My Cory
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-02-08

Last January 27, a new book was launched which was titled Cory: An Intimate Portrait. Initiated by Margie Penson-Juico, it was intended as a special birthday present for People Power icon and former president Cory C. Aquino.

The book is a collection of the personal Cory experiences of those who were fortunate and privileged to work with Cory Aquino during the struggle to restore democracy and her presidency.

Your Chair Wrecker contributed the following article that can be found on pages 69 to 72 of the new Cory book.

The historic Cory

(Submitted: June 8, 2008)

The Cory C. Aquino I shall always remember with fondness is the woman with nerves of steel, unwavering character and untypical courage.

I am sure that Cory Aquino was neither born nor bred to be the historic heroine that she is now recognized worldwide — the Asian Joan of Arc. You rarely see, if at all, a woman of her class, education and breeding turning out to be precisely that.

The Cory Aquino that gave the Filipinos their brightest moment as a freedom-loving people worthy of world admiration for the People Power Revolt of 1986 was, as great steel is formed by fire, a great character formed by ordeals - from husband Ninoy’s imprisonment in 1972 to his assassination eleven years later.

I first met Cory Aquino in the third quarter of 1983 when my dear friend Betty G. Belmonte took me along for an interview she was having with her in Times Street. At that instance, I saw no ordinary person. She struck me as a person who had firm beliefs and followed a strict moral and spiritual code.

More than anything else, this I believe was what kept her on track for her mission. Cory had not had the educational preparation and administrative experience for the role that she performed from the time Ninoy was murdered all the way to her last day as president.

None of her successors would take their mission as she took hers — as a sort of mandate from God to serve her country. No wonder Jaime Cardinal Sin, the other EDSA icon, always called Cory “God’s gift to the Filipino people.”

When Cory delivered her talk at the Sto. Domingo Church during the Requiem Mass for Ninoy, she set the tone of resistance to the Marcos regime. Up to that point, the nation had been in fear of the regime and at a loss for a strategy.

The sight of the widow softly speaking her truth inspired the Filipinos. From that time onwards, without meaning to assume the mantle of leadership that Ninoy left, Cory was the only figure who could rally a million heroes of democracy. It was she they could trust to bring them to their own promised land — Betty and I were thus inspired to call her Mrs. Moses.

Cory was no ideologue. She offered no new deal; she championed the same old virtue — democracy. Nobody in the opposition ever came close to the level of trust Filipinos had for her, and the irony was that they, not Cory, who desired to lead them. Indeed, even when revolutionary powers were hers for the taking, she passed them up for the consistent deal — democracy — and lost no time delivering it, getting drafters to produce a within a few months of her installation, the Freedom Constitution in force to this day and calling national and local elections that would prove the cleanest ever.

“Democracy by ways of democracy” she said during her famous speech at the US Congress, and made it truly the hallmark of her administration.

Finding good performers in government — competent and honest performers — was one of her big frustrations. I remember her comment while we were looking for a successor to the assassinated Local Government Secretary Jaime N. Ferrer in September 1987: “You see Billy how few good men we have.”

Another frustration was catching the corrupt big fish in government who gives the nation its bad name.

On my first day as RPN-Channel 9 president, she called me. I thought it had been provoked by publicity engineered by vested interests in the network who feared losing their milking cow with my takeover.

When I told her about the poison press releases, she immediately asked who might be behind it. I told her I suspected insiders on the take from local film suppliers. Cory immediately asked me to give her a big fish.

Her dedication was not only to the country and to democracy but also to the people who joined her cause. On the day coup plotter Gringo Honasan escaped from his detention in a navy ship in Manila Bay, Cory was also told that I could die anytime at the Makati Medical Center of a rare lung infection that had led to multi-organ failure.

Despite the protest of Col. Voltaire Gazmin, chief of the Presidential Security Group, for her not to leave Malacañang Palace, raising the possibility that Gringo’s escape was tied up to another coup plot, Cory visited me to boost my morale.

If the choice was between the moral and the pragmatic, Cory always took the former. She may have made some arguably bad decisions, but, as Rene Saguisag, among her first ministers, would say, her government could be accused of oversight or lack of wisdom but never of acting in bad faith.

If Cory had done no more than restore democracy, she’d have done enough. As it happened, she had done much more; she set the direction for regional growth and got the process going for the empowerment of local governments. The decision to spur regional development and decongest Metro Manila was firmed up in her term. Cebu boomed. Davao boomed. Iloilo boomed. The Calabarzon growth corridor was formed. The boom economies of Quezon City, Makati, Las Pinas, among other localities, had been made possible to a great extent by the Local Government Code that Cory Aquino initiated.

Cory Aquino sought to enshrine and institutionalize citizen participation in local government. She believed that people empowerment was the only way to ensure lasting democracy.

Cory could have run for another six years. A loophole would have allowed it: she was not elected under the 1987 Constitution; therefore, she was not covered by the restriction of a single six-year term. And, given her popularity, she would have won too. I was at a meeting at the Malacanang Guest House when industrialist Ronnie Concepcion pleaded with her to run again in order that reforms she had started might be solidified. She would not even entertain the idea.

It was the moral thing to do.

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