my people have gone through? You have spent many lives and much treasure to bring freedom to many lands that were reluctant to receive it. And here you have a people who won it by themselves and need only help to preserve it.
Three years ago, I said thank you, America, for haven from oppression, and the home you gave Ninoy, myself and our children, and the three years of lives together. Today, I say, join us, America, as we build a new home for democracy, another haven for the oppressed, so it may stand as a shining testament of our two nation’s commitment to freedom. Three years ago, I left America in grief to bury my husband, Ninoy Aquino. I thought I had left it also to lay to rest his restless dream of Philippine freedom. Today, I have returned as the president of a free people.