(Updated 6:50 p.m.) Claims to discredit former opposition senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. gained traction on social media under the hashtag “#NinoyIsNotAHero” on the same day the nation is commemorating his assassination that sparked a movement toppling a dictatorship.
The hashtag featured tweets claiming that Aquino supposedly died “in pursuit of his political ambition” and that he allegedly sold Sabah, a resource-rich land occupied by Malaysia but claimed by the Philippines as part of Mindanao.
A Twitter user wrote that regardless of any hashtag, ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Aquino’s political rival, will “never be a hero.”
“Not TODAY, not TOMORROW, not FOREVER! He will be remembered as the Dictator who was thrown out of Power!” he wrote.
Journalist Barnaby Lo rebutted the online users tweeting the hashtag and noted that Marcos “held on to power for two decades.”
“Fact is, Ninoy was jailed and exiled. He could’ve lived peacefully in the US, but he came home amid threats and his death began a movement that toppled a dictatorship,” he wrote.
Lo’s sentiments were echoed by another Twitter user who said that while some people can believe Aquino was “not heroic enough,” they should “at least respect that risk he took” in going back to the Philippines after being “safe” in the United States.
Ninoy was already safe in the US, but he went all the way home to fight the dictatorship, knowing his life was in danger. He was killed as soon as he landed. If he's not heroic enough for you, you should at least respect that risk he took. #NinoyAquinoDay
— Papa 911 (@unlucky911) August 20, 2020
Another Twitter user encouraged the public to watch an award-winning documentary of Aquino’s final days as a late senator in iWant, an ABS-CBN-owned streaming platform.
“Here’s how you can change your perspective of what happened more than 30 years ago. Watch #TheLastJourneyOfNinoy exclusively on @iwant (iWant) for a limited time only,” he added.
“The Last Journey of Ninoy” is a documentary directed by Jun Reyes which includes the final interview of the murdered statesman’s widow, former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino.
It chronicled the final days of the late senator who risked returning to the Philippines after his self-imposed exile on the United States to reportedly help the opposition prepare for the 1984 elections.
The award-winning documentary can be streamed for free on iWant, ABS-CBN’s streaming platform, on August 21.
Ninoy Aquino Day
The Philippines recognizes August 21 as the “Ninoy Aquino Day,” a non-working holiday marking the death anniversary of former opposition senator, considered an icon of democracy.
The holiday was declared through Republic Act 9256 signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.
Aquino was a prominent critic of former President Ferdinand Marcos who declared Martial Law which resulted in countless human rights violations, suppressed media and the collapse of the Philippine economy.
The late statesman was imprisoned by the dictator immediately upon declaration but he continued to resist the regime and fought for democracy to be restored in the nation.
He penned ten open letters against the Marcos regime and smuggled them through his wife to be published in the Bangkok Post.
When Aquino suffered a heart attack, he sought treatment in the United States and went to a self-imposed exile but decided to return to the Philippines with the intention to restore democracy.
He was assassinated when he was escorted off the plane at the then-Manila International Airport, now named after him.
The event eroded people’s support for the Marcos regime and eventually paved the way for his oust through the historical People Power Revolution.