Video courtesy of PTV
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte skipped the inurnment of his predecessor Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said on Monday.
Aquino, 61, passed away in his sleep early Thursday due to renal failure as a result of diabetes. Duterte was absent from his predecessor's wake at the Ateneo De Manila University.
The President was also absent when Aquino was laid to rest on Saturday, beside his parents, martyred former senator Ninoy Aquino and former President Corazon Aquino.
Duterte "wanted to go" to go to Aquino's wake on Thursday, "but he was informed that the urn of the former President had already been moved to the private residence in Times," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
The President was in Manila during Aquino's inurnment, Roque said.
"Hindi ko na po alam kung bakit," the official said, when asked why Duterte missed the rites.
(I do not know why.)
"It could be because it’s pandemic, and we’re trying to limit the numbers. And of course, the presence of the President would encourage crowds," he said in a press briefing.
PALACE BOWED DOWN TO AQUINO FAMILY'S WISHES
Aquino's remains were cremated on Thursday. Thousands queued for the public viewing in a church in his alma mater on Friday.
On Sunday, hundreds of mourners in black and white, some also wearing yellow - the color associated with the Aquino family and a 1986 revolution that toppled a dictator - ribbons and face masks, attended a funeral mass and burial ceremony.
The military gave a 21-gun salute and a helicopter rained down yellow petals. At the Aquino residence at the heart of the capital, supporters left chrysanthemums, yellow bell, and sunflower for the late leader.
Among those who paid respects to Aquino was vice president and political ally Leni Robredo, and close friends. Most supporters were blocked at the entrance of the cemetery to prevent mass gathering and the spread of COVID-19.
Duterte and members of the Aquino family had a "personal conversation" after the former president's passing, said Roque.
"There were offers for the family to have all the honors that the republic can give to a former President. But of course, the Palace had to bow to the wishes of the family for a more subdued ceremony," he said.
An ABS-CBN source close to the Aquino family said they declined a state funeral.
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.
Aquino's remains could have lied in state at the Heroes' Hall in Malacañang.
Roque noted Duterte previously said Aquino was a "friend, not a close friend, but a friend. I supported him in the 2010 elections."
On certain occasions during his term, Duterte scored Aquino 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.
Known popularly as Noynoy, Aquino rode a wave of public support to the presidency after the 2009 death of his mother, the revered "People Power" leader who was president from 1986 to 1992.
His namesake father, a staunch critic of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was assassinated when he returned from political exile in 1983, planting the seeds for the 1986 People Power revolution that booted the strongman from office.
As president, the younger Aquino led the Philippines in shedding its perennial "sick man of Asia" image through better governance and robust economic growth. He challenged Beijing's sweeping claims of the South China Sea before the arbitration court in The Hague in 2013.
Aquino, who led a private life after stepping down, is survived by four sisters.
The best tribute for the late president is "to bring back, recover, preserve, safeguard and never again to compromise our dignity as a people and the decency of our leaders as servants, not bosses," Archbishop Socrates Villegas, former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said in his homily.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters