Palace, gov’t officials mourn death of former President Noynoy Aquino

President Rodrigo Duterte with his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III | File photo courtesy of Malacañang

Philippines to observe 10 days of national mourning

MALACAÑANG, top officials and former leaders expressed condolences to the family of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who died at the age of 61.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, June 24, urged everyone to “set aside differences” to pay respects to his predecessor.

“Let us all take this opportunity to unite in prayer and set aside our differences as we pay respects to a leader who has given his best to serve the Filipino people,” he said in a statement.

“His memory and his family’s legacy of offering their lives for the cause of democracy will forever remain etched in our hearts,” he added.

Duterte also extended his condolences to the Aquino family.

“I express my deepest sympathies to his siblings, Ballsy, Pinky, Viel, and Kris, as well as to all his loved ones, friends and supporters, in this period of sadness. May you take comfort in the knowledge that he is now in a better place with his Creator,” he said.

The commander-in-chief on Thursday also signed a proclamation declaring a 10-day period of national mourning, from June 24 to July 3, in honor of the late president.

“In this regard, the national flag shall be flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on all government buildings and installations throughout the Philippines and abroad for a period of 10 days,” said Duterte.

Flags inside the Malacañang Palace grounds were lowered to half-mast to mourn the death of former President Benigno Aquino III, on June 24, 2021. | Presidential photo by Toto Lozano

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque started his regular press briefing on Thursday with a moment of silence for the late former president.

“We commiserate and condole with the family and loved ones of former President Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III as we extend our condolences on his untimely demise,” he said.

“We’re grateful for the former President for his contribution and services to the country and we ask our people to offer a prayer for the eternal repose of the former chief executive. Rest in peace, Mr. President,” he added.

According to Roque, Aquino will be remembered for his “anti-wangwang” policy and being a simple public servant elected by the people.

“Ang achievement po niya ay unang una, nanungkulan po siya sa isang demokrasya at siyempre maaalala rin natin ‘yung kanyang order na walang wangwang, at maaalala natin siya bilang isang simpleng public servant na hinalal ng taumbayan (His achievement first and foremost is he served in a democracy. Of course, we will also remember his order against the use of sirens and we will remember him as a simple public servant elected by the people),” he said.

In a separate statement, Vice President Leni Robredo paid tribute to Aquino, calling him a “good friend and an honest president.”

“He tried to do what was right, even when it was not popular. Tahimik at walang pagod siyang nagtrabaho para makatulong sa marami (He worked quietly and tirelessly to help many). He will be missed. Nakikiramay ako sa kanyang pamilya (I condole with his family),” she said.

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo also joined in extending her condolences to the Aquino family.

“He will be remembered as part of the Aquino family that has contributed three important people to the history of our nation: Senator Ninoy Aquino, and our 11th and 15th presidents, Cory and Noynoy Aquino,” Arroyo said.

File photo shows then-President Benigno S. Aquino III greeting then- Vice President Jejomar Binay during the reception line for the New Year’s Vin d’ Honneur at the Reception Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Monday, January 12, 2015. Photo by Ryan Lim / Malacañang Photo Bureau

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay, who served alongside Aquino, noted: “Noynoy and I may have had political differences but that will not diminish the many years of friendship between our families. My deepest condolences to the family. Godspeed, Pareng Noy.”

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, who served as Aquino’s Justice Secretary, called the late president a “leader who served with all his heart.”

“During these very difficult times, our nation has lost a great leader. A leader who served with all his heart, not just to continue the legacy of his parents, but to also offer his life to lead our nation on a righteous path,” she said.

“PNoy has lived a fulfilled and selfless life. Kung mayroon man akong pinanghihinayangan, ‘yun ay ang hindi na niya nasilayan ang muling pagbawi at pagkakaisa ng Pilipino para bumalik sa tuwid at makatarungang landas na kaniyang ipinaglaban (If I had any regret, it is that he was unable to see the redemption and the unity of Filipinos in going back to the right and dignified path that he fought for),” she added.

Meanwhile, the country’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. described Aquino as “incorruptible” and “brave under armed attack.”

“I’m out of Twitter from grief over the death of a sea-green incorruptible, brave under armed attack, wounded in crossfire, indifferent to power and its trappings,” he said.

Locsin, who worked as press secretary and speechwriter of former President Cory Aquino, admitted that he couldn’t help but admire Aquino despite him not being “fond” of Locsin.

“I beg his sisters to allow me the honor to share their grief. He wasn’t fond of me but I could not bring myself not to admire him,” he said.

Locsin noted that Aquino ruled the Philippines with “a puzzling coldness but only because he hid his feelings so well it was thought he had none.”

“It was the way he and his siblings were raised by a great woman — their mother and of our restored democracy (without her none in power yesterday and today would be). She created the democratic space that made it possible,” he said.

“She believed that one must never let oneself go no matter the occasion or provocation; showing feelings was vulgar which I too believe but am guilty of. It is a hard ethic. Blood always shows,” he added.

Contributions

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana acknowledged Aquino’s contributions in strengthening the defense and security capabilities of the country during his term.

“Serving as our country’s leader from 2010-2016, President Aquino advocated the strengthening of our defense and security capabilities to support national development,” he said.

The Aquino administration enacted Republic Act No. 10349 to revitalize the modernization program in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“As Commander-in-Chief, he recognized the importance of equipping our military to better respond to the evolving domestic and regional security challenges,” said Lorenzana.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the Aquino clan during this difficult time,” he added.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar recognized Aquino’s efforts in improving police operations.

“As our former Commander-In-Chief, he played a key role in instituting reforms and improving the operational capability of the national police force to better serve the Filipino people and maintain peace and order in the country,” he said.

For his part, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra noted Aquino’s move to initiate an international arbitration case against China over its nine-dash line claim in the West Philippine Sea.

“One of former President Aquino’s biggest decisions was to confront China in an international tribunal over the issue of the West Philippine Sea. Only history will judge if it was his greatest decision,” he said.

Guevarra also pointed out that running a country with “enormous social, economic, and political challenges is a colossal task.”

“Anyone who accepts this awesome responsibility, like the late President Benigno Aquino III, deserves our utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude,” he said.

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