Cory and Noynoy Aquino: A story of vengeance

Monday June 18, 2018 ()

Francisco "Jun" Aniag, Jr. did not know he had opened a grudge in expressing his heart before his friend.

Three deaths, separated by years but connected by friendship and family relations, ended devastatingly for each point of a trio which once held promising political futures.

And that it would haunt the story of the first death– one that had become an important section in Philippine history– 35 years to the death of the third member of the gang, whose undoing was to speak the truth in his eulogy in honor of the second who had died earlier, would complete the heart-wrenching story of the three.

But the web that once bonded Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.– youngest senator to be considered threat to the presidency of then President Ferdinand Marcos– with those of Pacquito Ochoa, Sr., former mayor of Pulilan, Bulacan in 1968-1971; and Aniag, former vice governor and congressman of Bulacan, was considered strong. It was tested by time and forged by numerous trials in the unsteady anvil of Philippine politics in which loyalty does not exist.

But not for them.

Cory Noynoy and Lim

Former Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, Jr. recalled Aquino was saved from the August 21, 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing by the New People's Army, by the then senator's presence in his father's birthday party in Pulilan.

Ochoa, Sr. had worked with Ninoy when Aquino, Jr. started building his campaign for a presidential faceoff aborted by Marcos' declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972.

With them was Aniag, Jr., during those years a fresh Accounting graduate of the University of the Philippines, and in 1969, had just passed the CPA Board.

Aniag was to be elected No. 1 councilor in Malolos, Bulacan from 1971-1975. But the times have changed then. They have been separated by their common political belief.

But even before martial law, Aquino, Ochoa and Aniag had been Liberal Party stalwarts.

They kept their friendship through the years, despite the challenges posed by their restricted movements and less and less contact with Ninoy, who was in jail from 1972-1978, when he was allowed to leave for the United States to undergo a heart bypass operation.

Ninoy made Boston his home after he was allowed to leave by Marcos.

In the US, Ninoy continued his top oppositionist's role by using appearances and speaking engagements as his podium to attack Marcos back home.

At the back of Ninoy's spotlight was Ochoa, Sr., who followed him to the US in support of efforts to force the United States to withdraw support from Marcos.

Ochoa, Sr. supported Ninoy's ill-fated decision to return and carry his fight back home. Ninoy was assassinated at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport (MIA) in 1983.

Protests followed and anti-Marcos sentiment had built up, leading to Edsa that ushered in Cory Aquino to the presidency after Marcos had fled to Hawaii, where he died three years later.

Ochoa, Sr. and Aniag were in the forefront of those protests, continuing on what they did while Ninoy was alive.

When Cory took power and Ninoy's martyrdom used as a rallying point against the return of the Marcoses, Ochoa, Sr.'s political star had already faded.

Aniag, meanwhile, was chosen by Cory's appointed Officer-In-Charge Roberto Pagdanganan as his vice governor from 1986-1987.

Aniag was also elected Bulacan Representative to the 8th Congress, but without Cory's support, he never had the chance to go beyond a single term.

Ochoa, Sr. died of heart attack at the height of Cory's presidency.

In his eulogy to his friend Ochoa, Sr., one that he had failed to give Ninoy whose body had become the most potent protest symbol against Marcos then, Aniag recalled how Ochoa, Sr. was denied his due recognition by Ninoy's widow.

In his speech, Aniag described how Ninoy and Ochoa, Sr. loved each other as brothers. That they both held promising political careers, smothered only by the declaration of martial law, but that they both persisted to fight even the cause seemed lost, had only forged a greater partnership between them.

"But he (Ochoa, Sr.) died a heartbroken man," Aniag shared. "Cory did not give him his chance, denied him his due."

He did not know that in the audience then, in the final wake for Ochoa, Sr., was Benigno ‘Noynoy' Aquino.

Aniag did not know he had opened a grudge in expressing his heart before his friend. Aniag did not know the vengeful nature of the Aquinos would spell the end of his political career.

Only that it was not as pronounced when Cory went after Juan Ponce Enrile, Salvador ‘Doy' Laurel, and Erap Estrada, to name a few.

It was not obvious when Noynoys' selective justice doomed former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and again Enrile. Again, to name a few.

Aniag lost his reelection bid. He never had the chance to give his political career a rev since then.

He was even trapped and linked with illegal gun possession while he was a congressman, a case that was dropped by the court for being flimsy.

But Aniag did not give up. He never wavered.

In 2010, when Noynoy sought the presidency on the strength of support to his mother's recent death, Aniag was in the forefront of the Aquino campaign in Bulacan and its fringes.

In one chance encounter, Aniag sought to shake Noynoy's hand.

Noynoy did not offer his. He confronted Aniag instead, berating him about his eulogy long made and making sure his statement lasted on its recipient's mind.

Noynoy won.

He eventually appointed Pacquito Ochoa, Jr., son of Pacquito Ochoa, Sr. as his Executive Secretary.

Ochoa, Jr. was a godson to Aniag.

He had offered Aniag a post but was rebuffed by Noynoy.

There was no place for Aniag in the second Aquino president.

Aniag died on June 13, 2018 with a short list of achievements in government service. He was 70 years old.

His service to the people, however, is endless to those who knew about his contributions to the City of Malolos and province of Bulacan; the anti-Marcos movement; their support to Ninoy; the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, with which he once served as BSP vice president; the Upsilon Sigma Phi as Alumni President; chair of the Philippine College of Rotary Governors; Jaycees International president; the Brotherhood of the Free Masons and member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Those were hardly recognized.

Like his service to the family which never recognized him.

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