'His death diminishes us all': Senators remember former president Aquino
Noynoy Aquino, 15th president of the Philippines, was the son of democracy champions Ninoy, a martyred senator, and Corazon, who was installed president after the decades-long Marcos dictatorship was deposed in 1986. Noynoy Aquino died at age 61 in Quezon City, five years after his term ended. He is seen in this 2014 file photo.
Malacañang Photo Bureau/File

'His death diminishes us all': Senators remember former president Aquino

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - June 24, 2021 - 1:05pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 5:50 p.m.) — Several senators mourned and paid tribute to President Benigno Aquino III who died early Thursday at age 61. 

The fifteenth president of the Philippines passed away after he was rushed to the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City. 

"His death diminishes us all. Sincerest condolences from the Senate and my family to the family of President Benigno C. Aquino III," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters.

He added that he ordered the Philippine flag at the Senate to be flown at half-mast as a symbol of mourning for the former president, who also served at the upper chamber from 2007-2010. 

"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," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said. "He meant well and wanted the best for the country and for all of us." 

Drilon, a member of the Liberal Party,  also served as justice and labor secretary under Aquino's mother, the late democracy icon and former President Corazon Aquino. 

“He was a profile of courage, a man of convictions,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto recalled. “When politics clashed with the principles he held dear, he would choose the latter, even at the expense of friendships and alliances a leader must maintain in order to govern.” 

“He did not treat his office as theatre, where he was obliged to make grand gestures to incite his base or distract them from his mistakes,” Recto added. “He preferred silent, solid work over flamboyance. He took care of his country during his watch.”

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri recalled that he and Aquino “entered the House of Representatives and the Senate at the same time--in 1998 and 2007, respectively.” 

“As his colleague I have always recognized and respected how committed he was as a public servant,” Zubiri said. 

“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.”

Hontiveros, Villanueva laud Aquino's legacy 

Two senators, meanwhile, said Aquino and his track record will be remembered well. 

"If we seriously weigh the six years that President Aquino was our president... I would say he is one of the best things that happened to our country after the 1986 [EDSA] revolution," a visibly shaken Sen. Risa Hontiveros told reporters over a video call.

Aquino is the son of two democratic icons. His father, former Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was assassinated in 1983. Ninoy Aquino's death propelled his widow to the presidency in 1986, ending the decades-long dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. 

"He is a good man and we were able to do a lot of good under his watch. We were able to repair many democratic institutions," she said partially in Filipino. 

She further lauded as Aquino's achievements the passage of the Reproductive Health law, his anti-corruption drive, and "a whole decade" of economic growth. Hontiveros also expressed her gratitude to the former president for backing her thrice as a senatorial candidate.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, who was Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief under Aquino, said he is still "shattered in [a] million pieces" over the former president'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," he said. 

"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," he added. "By ordering that they be trained, he invested in their dreams." 

"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," Villanueva also said. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson in a statement said Aquino "did not deserve to be unappreciated." 

"He served his country well with humility, honor and integrity. Even as president, he always managed to promptly respond to my messages no matter how casual and trivial." 

"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," Lacson added. 

Lacson served as presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery under Aquino. 

'No greed for power' 

Sen. Grace Poe in a statement written in Filipino honored what she called Aquino's legacy of serving "with all sincerity and dedication." 

"PNoy showed us the importance of goodwill in a leader: no selfishness, pure intention, and no greed for power," she said. "We honor your honest service, PNoy." 

"PNoy spent his post-presidency in the ways he wanted it to be: a simple man, plain Citizen Noy, a compassionate tito, never missing the perks and the powers he once wielded," Villanueva also said. 

‘A pillar of democracy’ 

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima hailed Aquino as “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.” 

“If there is one thing I regret, it is that he did not see the recovery and unity of the Filipinos [and the] return to the straight and just path that he fought for,” she said in Filipino. 

De Lima, a critic of the current administration, has been detained for over four years on drug charges which she says are trumped-up. She was Aquino’s justice secretary. 

“It is painful and sad to think that a big pillar of our democracy has fallen but many more pillars of our democracy are sprouting and will sprout because of his principles and the principles of his parents,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, said in Filipino in a tribute to Aquino. 

Pangilinan served with Aquino in the Senate and later on became a member of his Cabinet as presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization. 

“Paalam at maraming salamat, PNoy!” Pangilinan said.

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