Former Philippine democracy leader Benigno Aquino III dies at 61

Former Philippine democracy leader Benigno Aquino III dies at 61

Benigno Aquino III, the son of pro-democracy icons who helped topple Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died on Thursday, a cousin and public officials said.

He was 61 years old.

Former Senator Bam Aquino has said he is heartbroken over the death of his cousin. “He gave everything for the Filipino, he left nothing,” he said.

Details of his death were not immediately made public, but one of his former Cabinet officials, Rogelio Singson, said Aquino had undergone dialysis and was preparing for a kidney transplant.

Condolences have poured in from Filipino politicians, the Catholic Church and others, including the US government, and the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Filipino flags were lowered at half mast in government buildings.

“We are saddened by the passing of President Aquino and will always be grateful for our partnership,” said US Embassy charge d’affaires John Law.

Duterte spokesman Harry Roque called for a minute of silence and prayer at the start of a televised press conference and Senator Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator, also offered her condolences.

Aquino, president from 2010 to 2016, was the heir to a political family seen as a bulwark against authoritarianism in the Philippines.

His father, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated in 1983 while in military custody at Manila International Airport, which now bears his name. His mother, Corazon Aquino, led the 1986 “popular power” revolt that overthrew Marcos and took over the presidency. Aquino, who was affectionately referred to as Noynoy or Pinoy by many Filipinos and had an incorruptible politician image, struggled with poverty and frowned at the excesses of the country’s elite.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino smiles as he arrives at Wattay Airport to attend the ninth Asia-Europe Summit in Vientiane, November 4, 2012.Hoang Dinh Nam / AFP – Getty Images file

Aquino won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1998, where he served until 2007. He then successfully ran for the Senate and announced his presidential campaign in September 2009 saying he was responding to the appeal of the people to continue the legacy of their late mother.

He largely won on a pledge to fight corruption and poverty, but his victory was also seen as a protest vote due to the exasperation over the corruption scandals of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Under Aquino, the government expanded a program that provides cash distributions to the poor in return for commitments from parents to ensure their children attend school and receive government health care. Large companies, on the other hand, have benefited from partnership agreements with the government that have enabled them to finance major infrastructure projects such as highways and airports.

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One of the legacies of the Aquino presidency was the signing of a peace deal in 2014 with the country’s largest Muslim separatist rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which eased decades of sporadic fighting in the south. of the country, home of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation.

Political opponents have slammed what they say is the mess of his administration with a number of crises, including a hostage crisis on a Manila bus that ended in the shooting deaths of eight Chinese tourists Hong Kong by a disgruntled police officer, and delays in disaster recovery efforts. Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

He retained high approval ratings when his only six-year term ended in 2016. But the rise of Duterte, whose murderous crackdown on illegal drugs has killed thousands of mostly juvenile drug suspects , was a reality check of the extent of public discontent with failures during the reformist reign of Aquino.

Aquino campaigned against Duterte, warning that he could be an impending dictator and could roll back the democracy and economic momentum achieved during his own tenure.

After his presidency, he remained aloof from politics and public attention. His former public works secretary, Singson, told DZMM radio that Aquino told him in a message on his cell phone on June 3 that he was undergoing dialysis and preparing for angioplasty before a possible kidney transplant.

Singson said he would pray for the sick presidency and for successful treatment.

Aquino is survived by his four sisters.