Aquino: In times of grief, we are not alone

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(CNN Philippines) – President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday (February 25) brought up two emotionally-charged images from the past to emphasize his EDSA People Power anniversary message this year.

The first one – a picture of nuns on their knees displaying faith amid the sight of guns at the height of the EDSA revolt 29 years ago – proved that “compassion is the most powerful response to anger,” Aquino explained in his speech during the commemoration of the 29th anniversary of the bloodless revolution at the EDSA shrine in Quezon City.

The second image – showing the bloodied, lifeless image of former Sen. Ninoy Aquino lying on a gurney after he was shot at the tarmac of then Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983 – on the other hand was Aquino’s way of reminding the country about what his father fought and died for.

It was also a reminder of what was it like to lose someone, he added.

“There is a photograph that serves as a reminder of the depth of suffering we underwent back then. In this picture, I could no longer recognize my father’s face. He was like a slab of meat dropped on the tarmac, and thrown into an AVSECOM van,” Aquino said.

Aquino also admitted that the sight of that bloodied image of his father once goaded him to seek revenge.

“That’s my father covered in blood after getting shot. I am his only son. I will admit: I thought of vengeance; I said that debts in blood must be paid in blood. In fact, the Bible says: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” It came to the point that I was even prepared to sacrifice my life, if I could only take my father’s murderer to the grave with me.”

His perspective changed, however, when he saw thousands of people gathered outside their house in Times Street, demonstrating solidarity and expressing sympathy.

“I recall this story today not to win sympathy for myself, but to emphasize the lessons it taught us. As President, I am fully aware that I would be remiss in my duties if I do not remind our countrymen of the power of compassion. I would be remiss if I do not remind everyone that, in times of grief, we are not alone, and that there are other paths to take,” said Aquino.

“Despite videos displaying violence, despite the anger that may solidify in our hearts, we must remind ourselves: Truth, compassion, love, and peace will always be more powerful.”

Shared responsibility

Meanwhile, Aquino also reminded the public that pushing for peace in Mindanao is a shared responsibility.

He pointed out the death of the fallen heroes who fought for peace, should not ignite violence.

He also challenged those who are against peace.

“To all those calling for a stop to the peace process, and to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we ask: How can they guarantee that such an opportunity will present itself once more?” he asked.

“What happened in Mamasapano was truly painful. Let us not forget that our police went there, not to inflict violence, but to fulfill the law. They sacrificed so much so that we could attain peace; it would not be just if what they gave for peace became the spark that ignited further violence.”

Unity walk

Prior to his speech at the EDSA Shrine, Aquino led several ceremonies at the People Power Monument located at the corner of EDSA and White Plains Avenue in Quezon City, at 11:33 a.m.

There, he witnessed the Unity Walk of 300 uniformed personnel from the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who walked towards the monument with their arms locked.

The said Unity Walk served as a reenactment of the union of forces of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and the AFP on February 23, 1986, led by then head of the PC, former president Fidel Ramos, and then defense secretary, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Ramos and Enrile were among the proponents of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

After the Unity Walk, President Aquino proceeded with the offering of the wreath, which was followed by a moment of silence in honor of the unsung heroes who offered their lives for freedom.

Present during the ceremony were Vice President Jejomar Binay, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, and other Cabinet members.

Also present were Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, AFP chief of staff, and PNP Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and other police and military officials, as well as Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, Pasay City Mayor Antonino Calixto, and other Metro Manila mayors.

They were joined by former Manila mayors Alfredo Lim and Mel Lopez, members of the August Twenty-One Movement, Yellow Ribbon Movement, and religious groups and students.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario and the Philippines News Agency contributed to this report.