MANILA (UPDATE 2) - Senators on Thursday mourned the death of former President Benigno Aquino III, who passed away of renal failure earlier in the day.
Aquino served in the Senate from 2007 to 2010 before winning the presidency.
"No matter what political side you're on, when a former president passes away, the country mourns," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters.
"His death diminishes us all. Sincerest condolences from the Senate and my family," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon - a close friend of Aquino's mother and former President Corazon Aquino - said the Philippines "lost a gentleman who served his country well."
"I have lost a dear friend and the nation has lost a gentleman who served his country well – with all honesty and sincerity and with the purest of intentions," Drilon said.
"He meant well and wanted the best for the country and for all of us. We have lost an honest man," he said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, who served as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief during the Aquino administration, said he was "shattered in [a] million pieces" after hearing the news of his friend's passing.
"The nation lost a leader, and I, a friend. But he was more than that. He was a mentor, a brother to me," Villanueva said in a statement.
"If I was Tesdaman, he was the TESDA Godfather. He believed in the great talents of our youth, waiting to be unlocked if given good training, right breaks, and inspiring success stories. By ordering that they be trained, he invested in their dreams," he said.
After stepping down from Malacañang, Aquino spent his life as "a simple man, plain Citizen Noy, a compassionate tito, never missing the perks and the powers he once wielded," Villanueva said.
"We now commit him to the embrace of our Lord, and his life and works to history’s kind judgement," he said.
"When the passion of the present had died down, a fair assessment of his administration will bear the truth of great achievements, brave decisions and moral leadership," he said.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, Aquino's former Justice Secretary, said she "grieves the passing of a great Filipino."
"It has been an honor serving the Filipino people with you, Sir. Your march may have ended, but our fight goes on para sa Mahal na Sambayanang Pilipino," she said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said "hearing the news of PNoy’s passing is heartbreaking."
"It was indeed a privilege to have served with him - both in the Senate and the Executive Department, but more than that, to be his friend," said Lacson, who served as the rehabilitation czar in areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda, which devastated the Philippines in 2013, when Aquino was president.
"As our country’s leader, he did not deserve to be unappreciated. He served his country very well with humility, honor and integrity," he said.
"Even as President, he always managed to promptly respond to my messages, no matter how casual and trivial."
Sen. Grace Poe credited the late President for her entry into public service. Poe was named chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) shortly after Aquino won the presidency in 2010.
"Sa nagbukas ng pinto ng serbisyo publiko para sa atin, maraming salamat sa iyong legasiya ng pagsisilbi nang buong katapatan at dedikasyon," she said.
(To the one who opened the doors of public service for us, thank you for your legacy of truthful and dedicated service.)
"Ipinakita sa atin ni PNoy ang kahalagahan ng mabuting kalooban sa isang pinuno: walang pag-iimbot sa kapwa, malinis ang intensyon, at walang pagkagahaman sa kapangyarihan," she said.
(PNoy showed us the importance of a good-hearted leader: No ill feelings towards others, has pure intentions, and no thirst for power.)
Other senators also paid tribute to the late former president.
"Rest well knowing that in time your own legacy will be remembered as it should be, from a perspective that is objective," said Sen. Sonny Angara.
"You have earned your place in the annals of Philippine history. May the Lord bring comfort to PNoy’s siblings and rest of the Aquino clan," he said.
"My sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of former President Noynoy Aquino. You will be missed my friend… rest in peace," said former senator and now Sorsogon Governor Francis "Chiz" Escudero, who knew Aquino from back in the House of Representatives.
"Maraming salamat sa iyong serbisyo sa bayan bilang Kinatawan ng Tarlac, Senador, at Pangulo ng Pilipinas," Sen. Nancy Binay said.
(Thank you for your service to the nation as a representative of Tarlac, as senator, and as the President of the Philippines.)
Senators who were also Aquino's colleagues and acquaintances both in the House and in the Senate also mourned his demise.
"Through his time as Congressman, as Senator, and eventually as President, he was able to balance the weight of being an Aquino—carrying all the history of the name, and all the expectations that came with it—while also carving a path for himself," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
"President Aquino and I may not have agreed on some issues, but we both have the same dream of making our country great and believe that as a nation, we should assert & defend our sovereignty over what is rightfully ours," said Sen. Richard Gordon, who Aquino beat in the 2010 presidential elections.
"Naging makabuluhan din ang aming samahan bilang Senador noong ikalabing-apat na Kongreso at ang karanasang makadaupang palad ang isang kapita-pitagang pinuno ay lubos kong ipinagpapasalamat," Sen. Lito Lapid said.
(I am thankful for our fellowship as senators in the 14th Congress and the experience of meeting a formidable leader.)
"I and my entire family are saddened by the news of the passing of former President Noynoy Aquino. He was a friend to all of us, as the Aquino Family is close to the Pimentel Family," Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar recalled how the late President fondly called her "Ma'am Cynthia" when her husband billionaire Manny Villar was still House Speaker.
"He said [it] is a sign of respect dahil nasabi niya na noong nag-serve as Speaker of the House si Manny, nagsilbi daw akong parang ina sa kanilang mga bagitong Kongresista pa noon," she said.
(He said it is a sign of respect because I stood as the mother of neophyte congressmen when my husband Manny was still Speaker of the House.)
"Like that of his parents, Ninoy and Cory, Noynoy’s legacy will be an important part of Philippine history. May his soul rest in eternal peace."
Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the public to "honor his (Aquino's) legacy" by continuing "the fight against corruption and reaffirm our fundamental freedoms and human rights," noting that the former President was instrumental in the Philippines' filing of an arbitral case against China.
"Noy was someone who tried to make the most and the best of everything that is good. I am very proud to call him my President," she said.
"His remarkable focus on the hallmarks of democracy and public service are solid foundations that our leaders can build upon," she said.
Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Senate also paid their respects to the late chief executive.
"Mataas po ang respeto namin ni Pangulong Duterte kay former president Noynoy Aquino. Nakasama namin siya sa maraming mga okasyon lalo na sa kanyang pagtakbo bilang pangulo noong 2010 at nasilayan namin ang tunay na pagmamahal sa kapwa Pilipino," Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go said.
(President Duterte and I have high respects for former President Noynoy Aquino. We have been with him in several occasions especially in the 2010 presidential campaign, and we saw his genuine love for our fellow Filipinos.)
"May the late president's siblings and relatives find comfort in the thought that we are thankful to him for having dedicated his life in the service of the country and our people," he said.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao said Aquino's "legacy will be remembered."
"His love for the country was manifested in his term of service where he championed 'Daang Matuwid' and 'Kayo ang Boss Ko,'" he said.
The flag outside the Senate building in Pasay City was flown at half-mast over the passing of the former president and senator, Sotto said.
Aquino led the Senate Committee on Local Government in the 14th Congress, and was also vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.