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Benigno S. Aquino III, a former president of the Philippines and scion of the country’s most prominent pro-democracy political family, died in Manila on Thursday. He was 61.
His death was confirmed in a statement by Manuel Roxas II, a former interior minister whose family has long been associated with the Aquinos. The cause of his death was not immediately known; According to local news reports, he was hospitalized.
Mr. Aquino was president from 2010 to 2016 and rode on a wave of support following the death of his mother Corazon Aquino in 2009. Ms. Aquino, a former president, and her husband, the assassinated Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., were leaders of the People Power Revolution of 1986 that ended the two decades of President Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship.
The younger Mr Aquino, popularly known as Noynoy and PNoy, was hailed early on in office for fighting corruption, stabilizing the country’s ailing economy, and enforcing a reproductive rights law that made contraceptives more accessible to the poor – a A long-standing step was rejected by the Roman Catholic Church in a devout Catholic country.
He was also among the few leaders in Southeast Asia willing to stand against China, which has several territorial disputes in the region. Mr. Aquino effectively sued Beijing over the competing claims of the two South China Sea countries and brought his case to an international tribunal in The Hague. In a landmark 2016 ruling, the tribunal found that there was no legal basis for China’s far-reaching claim to sovereignty over the waters.
“It was with deep sadness that I learned this morning of the death of former President Benigno S. Aquino III.” Judge Marvic Leonen, an Aquino appointee for the Supreme Court, said in a statement. “I knew him as a kind man, driven by his passion for serving people, conscientious in his duties, and with an ardent and consuming curiosity about new discoveries of the world in general.”
But Mr Aquino’s tenure was later marred by accusations of inaction and transplantation. After Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which killed 6,000 Filipinos, many accused the president of reacting too slowly to the crisis. Some Western nations, including Canada, cited the Aquino government’s lack of immediacy in its decisions to bypass the government and instead donate money and aid directly to non-governmental organizations.
That same year, Mr Aquino, who had made the fight against corruption a hallmark of his government, faced a number of high-profile allegations. This included the arrest of a businesswoman who was suspected of using funds intended for poverty reduction programs Legislative bank accounts and allegations of police officers involved in extrajudicial killings.
But it was the deaths of 44 police forces in a clash with Muslim rebels in 2015 that eventually ended his presidency. The botched raid to capture a Muslim insurgent in the southern city of Mamasapano was the deadliest day for the country’s police force in modern history at the time.
In 2017, the country’s anti-transplant prosecutor said Mr Aquino should be held responsible for the officers’ deaths for allowing a suspended national police chief accused of corruption to oversee the operation.
Aquino was replaced in 2016 by Rodrigo Duterte, a populist president whose policies included a bloody war on drugs and whose authoritarianism has been compared to the Marcos regime.
Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III was born on February 8, 1960, the only son of his parents. He worked in the family’s first business, Sugar, before embarking on a career in their second business – politics – in 1998.
In the years in between, he joined his parents on the front lines of the fight to oust Marcos. His father’s assassination in 1983 is widely seen as a turning point in popular support for the revolution.
In 1987, during his mother’s presidency, Mr. Aquino was shot five times in an attempted military coup. He lived the rest of his life with shrapnel on his neck.
From 1998 to 2007 he served three terms in the House of Representatives and represented its Ancestral home of the family, the northern province of Tarlac. He was in the middle of his first term in the Senate when he was elected president in 2010.
He never married and had no children, but left four sisters.