POLITICAL and business leaders in Cebu paid tribute to former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, who died on Thursday morning, June 24, 2021, in Metro Manila, expressing their gratitude for his improving the economy and anti-corruption stance.
Aquino, the first bachelor to serve as the country’s chief executive from 2010 to 2016, succumbed to a kidney illness caused by diabetes. He was 61.
The 15th President of the Philippines was the third child and only son of democracy icons—the late former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the late former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino.
Filipino Cebuano Business Club chairman Rey Calooy, who represents the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in Cebu, said the country caught the attention of global credit rating agencies during the Aquino administration.
“The entire MSME sector benefited from the high investment credit ratings of the Philippines from the international community,” he said.
Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Felix Taguiam and Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu mourned the passing of Aquino, who Yu said will be remembered for “giving a greater role to the private sector in economic development through the public-private partnership projects” during the Aquino administration.
In Cebu, Aquino’s notable infrastructure development projects include the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal 2 and the Medellin-Daanbantayan Road, which leads to Maya RoRo Port. The approval of the Cebu–Cordova Link Expressway’s construction also happened during his administration.
The late former Cordova mayor Adelino Sitoy conceptualized the bridge in 2014, and it was lobbied for by then Cebu City mayor Michael Rama, who was also the Regional Development Council chairman at the time.
Rama, now a vice mayor and currently serving as acting mayor as Mayor Edgardo Labella is on medical leave, had the City Hall lower the flag at half-mast until the burial of the former President.
He thanked Aquino for trusting him back then.
Labella and former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña said the Aquino family is remembered for its role in helping the country get back into the fold of democracy.
Cebu Vice Gov. Hilario Davide III said he was shocked and saddened by Aquino’s death, saying the former President had “served his country and people with utmost integrity and sincerity,” while Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes described Aquino as an “epitome of dedication and simplicity.”
Aquino was known for the tagline, “Kayo ang boss ko (You are my boss),” aside from his “walang wang-wang (no sirens)” policy. The use of government, military and police officials while traveling is seen as an abuse of power.
Cebuano lawyers also expressed sadness over Aquino’s death.
In a statement, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter said Filipinos will remember how Aquino “served his country” and they will “hold dear the legacy of his leadership.”
Human rights lawyer and activist Democrito Barcenas Jr. said Aquino “had the passion to serve his people.”
“His lasting legacy was our victory at the Hague to protect our sovereignty from Chinese bully which was shamelessly squandered by President Duterte,” Barcenas said.
During Aquino’s term, his administration filed a case against Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands in 2013. Three years later, during the first week of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, the Tribunal decided in favor of the Philippines, saying China does not have historic rights to the South China Sea and that its “nine-dash line” claim has no legal basis.
Cause of death
Before his death, the former President was undergoing dialysis when he had a heart attack, a relative told reporters.
Aquino was rushed to the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City early Thursday morning.
His siblings, including youngest sister Kris Aquino, arrived at the Capitol Medical Center before 10 a.m. Thursday.
Others who went to the hospital were Liberal Party stalwarts Sen. Francis Pangilinan and former senator Manuel Roxas II.
At 12:39 p.m., an ambulance with a mini Philippine flag left the Capitol Medical Center. It was believed to be transporting the remains of Aquino to the Heritage Park in Taguig City.
Aquino’s sisters on Thursday said the former President “died peacefully in his sleep.”
Pinky Aquino-Abellada, reading a statement through Facebook Live on the account of youngest sister Kris Aquino, said the former President’s death certificate pronounced his death at 6:30 a.m. due to renal disease secondary to 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,” Abellada said.
She said Noynoy, also known as PNoy, had been in and out of the hospital even before the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Abellada thanked her brother’s doctors and the entire medical team that took care of him.
She thanked the friends who regularly visited him, sent text messages, delivered food, and provided companionship and protection.
Abellada also thanked the nuns and priests who continuously prayed for the former President as well as the members of her brother’s household who took care of him.
She also thanked the voters of the 2nd district of Tarlac for voting for him for three congressional terms beginning 1998, the 14.3 million Filipinos who elected him as senator and the 15.2 million Filipinos who put their trust in him to propel him to the presidency in 2010.
She said the late President was a private person and preferred to work quietly.
Abellada said it was painful for her and her sisters to watch their brother being vilified over controversial issues such as the Mamasapano bloodbath and the Dengvaxia controversy.
Aside from Abellada and celebrity Kris Aquino, his two other sisters are Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and Victoria Aquino-Dee.
Abellada recalled that when they told PNoy to speak out and counter the allegations, he had simply replied that “kaya pa n’yang matulog sa gabi (he can still sleep at night).”
Abellada noted that her brother faced all the allegations against him, appearing before the Sandiganbayan in November 2017, before the Senate in December 2017 and before the House of Representatives in February 2018.
“Because when you enter public service, when you serve with honesty and dignity, and you know you have committed no crimes against the people, hindi ka matatakot magsabi ng totoo (you would not be afraid to speak the truth),” she said.
In 2017, he was charged with graft and usurpation of authority before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano firefight that killed over 60 people, including 44 Special Action Forces men. He was also charged with 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. The Supreme Court cleared him of all charges on Sept. 3, 2019.
On Dec. 14, 2017, he was grilled during a Senate inquiry into the Dengvaxia mess and at the House in February 2018. Graft charges were filed against him, former Health secretary Janette Garin and former Budget secretary Florencio Abad in mid-2018.
Aquino’s late father, his namesake and popularly known as Ninoy, was the most vocal opposition leader during the Marcos dictatorship. He was assassinated as he stepped off the plane in 1983, sparking a series of protests that culminated in the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos.
His mother Corazon was the first female President of the Philippines. Her loss in the 1986 snap presidential elections led to the four-day uprising dubbed as the 1986 People Power Revolution, which ousted the dictator Marcos. (MVI, TPM, JOB, JJL, KFD, ANV, WBS / SunStar Philippines)