Icon of Democracy: A Reflection on Cory
Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino was one of the few people
who managed to change the course of history. She managed to unify
the opposition against the Marcos dictatorship, and by force of
her simplicity and integrity, cast the contest in such stark terms
of good vs. evil that people responded to her not as a politician
but as a moral force. Her personality contributed in no small way
to keeping the fight against Marcos peaceful. And in this, she offered
an example to others outside the Philippines. The EDSA revolution
that she inspired in turn inspired people around the world to rise
up against oppression. South Korea, Thailand, Bangladesh and the
peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe owe a debt of gratitude to
her. It was not a magical solution — the peaceful democracy
revolts failed in Burma and China — but it nevertheless ushered
in a new era of freedom.
Cory Aquino had a clear understanding of her tasks for the country:
rebuilding democratic institutions from the 1987 constitution
to the Local Government Code, appointing respected professionals
to autonomous bodies, reinstating civilian control of security
forces and respecting fundamental rights and freedoms. Above all,
she resisted the temptation to run for another term in 1992, for
which a legal loophole could have been found, to set an example
for the peaceful democratic transition of power from one administration
For the remainder of her life, she lived simply as a private
citizen, but she spoke out when she felt that fundamental democratic
principles were at risk. People did not always follow her advice,
but they respected her integrity and expected her to play this
role as a guardian of democracy.
This has been shown most clearly in the way the nation responded
to her death. It was a moment that drew the country together.
A sense of loss was palpable: a feeling that she was leaving a
space in the life of the nation that could not be filled. It prompted
many to reflect on their own commitment to the values she defended
throughout her life.
In sharing stories about Cory, the nation also learned what an
extraordinary human being she was. She was in one sense an icon,
recognizable by her trademark yellow and “Laban” sign,
but more than that a humble, warm-hearted person. She touched
the lives of countless people in a very direct and personal way,
including political opponents. She practiced the spirit of active
non-violence that sprung from her deep personal faith.
The last rites and the funeral combined all these elements —
the institutional, the political, the personal and the spiritual.
It was her parting gift to the nation: she made us come together
as a people to reflect on what we owe the nation, each other and