Video courtesy of PTV
MANILA (UPDATE) — Malacañang condoled with the family of former President Benigno Aquino III, who passed away early Thursday at the age of 61, and thanked him for his "contribution and services to the country."
Palace spokesman Harry Roque began his regular press briefing with a "moment of silence" for Aquino, who was rushed to the hospital where he passed away. His family has yet to disclose the cause of his demise.
"We commiserate po and condole with the family and loved ones of former President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III, as we extend our condolences on his untimely demise," said Roque.
"We're grateful for the former President for his contribution and services to the country, and we ask our people to offer a prayer for the eternal repose of the former Chief Executive," he added.
"Rest in peace, Mr. President."
The son of democracy icons Ninoy and former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, Noynoy rose to power in 2010 after his mother succumbed to colon cancer the year before.
The 15th President of the Philippines in his 6-year term delivered annual economic growth that was highest since the 1970s, tackled corruption, and stood up to Beijing over competing claims in the West Philippine Sea.
President Rodrigo Duterte has scored his predecessor over his administration's response to super typhoon Yolanda, the botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, and China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal, among others.
Roque said he had "no information yet" past noon on whether or not Duterte would offer a state funeral for Aquino.
Asked if Duterte would order that flags be flown in half mast in honor of Aquino, Roque said "Everything, I will know after this press briefing... But I will give further details po."
"Ang achievement po niya (Aquino) ay unang-una, nanungkulan siya sa isang demokrasya," said Roque, when asked what the former President's greatest achievement was.
"Siyempre po, maaalala rin natin iyong kaniyang order na walang wang-wang. Maaalala natin siya bilang isang simpleng public servant na hinalal po ng taong bayan."
(His achievement first and foremost is he served in a democracy. Of course, we will also remember his order against the use of sirens. We will remember him as a simple public servant elected by the people.)
WHY STATE FUNERAL, FLAGS AT HALF MAST MATTER
A state funeral is a public ceremony that honors heads of state or other people of national significance. It returns a former leader for the last time to Malacañang, where he or she used to live.
The President "has the prerogative of ordering a state funeral for any citizen who is deemed of sufficient stature to deserve such an honor," according to government journal Official Gazette.
"The last state funeral was held on July 4, 2012 for the late National Scientist Perla Santos-Ocampo. The last state funeral for a former President was for the late President Diosdado Macapagal in 1997,” it added.
The Aquino family turned down a state funeral for their matriarch.
Cory was concerned with expenses that the government would have to spend for a state funeral, given the economic downturn that the country was then facing, her son said in 2009.
The government shoulders expenses for a state funeral, and renders final military honers for the deceased, among others.
Flags in some areas of the country are already at half-mast for Aquino, even "with no formal announcement, no order", noted Manuel Luis Quezon III, columnist and grandson of former President Manuel Quezon.
"It will always be so when the public loses someone who, at the moment of passing and thus final reckoning, they indubitably know served them faithfully and with honor," he said on Twitter.