'Kayo ang boss ko': Noynoy Aquino gone at 61

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 24 2021 10:10 AM | Updated as of Jun 24 2021 04:40 PM

'Kayo ang boss ko': Noynoy Aquino gone at 61 1
Former President Benigno Aquino III speaks during the memorial mass held in remembrance of his mother, former President Cory C. Aquino at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City on August 01, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE 2) - Former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, known for calling the Filipino people his "bosses" when he came to power, passed away on Thursday, his sisters confirmed.

Aquino, the only son of the country's most revered democracy icons, served as president from 2010 to 2016. He was largely silent and out of public eye since the end of his term, despite repeated criticisms from his successor. 

"It is with profound grief that on behalf of our family, I am confirming that our brother... died peacefully in his sleep," said Aurora Corazon "Pinky" Aquino-Abellada, the late President's elder 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 country's 15th president, a known smoker, was hospitalized early Thursday.

"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," she said.

"We love you and we are so blessed to have had the privilege to have you as our brother. We will miss you forever," she said.

Vice President Leni Robredo, chairman of Aquino's political party, Liberal Party, paid tribute to the former leader.

"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.)

'SIMPLE GOAL'

Aquino was swept into power following the death of his mother, former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, in 2009. His mother was elected in 1986 after the EDSA People Power Revolution toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

His father, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, was shot dead in 1983 as he attempted to return from US exile to lead the democracy movement against Marcos.

"I had a simple goal in life: to be true to my parents and our country as an honorable son, a caring brother, and a good citizen. My father offered his life so our democracy could live. My mother devoted her life to nurturing that democracy," the former president said in his inaugural address.

"I will dedicate my life to making our democracy reach its fullest potential: that of ensuring equality for all. My family has sacrificed much and I am willing to do this again if necessary." 

Following his mother's election, Aquino was hit by 5 bullets after rebel soldiers attempted to storm the walls of Malacañang. One bullet remained lodged in his neck and the incident left 3 of his security escorts dead.

Prior to assuming the country's top post, Aquino served as senator for six years and a lawmaker, representing 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 said in a speech the same year, referring to the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 

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'KAYO ANG BOSS KO'

Aquino tapped into popular sentiment for his parents and pledged "Daang Matuwid," a clean governance following a nearly 10-year rule of Arroyo, whose administration was tainted with graft allegations.

"Kayo ang boss ko, kaya't hindi maaaring hindi ako makinig sa mga utos ninyo. We will design and implement an interaction and feedback mechanism that can effectively respond to the people's needs and aspirations," he said in his inaugural speech.

(You are my boss so I cannot ignore your orders. We will design and implement an interaction and feedback mechanism that can effectively respond to your needs and aspirations.)

It was under the Aquino administration when the Philippines brought China to the arbitral tribunal over its vast claims in the West Philippine Sea. Manila's victory against Beijing was announced in July 2016 after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power. Duterte, who has pursued friendly ties with China, has called the ruling a mere piece of paper.

"Now, our message is clear: What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue," Aquino said in his 2011 State of the Nation Address.

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The former president was largely criticized for his handling of the Mamasapano incident, where 44 Special Action Force troopers died after they were ambushed and outnumbered by rebel gunmen on Jan. 25, 2015.

"Sa pagtatapos, kung may kasalanan po ako bilang Pangulo nung panahong iyon, ito po: ni minsan, hindi pumasok sa isip kong magagawa ni (former SAF director Getulio) Napeñas na magsinungaling sa Pangulo ng Pilipinas," he said.

(In the end, if I had a fault as the President, it is that I never thought that Napeñas could lie to the President of the Philippines.)

"Pinagkatiwalaan ko ang isang two-star police officer, na ako pa mismo ang nagpromote. Naniwala akong itong graduate ng PMA [Philippine Military Academy] ay tatalima sa values ng paaralan na 'Courage, Integrity, Loyalty.'"

(I trusted a two-star police officer whom I myself promoted. I believed that this PMA graduate would abide by his alma matter's value of 'Courage, Integrity, Loyalty.)

It was also under Aquino's leadership that 8 Hong Kong tourists died in a hostage-taking incident in Rizal Park on August 23, 2010.

"We can't say that we did right because people died. There was a failure in a sense that not all the hostages were rescued 100 percent...Having said that, my fault then was I trusted people that if they committed to the President, they would accomplish it in the exact manner that it was agreed on," he said.

"I did come in but I did not micro-manage. I did not want to lessen the capability of the scene commanders to make their own decisions."

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'FULFILLED PROMISE OF LEAVING SOMETHING BETTER'

Aquino, a graduate of economics from Ateneo de Manila University, steered the country towards consistent and stable growth during his 6-year tenure. The Philippines' Gross Domestic Product averaged 6.25 percent annually, the highest since the 1970s.

The country in 2013 and 2014 earned investment grade status from major credit ratings agencies Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch, which gave government easier access to loans and made the country more attractive to investors.

"At the very least, I think we have fulfilled our promise of leaving something better, doing better than what we found,” Aquino said in an interview in May 2016

“These are stepping stones to even greater heights and hopefully, our people will continue to be engaged and will demand of those that replace us even more than what we have produced, because those that succeed us will have less problems than what we had when we started out.”

The country's only bachelor president is survived by his siblings Kris Aquino, Victoria Elisa Aquino-Dee, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, and Pinky Aquino-Abellada.