MANILA (6TH UPDATE) - Former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III passed away on Thursday, just 5 years after he stepped down from office, his family confirmed. He was 61.
"It is with profound grief that on behalf of our family, I am confirming that our brother... died peacefully in his sleep," said Pinky Aquino-Abellada, the late President's sister.
"His death certificate pronounced his death at 6:30 a.m. due to renal disease secondary to diabetes," she told reporters in a short press conference.
The late president's remains will be discharged from the hospital after a COVID-19 swab test, a new protocol due to the pandemic, she said.
Aquino, who served as President from 2010 to 2016, was largely silent and out of the public eye since the end of his term.
A known smoker, he was brought to the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City earlier in the day. His sister, actress Kris Aquino, was seen entering the medical facility but did not give a statement.
"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," Aquino-Abellada said.
"Mission accomplished ka, Noy. Be happy now with dad and mom."
The Aquino patriarch, former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., was assassinated in August 1983 upon his return in the country from exile in the United States. His death sparked the movement to end the Marcos dictatorial rule in the country.
Three years later, in 1986, his wife, Corazon would be swept into power, becoming the country's first female President.
Her death in 2009 due to colon cancer prompted calls for Noynoy to lead the country, which he responded favorably.
"We love you and we are so blessed to have had the privilege to have you as our brother. We will miss you forever," Aquino-Aebellada said of his brother.
Aquino had been undergoing dialysis 3 times a week in preparation for a kidney transplant before his passing, said Deedee Siytangco, former spokesperson of the Aquino family.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a party mate of Aquino, paid tribute to the former leader whom she said was a "good friend and an honest president."
"He tried to do what was right, even when it was not popular. Tahimik at walang pagod siyang nagtrabaho para makatulong sa marami. He will be missed. Nakikiramay ako sa kanyang pamilya," she said.
(He worked quietly and tirelessly to help many... I condole with his family.)
Robredo and members of Aquino's Cabinet arrived at The Chapels at Heritage Park in Taguig City where his remains will be brought.
Former Sen. Mar Roxas, one of Aquino's closest friends and political allies, praised the latter's stint as the country's Chief Executive.
"You did all that you could and left things so much better than how you found them. Our country moved up and was respected all over the world. It's all anyone can ask," Roxas, who gave way to Aquino in the 2010 presidential elections, said in tweet.
"Damo gid nga salamat (Thank you very much). Halong (Take care). We miss you already."
“We lost a very good man. The kind of leadership that he exercised is something I thought was excellent," said former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who served during Aquino's term.
Aquino's former Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the Philippines lost "an honest, principled, and uncompromising leader."
"In the years I worked with him, he was a conscientious public servant who sincerely believed it was his duty to do everything he could to improve the lives of his bosses—the Filipino people—whom he selflessly served," he said.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, who served as Aquino's Justice Secretary, said she is "in a state of utter disbelief and indescribable grief."
"During these very difficult times, our nation has lost a great leader. A leader who served with all his heart, not just to continue the legacy of his parents, but to also offer his life to lead our nation on a righteous path," she said.
"PNoy has lived a fulfilled and selfless life. Kung mayroon man akong pinanghihinayangan, ‘yun ay ang hindi na niya nasilayan ang muling pagbawi at pagkakaisa ng Pilipino para bumalik sa tuwid at makatarungang landas na kaniyang ipinaglaban," she said.
(If there is any regret, it is that he won't see the redemption and the unity of Filipinos in going back to the righteous and dignified path that he fought for.)
The Department of National Defense extended its "deepest sympathies" to the Aquino family, its chief Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.
"The Department of National Defense joins the nation in grieving the demise of former President Benigno Aquino III. Serving as our country's leader from 2010-2016, President Aquino advocated the strengthening of our defense and security capabilities to support national development," he said.
"During his term, Republic Act No. 10349 was enacted to revitalize our AFP modernization program. As Commander-in-Chief, he recognized the importance of equipping our military to better respond to the evolving domestic and regional security challenges."
Aquino was "incorruptible, brave under armed attack, wounded in crossfire, indifferent to power and its trappings, and ruled our country with a puzzling coldness," said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Locsin was a speech writer of Aquino's mother.
Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was appointed by Aquino as the 24th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2012, described the former President as "a good man, a responsible leader."
"Some of our presidents will be remembered for how they tried to subject independent institution reforms to conform to their will; in contrast, President Aquino will be remembered for how he invested in long-term strengthening of institutions and justice and accountability," she said.
"You will never be forgotten."
Prior to assuming the country's top post, Aquino served as senator, and representative of the Tarlac constituency north of Manila from 1998 to 2007.
"I had no ambitions to run in the 2010 elections but I responded to the people's clamor. I am but the face of what we believe is the overwhelming demand of our people to repudiate everything wrong in this administration," Aquino had said.
It was under the Aquino administration when the Philippines brought China to the arbitral tribunal over its vast claims in the South China Sea. Manila's victory against Beijing was announced in July 2016 after President Rodrigo Duterte had assumed power.
Duterte shelved the ruling in pursuit of better relations with China.
— With reports from Jervis Manahan and Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News
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