Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the fifteenth elected president of the Philippines, died on Thursday, June 24 at 61 years old, due to renal failure as a complication of diabetes. He is survived by sisters Kris Aquino, Victoria Elisa Aquino-Dee, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and Pinky Aquino-Abellada.
President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a mourning period from June 24 to July 3, during which the flag “shall be flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on all government buildings and installations throughout the Philippines and abroad.”
His remains were taken to Ateneo de Manila’s Church of the Gesu for a one-day viewing on June 25, until 10 p.m., before his cremation and burial at Heritage Memorial Park, where Benigno Aquino II and Corazon Aquino are laid to rest.
In his “Daang Matuwid” platform, he pledged to eliminate corruption, elevate those living at the margins of society and practice transparency in governance.
Under his administration, the country acquired its first investment grade rating owing to tightened spending rules—which stemmed corruption—reduced government debt as well as the budget deficit. Gross domestic production (GDP) also grew at an average 6.2% throughout his entire term, peaking at 7% for two years.
Notably, it was also during Aquino’s term that the country won an arbitral ruling against China over the West Philippine Sea, marking a historic ruling in July 2016, one month after he stepped down from his post.
Aquino’s term was not without its challenges. In 2015, the administration launched “Oplan Exodus” that aimed to counter Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, otherwise known as “Marwan” as well as Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman. However, this resulted in the deaths of some 60 individuals, 44 of whom were members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Forces. They are now remembered as the SAF 44.
His term also brought about the Priority Development Assistance Fund, providing lawmakers a “pork barrel” or lump sum appropriation in the national budget. It will be remembered that this too became highly controversial, as certain politicians pocketed the money instead of using them for their intended purpose, which was to fund projects for the good of the public.
His response during the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013 was also criticized.
Politics in his blood
Born on February 8, 1960, Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III was the only brother to four sisters as well as the son of prolific senator Ninoy Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino, who were themselves prominent icons of democracy in the country.
Noynoy attended Ateneo de Manila University for his entire educational period, finally graduating with his degree in economics as a student of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Shortly after however in 1980, he and his family went into exile in the United States after his father, a staunch critic and opposition leader against then-President Ferdinand Marcos, suffered a series of heart attacks and sought treatment in the US.
Three years later, Ninoy would be assassinated upon returning to the Philippines, an event that led to the successful ousting of Marcos via the EDSA People Power Revolution, after which his mother would be elected as president of the new democracy. Cory Aquino was the Philippines’ first female leader.
After spending time working at Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and Nike Philippines, Noynoy would rise to his first seat of public office in 1998 as the Representative of the 2nd district of Tarlac in the House of Representatives (HoR), also winning re-election in 2001 and 2004.
He served as the deputy speaker of the HoR in 2004 but vacated the position in 2006 to join fellow Liberal Party (LP) members in demanding for then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign over allegations of electoral rigging.
Due to term limits in the HoR, in 2007 Noynoy won a seat in the Senate under the banner of the Genuine Opposition (GO) coalition, which included the LP.
As a senator, Noynoy sought to champion accountability and reform in the bills he proposed but encountered hiccups in his endeavors when corrupt officials subverted his work for their own gain.
In 2008, after the passing of his mother, Noynoy received enormous support and clamor for him to run for the presidency of 2010, as the LP’s standard-bearer.
With over 15 million votes under his built, on June 30, 2010, Noynoy Aquino began his first day in office as the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines, also marking the start of his popular moniker PNoy.