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Filipinos remember Aquino as corruption-fighting president

Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino, who ruled the nation from 2010 to 2016, was the only son of former president Corazon Aquino

AFP, Manila

AFP, Manila

Published: June 24, 2021 09:05 AM GMT

Updated: June 24, 2021 09:14 AM GMT

Filipinos remember Aquino as corruption-fighting president

Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino delivers a speech on Feb. 23, 2019, ahead of the commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the People Power revolution in Manila. (Photo: AFP)

Former Philippine president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, who died on June 24 from kidney failure at 61, is remembered by Filipinos as a politician who took a brave stand against corruption.

Aquino, who was in office from 2010 to 2016, was the only son of the late former president Corazon Aquino and her assassinated husband, senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, both revered for leading the struggle to restore democracy in the Catholic-majority nation.

The unmarried politician "died peacefully in his sleep," said Pinky Aquino-Abellada, one of Aquino's four sisters. He suffered kidney failure and had diabetes.

"No words can express how broken our hearts are and how long it will take for us to accept the reality that he is gone," said Abellada, reading from a statement outside the mortuary where her brother's body had been taken. "Noy, mission accomplished."

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted that Aquino was "brave under armed attack, wounded in crossfire, indifferent to power and its trappings, and ruled our country with a puzzling coldness but only because he hid his feelings so well it was thought he had none."

Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen, who was Aquino's former peace negotiator with Muslim rebels, expressed "profound sadness" over the former leader's death.

He made fighting corruption his mantra, capitalising on his family's clean reputation

"I knew him to be a kind man, driven by his passion to serve our people, diligent in his duties, and with an avid and consuming curiosity," Leonen said.

The US embassy in Manila offered its "deepest condolences."

Aquino, who was succeeded by populist strongman Rodrigo Duterte, waged an anti-corruption campaign during a term that ushered in key economic reforms.

Unusually for the conservative Catholic country, Aquino remained a bachelor throughout his life, though he had relationships with a number of women.

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Aquino was born on Feb. 8, 1960, to one of the country's wealthiest land-owning political families.

A latecomer to the presidential race in 2010, he declared his candidacy only after his mother's death from cancer the previous year had plunged the country into mourning, and demonstrated the power of the family name.

He made fighting corruption his mantra, capitalising on his family's clean reputation, and vowed to reduce the poverty afflicting a third of the population.

His administration delivered average annual economic growth of just over 6 percent, the highest since the 1970s, handing the country investment-grade status, but poverty remained endemic.

Aquino, who earned an economics degree from the elite Ateneo de Manila University, was long mocked by opponents as a fortunately surnamed underachiever with no administrative or business experience.

They also said he had little to show for the more than a decade he spent as a congressman and senator.

But the chain-smoking Aquino blossomed during the election campaign into a confident public speaker and the nation's leading critic of his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, who was arrested for corruption after she left office.

The Aquino family name was stamped into Philippine political history through tragedy.

The event shocked the world and ignited the non-violent People Power movement that toppled Marcos

Military personnel shot dead "Ninoy" Aquino at Manila airport in 1983 as he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The event shocked the world and ignited the non-violent People Power movement that toppled Marcos. The martyred politician's widow, Corazon, led the revolution and succeeded Marcos as president in 1986.

Aquino had a bullet lodged in his neck — one of five that struck him when rebel soldiers attacked the presidential palace in 1987 in a coup attempt against his mother.

Unlike Duterte, Aquino put the Philippines' long-running dispute with China over competing claims to the South China Sea at the top of his foreign policy agenda.

He launched a landmark case with a UN-backed tribunal to challenge Beijing's claims to most of the sea, which ruled in favour of the Philippines. But Beijing rejected the decision.

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