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Lawmaker files bill to rename NAIA after Marcos using misinformation

By NICK GARCIA Published Jul 06, 2022 1:26 pm Updated Jul 07, 2022 4:43 pm

A lawmaker wants to change the name of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Ferdinand E. Marcos International Airport—as part of a string of attempts to erase the assassinated opposition senator's name from the gateway.

In filing House Bill No. 610 on June 30 but a copy of which was only released to media on July 5—Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. said the airport should be named after Marcos, falsely claiming that it was built during his term.

The gateway's construction began in 1947, during the term of Manuel Roxas. Roxas announced the project during his second state of the nation address on Jan. 27 that year, saying the Civil Aeronautics Board of the United States assisted in the construction of a national airport "for international commercial aviation."

"The purpose of this program is to facilitate our development as the aviation center of the Far East," he said.

The airport was originally a US Air Force base until 1948. The international runway and associated taxiway were built in 1953, the last year of Elpidio Quirino's term. A control tower and terminal building for the exclusive use of international passengers, meanwhile, were in completed in 1961, during which it was called the Manila International Airport (MIA).

Marcos became president in 1965, or after 12 years since the international runway and associated taxiway was built and 4 years since the control tower and terminal building were completed.

While the late dictator promulgated Executive Order No. 381 in 1972 to rehabilitate and improve MIA facilities, it's wrong to say that the airport was built during his term.

“It is more appropriate to rename it to the person who has contributed to the idea and execution of the said noble project," Teves inaccurately claimed in filing his bill. “It is more appropriate to bear the name that has contributed and legacy (sic) in our country to make the Philippines a center of international and domestic air travel, who has instituted and built or conceptualized the project in making pride (sic) of our country."

The MIA was renamed to NAIA via Republic Act 6639 in 1987 during the term of Cory Aquino, in honor of his husband who was assassinated at the airport on Aug. 21, 1983, when he returned from exile during Marcos's martial rule.

'Shouldn't have been politicized'

Days after Teves's filing, Duterte Youth Party-list Rep. Drixie Mae Cardema joined the bandwagon of those who want to erase Aquino's name from the country's main gateway.

Cardema sought to revert NAIA's name to Manila International Airport via House Bill No. 1253, submitted to the House of Representatives on July 5 and a copy of which was released to the media July 7.

She argued that the airport's name "should not have been politicized in the first place"—even as she called Ninoy Aquino an "Anti-Marcos Leader."

"Our nation's capital is named Manila, therefore our country's international gateway to the world must be known as the MANILA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT," Cardema wrote in her explanation note.

For her, the original name would give a "sense of pride" among Manila residents and foreign tourists.

Not the first name change attempt

On June 25, 2020, lawmakers Paolo Duterte (Davao 1st District), Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque), and Eric Yap (ACT-CIS Party-list) filed House Bill No. 7031, seeking to rename NAIA to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas.

In a joint statement, Duterte said the bill was filed because the country needs a "more representative branding for the international gateway."

In 2018, suspended lawyer Larry Gadon, infamous for spewing profanities in viral videos, filed a petition nullifying RA 6639 to revert NAIA's name to MIA, claiming Aquino is "not even considered a hero" and "does not deserve to have an airport named after him." Gadon also claimed the renaming is a violation of the guidelines of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

The Supreme Court, however, unanimously dismissed his petition in 2020 for lack of merit.

'More urgent things to do'

Former senator Frank Drilon criticized Teves, saying the 19th Congress has more important issues to deal with, such as addressing the inflation and reviving the pandemic-stricken economy.

“This should be the main priority of this administration and the 19th Congress," Drilon said in a statement July 6, "not renaming NAIA."

Drilon noted that there's "no compelling reason" to rename NAIA. Any proposal to do so, he said, will always be seen as political and divisive, and this won't "augur well" with the call for unity of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

"This obvious attempt for ingratiation is actually disfavoring to President Marcos," he said. "Leave NAIA alone."

Historical revisionism

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, meanwhile, told ANC that Teves's plan amounts to historical revisionism.

Lagman noted that the airport bearing Aquino Jr.'s name is "representative of the heroism of human rights violation victims" like him.

"That name has been institutionalized and should not be changed because that...will be a revision of history," he told ANC.

"I think we should be able to stop...all these efforts of historical revisionism," Lagman noted. "They are starting with the renaming of the national airport. I will oppose that, and I think many legislators will also oppose it."

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include Duterte Youth Rep. Drixie Mae Cardema's filing of a bill that also seeks to rename NAIA.)