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Ninoy, Butz and ATOM


By: Reli L. German

Ninoy Aquino, his brother Butz, and the August Twenty-One Movement (ATOM) are three reasons why the month of August holds a special significance for me — they are inseparably linked to the struggle that many freedom-loving Filipinos waged against a dictator who suppressed and oppressed our people for a long time.

August is when Ninoy was assassinated in 1983 at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. That grisly murder spurred Butz into action as immediately after Ninoy’s burial, he called his close friends, former classmates and business associates to help him organize a protest movement. ..

This month is also when Agapito “Butz”, my buddy, kumpadre, classmate in high school and college at the Ateneo de Manila, passed away. Thursday last week was his second death anniversary.

I remember Butz for his wit and infectious sense of humor. Although he belonged to a political clan, he was more attuned to business pursuits and the movie world. He stayed in the periphery of politics as he looked at it then as a “ballgame for the elite and the rich.”

However, after Ninoy’s assassination, Butz plunged headlong into political action, and formed ATOM. I value the privilege of having been a co-founder and former president of the organization.. Aside from rallies and demonstrations, we came up with creative forms of protest activities that included, among others, Sunday morning jogs from the Rizal monument in Luneta to the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran (Running Organization Against Repression or ROAR); a darts tournament (“Dart the Dictator Down”); and the “Tarlac to Tarmac” run.
Our group succeeded in drawing the middle forces, the centrists, to take an active role in the struggle versus the dictatorship, ATOM was a dominant force in the Parliament of the Streets that later metamorphosed into the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. It was Butz who made the very first call via radio for public support for the breakaway group of General Fidel V. Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile from the Marcos regime.

Butz served as Senator from 1987 to 1995 and as Congressman of Makati from 1998 to 2007. As a member of Congress, he worked tirelessly for the passage of laws that benefited the poor. Among these are the Magna Carta for Farmers, the Seed Act and the Cooperative Code of the Philippines.

The coop movement was a lifetime advocacy that led to his selection as chairman of the Philippine Cooperative Center (PCC) and chairman emeritus of the National Cooperative Movement, an umbrella organization of local cooperatives.

If they were still around, I wonder how Ninoy and Butz would view the fact that today, a mere 31 years after their disappearance (expulsion) from the national scene, the descendants and supporters of the despot are now strutting around, what with the dictator recently regarded as fit to be buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani!

Paraphrasing some lines from “Nakapagtataka” recorded and sang by Hajji Alejandro and composed by Jim Paredes of the Apo Hiking Society, Ninoy and Butz would surely join us as we ask — “HINDI BA TAYO NAPAPAGOD, HINDI BA TAYO NAGSASAWA, SA ATING PINAGLALABANG TILA WALANG KATAPUSAN ….”

Ninoy, Butz, para sa ating bayan, kami sa ATOM ay hindi mapapagod, hindi magsasawa. Itutuloy pa rin namin ang ating laban!

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