MANILA - Former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will be best remembered for bringing China to court over its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea -- a landmark case that Manila has won against Beijing, a former magistrate said Thursday.
It was under the Aquino administration in 2013 that the Philippine government filed for arbitration at the United Nations-backed court in The Hague to clarify Manila's maritime entitlement in the South China Sea.
"President Aquino will be remembered for initiating the filing of the arbitration on West Philippine Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration as chief architect of our foreign policy," retired Supreme Court Justice Francis Jardeleza said in a statement.
"This is, to me, his lasting legacy to the Filipino people," added Jardeleza, who served as Aquino's solicitor general before being appointed to the high tribunal in 2014.
He added, "We will do him honor by helping our present president, President [Rodrigo] Duterte, and future presidents, chart a durable enforcement mechanism, by joining the present, and future, debate on enforcement."
Shortly after Aquino stepped down from the presidency in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration upheld Manila’s sovereign rights over its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, rejecting Beijing’s historic claim to almost the entire South China Sea using its 9-dash line doctrine.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's EEZ in the disputed South China Sea.
"His legacy is the arbitration decision is permanent," Jardeleza said of Aquino.
Aquino's successor, Duterte, had set aside the ruling in exchange for improved economic ties with China.
Aquino died Thursday at the age of 61 due to renal disease secondary to diabetes, his family confirmed. He served as the country's 15th President, from 2010 to 2016.
Before being elected as president, Aquino served as representative of the 2nd district of Tarlac from 1998 to 2007, and then as senator.
For former chief graft-buster Conchita Carpio Morales, it was under Aquino's term that the Philippines earned respect overseas.
"It was a great honor to have served as Ombudsman when he was our President and honesty, integrity and the rule of law guided our government," she said.
"He was brave. He went after powerful people who did wrong. But he was fair and allowed justice to prevail even to his discredit. He was an example of decency and earned us international respect," added the recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award.
Morales, a retired Supreme Court associate justice, was appointed by Aquino to the Ombudsman in 2011.
Before her retirement, the Ombudsman indicted Aquino for the implementation of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program during his administration.
FROM THE ARCHIVES