Benigno Aquino III, the son of pro-democracy icons who helped overthrow Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died Thursday, a cousin and officials said.
He was 61.
Former Senator Bam Aquino said he was heartbroken over his cousin’s death. “He gave everything for the Filipino, he left nothing,” he said.
Details of his death were not released immediately, but one of his former cabinet officials, Rogelio Singson, said Aquino had undergone dialysis and was preparing for a kidney transplant.
Condolences came from Filipino politicians, the Catholic Church and others, including the US government and the administration of current President Rodrigo Duterte. In government buildings, Filipino flags were lowered on half of the staff.
“We are saddened by the death of President Aquino and will always be grateful for our partnership,” said John Law, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, called for a moment of silence and prayer at the beginning of a televised press conference, and Senator Imee Marcos, the late dictator’s daughter, also offered condolences.
Aquino, president from 2010 to 2016, was heir to a political family that is considered a bulwark against authoritarianism in the Philippines.
His father, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was murdered in 1983 in military custody at the Manila International Airport that now bears his name. His mother, Corazon Aquino, led the “people’s power” revolt in 1986, which ousted Marcos and secured her presidency. Affectionately called Noynoy or Pinoy by many Filipinos and with the image of an incorruptible politician, Aquino fought poverty and disapproved of the excesses of the country’s elite.
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 following the popular call to carry on his late mother’s legacy.
He won by a large margin for promising to fight corruption and poverty, but his victory was also taken as a protest vote due to anger over his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s corruption scandals.
Under Aquino, the government expanded a program that gives the poor cash in return for parental pledges to ensure their children attend classes and receive government health care. Large corporations, meanwhile, have benefited from government partnerships that have enabled them to fund large 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 agreement with the country’s largest Muslim separatist rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which in 2014 largely facilitated decades of sporadic fighting in the south of the country, home to Muslim minorities in the region roman catholic nation.
Political opponents criticized his government for allegedly botching a number of crises, including a hostage-taking on a bus in Manila that resulted in the shooting of eight Hong Kong Chinese tourists by an angry police officer, and delays in rescue efforts in the disastrous aftermath of the Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
He retained high approval ratings as his only six-year tenure ended in 2016. But the rise of Duterte, whose deadly crackdown on illicit drugs has killed thousands of mostly minor drug suspects, was a reality check of the extent of public discontent and perceived failures during Aquino’s reformist rule.
Aquino fought Duterte, warning him that he could be a threatening dictator and undo the democracy and economic dynamism he had achieved during his tenure.
After his presidency he stayed away from politics and the public. His former public works secretary, Singson, told DZMM radio that Aquino told him on a cell phone message on June 3 that he was undergoing dialysis and preparing for angioplasty before a possible kidney transplant.
Singson said he would pray for the ailing presidency and successful treatment.
Aquino is survived by his four sisters.