Both his candidacy and his six-year term bannered his “Daang Matuwid” battle cry.
News broke this morning that former President Benigno Aquino III has passed away on Thursday morning at Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City. He was 61 years old.
According to a report Rappler, Aquino has been suffering from different illnesses for two years, and has been undergoing dialysis for months. He also underwent a routine heart procedure in 2019, so says his former spokersperson Abigail Valte.
No cause of death has been shared, nor an official statement from his family has been released as of this writing.
Many politicians and public personalities have expressed their condolences and own version of a tribute to the 15th President of the nation. This included Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, Senator Nancy Binay, journalist Ces Drilon, and Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda.
Born in Sampaloc, Manila in February 8, 1960, Benigno Simeon Aquino III was a fourth-generation politician. His mom, Corazon Aquino, served as the 11th President of the country after People Power. His dad, Ninoy Aquino, was a Senator and direct foil to the man his wife took over office from. Many felt that the elder Aquino was set for the presidency himself until his assassination in 1986, which was one of the sparks of the movement that deposed the then-dictatorial government.
Noynoy, as he is popularly known, first entered politics in 1998, running and winning a congressional seat, representing Tarlac’s second district. He was reelected twice, in 2001 and 2004. Afterward, he ran for the Senate in 2007 and placed sixth, winning a full term.
After the death of his mother in 2009, Aquino cut short his six-year Senatorial term to run for president in the 2010 national elections. Being a first time Senator, he originally had no intention of running for higher office, but changed his mind because of an apparent public clamor. This included a signature drive that mimicked the same call for his mother to run against Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap elections.
Aquino’s campaign was bannered under the idea of “Daang Matuwid,” a direct contrast to the corruption allegations against the incumbent President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and a few of his rivals in the race.
He ended with more than 15 million votes, six million more than second placer Joseph Estrada, who was ousted from the presidency in 2001. Aquino also beat real estate tycoon-turned-politician Manny Villar, Gilbert Teodoro, and preacher Eddie Villanueva.
Controversies and challenges
Aquino assumed office on June 30, 2010, taking over from Arroyo, who happened to be his former professor in Ateneo. At his inaugural address, he talked about a “no wang-wang” policy, which discouraged the use of blaring sirens for other means other than president/vice-president motor cars, and first respondents—although he did not use it himself.
As with past Presidents, Aquino has had his share of controversies. A couple of months after he was sworn in, eight Hong Kong citizens were killed by a disgruntled former policeman who held them hostage in a bus by Quirino Grandstand. This obviously soured relations between our country and the Chinese government, who says that their rescue was bungled.
Many also criticized the handling of Aquino’s administration of the relief operations for Typhoon Yolanda, one of the most powerful in recorded history and claimed the lives of more than 6,000 in the country alone. This continued to be a talking point in the last Presidential elections, where this issue was continuously raised against Mar Roxas, who was the Liberal Party candidate and who was also DILG secretary under Aquino.
During his term, Aquino also faced accusations for evading responsibility in the Mamasapano massacre, which lead to the death of 44 operatives.
But in his six years in office, Aquino had a solid economic record, wherein the country had a standing of being an emerging economy. Our growth was, at one point, was second only to China in Asia. This rise, critics however point out, is not felt by too many of our people, with more than a quarter of us then still living under the poverty line.
It was also in the Aquino administration that the Philippines brought China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, with the former contesting the latter’s nine-dash line claim.
Since leaving office, Aquino retired to his family’s Times Street, Quezon City-home, and largely lived outside of the public eye. Among the few times he was seen or heard of was when he joined protests against the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The next year, in 2017, he also took part in a march to the People Power Monument as part of the 31st anniversary of the movement that toppled Marcos.
That same year, however, criminal charges were filed against Aquino by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales still in connection with Mamasapano. He was also indicted in a billion-dollar criminal case that involved state funds in 2018.
Aquino was never married nor had children, but was last in a relationship with Valenzuela councilor Shalani Soledad until 2010. He also previously dated the likes of Liz Uy, Grace Lee, and Bernadette Sembrano.
Messages and posts with “RIP PNoy” continue to pour all over social media. Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who was named by Aquino to his position in 2012, wrote in a statement that he learned a lot from the Head of State.
“I knew him to be a kind man, driven by his passion to serve the people, diligent in his duties, and with an avid and consuming curiosity about new knowledge and the world in general,” Leonen writes. “It was an honor to have served with him. He will be missed.”