“Former Philippine president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III died on Thursday, June 24, at the age of 61.
Aquino had been suffering from various illnesses since 2019. He had been undergoing dialysis for at least five months and had recently undergone a heart procedure.
He served from 2010 to 2016, riding on a wave of goodwill after the death of his mother, democracy icon Cory Aquino, and on the promise of leading the nation to prosperity through “Daang Matuwid” – or the straight and honest path” (Rappler, June 25, 2021).
It is said in Filipino that “ang masamang damo, matagal mamatay.” Or in English, bad weeds take a long time to die. Well, if this is true, then surely the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was a good one, leaving this life at the unripe young age of 61. At least he “outlived” his father, the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., who was assassinated on his return to the Philippines, during the regime of the late deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Historical revisionist claims notwithstanding, his father certainly was a good weed, leading the fight against the Marcos dictatorship as an exile in the United States. Had he not been mercilessly gunned down on returning to the country, he would most certainly have succeeded the dictator Marcos, something that his reluctant wife, the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino eventually managed to accomplish in 1986.
No matter what history says about the Aquino family, it is an indisputable truth that it was the family patriarch, Ninoy, who should have been President, had fate not cruelly intervened in the person of the dictator Marcos. But perhaps there is another irrefutable reality that even as the two other members of the family were not perfect as Presidents – having really had neither desire nor preparation to be one before they became one — they were beacons of hope in an otherwise often hopeless political landscape. Cory managed to restore a semblance of democracy that was left in tatters by Marcos, and Noynoy was able to right the sinking ship left behind by the corruption-riddled administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Make no mistake, both Aquinos were far from perfect. I suspect that because of her admirably strong Catholic faith, Cory purposely did not go hard after the Marcoses, for all their crimes and their hidden wealth. In part due to her leniency, they are back in power again, hard at work revising the deadly legacy of Martial Law, which gullible millennials are being led to believe today to be the golden years of the country.
Noynoy too had his share of failings. One thing that I was especially not pleased about was his leniency towards some of the members in his government who were accused of wrongdoing. Though not directly implicated in any political scandal, he had a number of close allies who were, and who did not suffer the consequences for them.
On balance, however, both Aquinos served a very useful purpose in righting a country that had gone off kilter through the abuses of the previous incumbent. Since they had the untarnished political capital of their father at their disposal, they were successful in rallying a dispirited nation and people to pull together, after the catastrophes that preceded their presidencies. In a way, both were forced to carry on the legacy of Ninoy, who for all intents and purposes was the anointed President who never was, a task it seems that both never fully relished, but nevertheless accepted for the good of the country.
It is only fitting therefore that we honor the legacy of the late president Noynoy Aquino by making sure that whichever administration succeeds the current one, it will be able to right the course of the nation, just as they did when they had to sacrifice the personal good, for that of the republic.