Manila, Philippines– Former President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III, who championed “Daang Matuwid” campaign and scored a landmark ruling against China’s aggressive claims in West Philippine Sea, has passed away, according to a relative of the family. He was 61.
Born in Manila on Feb. 8, 1960, Aquino served as a senator before getting elected to the country’s highest government post.
Under Aquino’s watch, the Philippines enjoyed an economic boom, becoming “Asia’s new darling” from being the “Sick Man of Asia.” It registered an average growth of 6.2 percent amid robust foreign investments, stable credit ratings, and tourism growth. Aquino also sought to boost investments in social services as the government struggled to ensure economic growth trickled down to the country’s poor.
Among the highlights of his leadership were the signing of the landmark peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as intensified anti-corruption efforts, bringing to jail those involved in the controversial pork barrel scam.
The administration also initiated the filing of a case against China’s excessive claims in the West Philippine Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The court handed a ruling in favor of the Philippines in 2016.
Aquino faced his first major crisis when several Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bus hostage-taking incident in Manila in August 2010. He faced other controversies, from the allegedly slow relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, to the bungled police operation that led to the death of 44 Special Action Force troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.
In 2016, Aquino endorsed then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to succeed him. Roxas, the Liberal Party presidential candidate, lost to then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the presidential elections.
Ever since he left Malacañang, Aquino spent a quiet retirement from politics. After living at the Bahay Pangarap for six years, the bachelor returned to living at the renovated family residence along Times Street in Quezon City. He spent more time for his hobbies, such as reading books, listening to music, and going to the shooting range.
In recent years, Aquino made rare public appearances, including attending historic occasions related to his parents. There were occasional public statements, including instances when Aquino’s name was dragged in the cases related to the Dengvaxia controversy and the Mamasapano tragedy.
Aquino’s health condition was put on spotlight in December 2019. He was confined at a Makati hospital for a week to undergo scheduled medical checkup.