Ninoy Aquino Day is held every 21 August to commemorate the life and death of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. Senator Aquino, along with his wife Corazon, are attributed as leading lights in modern Philippine democracy.
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In 1972 the Philippines was placed under martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos, effectively making Marcos a dictator. Many believe this law was enacted to secure Marcos’ power but was enforced under the guise of protecting the country from communism and civil strife.
During this time, any person who publicly opposed Marcos was imprisoned by the military, and many public institutions were closed down. The military was also found to have committed human rights abuses and the Philippine economy suffered massive losses.
Senator Aquino was a vocal opponent of Marcos and was consequently imprisoned. In 1980, Aquino suffered a heart attack and was allowed to move to the United States to receive medical treatment. While in the U.S. he continued to advocate for the Philippines people’s freedom.
To challenge Marcos in the 1984 elections, Aquino decided to return to the Philippines in August 1983, knowing it could lead to his death. On the 21st of the month, he landed in Manila International Airport where he was assassinated, many believe, under the orders of Marcos. It was this event that led to the eventual downfall of Marcos and the presidency of Aquino’s wife, Corazon.
The inaugural Ninoy Aquino Day was celebrated in 2004 after the then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared it as a day to commemorate his death anniversary. The holiday was also part of her “holiday economics” program to boost tourism in the Philippines.
Being a special non-working holiday, employees who choose not to work that day and/or are not rostered to work do no receive any pay. Employees who do work receive an additional 30% of their hourly wage for every hour worked.
The EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC) holds activities on the day to commemorate Aquino’s fight for democracy. These activities are funded partly by the Office of the President and by private donations.