Butz Aquino back with fellow anti-Marcos activists (Philippines Daily Inquirer)

FOR THE last time, he was back where he first convened fellow activists and plain folk to unite against the oppressive rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

At the Edsa Shrine chapel on Thursday, friends, family and supporters paid their last tribute to Sen. Agapito Butz Aquino who died on Monday

afternoon at the age of 76.

There was more to the man than just being the brother of martyred Sen. Benigno Ninoy Aquino, Fr. Sonny Ramirez said in his homily.

[Butz] will always be remembered as a man who was strong, not for himself, but for those who need strength so they could stand up alone, the priest added of President Aquino’s uncle.

Publicist Reli German described his former classmate at Ateneo de Manila University and fellow convenor of the civil society group August 21 Movement (Atom), as one who never desired publicity, but at the same time, one who never stayed in the background. Butz was always out there in front rallying his troops. That was why he was also hit when riots occurred.

Snowballing protest

The late senator and congressman used to abhor politics until his brother Ninoy flew home from his United States exile and was assassinated by suspected Marcos men at the airport on Aug. 21, 1983. He then formed Atom (August Twenty-One Movement) to mark that fateful day and to rally Filipinos to resist martial law.

While militant leftist leaders mobilized the grassroots, Butz had been widely credited for organizing the middle class to join the snowballing protest movement.

When Marcos military officials Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos broke away from the regime and holed up at Camp Crame in Quezon City, it was Butz’s call to arms over Radio Veritas on the evening of Feb. 22, 1986, that galvanized Filipinos who trooped to Isetann department store in Cubao, and from there, marched on Edsa to provide protection to the two renegade officials. Manila Archbishop Cardinal Sin’s clarion call for the faithful to do the same would come at least an hour later.

Despite the bravery he showed in resisting the Marcos dictatorship, Butz was a man of peace, another member of Atom, Arnold Padilla, recalled.

Butz’s son Bobby confessed that when he was young, he sometimes felt jealous because his dad seemed to love his country more than his family.

In hindsight, I understand that it was his calling, he said.

Jolly vibe

Butz’s sister, former Sen. Tessie Aquino-Oreta rued that the Aquino clan’s Christmas reunion would never be the same without its noisiest member who loved cracking jokes and making everyone laugh.

Unfortunately, none of us among his siblings have that talent of delivering jokes which sometimes had a meaningful message, Oreta said, adding that government officials should learn from her brother’s sincerity in loving the country and its people.

Butz always did what he said. Hindi siya balimbing (he was no turncoat), Oreta said.

Ballsy Cruz, President Aquino’s eldest sister, said as much, saying she would miss most her uncle’s lively ways and jolly vibe.

The current crop of public servants should emulate her uncle’s unparalleled dedication to country, she added. It was always his priority to improve the lives of the less privileged, so he was very careful in using government funds, Cruz said.

Butz’s eldest daughter Roxanne meanwhile said that her dad proved true to his name, Agapito, which comes from the word agape, the highest form of love. Dad loved in the highest order and because of that, we loved him in return, she said.

Despite his failing health and weight loss that was noticeable in past family reunions, her uncle never complained, Cruz said.

More sentimental

But Jackie, Butz’s younger daughter, said she noticed how her father had become more sentimental over the last few months.

Before I finish our phone call, I’d usually tell him, ‘Handsome, I love you.’ But lately, he would demand that my goodbye should come with a hug, she added.

She also recalled that the night before Butz passed away at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City, her father asked that his bed be adjusted for him to get a better view of everyone in the room.

We asked him, ‘Do you want to watch TV?’ And he said, ‘No, I want to see my family,’ Jackie said.

Butz’s remains were cremated at Arlington Memorial Chapel on Tuesday, following his instructions for the family to keep his exit simple and without fanfare.

But the Senate overruled his wish on Wednesday and held a wake and a Mass inside the session hall for the late senator, the first time it did so in nearly two decades.

Senate President Franklin Drilon extolled his former colleague as an honorable man who once dazzled our nation with his courage and principles.

After the 1986 People Power Revolution, Butz was elected to the Senate and authored several laws, including the Magna Carta for Small Farmers, the Seed Act and the Cooperative Code of the Philippines.

From 1998 to 2007, Butz represented the second district of Makati in the House of Representatives. In the 2010 elections, he ran for mayor of Makati City but lost to Jejomar Erwin Junjun Binay Jr., the son of then Makati mayor Jejomar Binay.