Last August 2, Filipinos marked the 40th day since the passing of the late former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. He died at the age of 61 last June 24 due to renal failure secondary to diabetes.
At that time, Kris Aquino, his youngest sister and popular media personality, acknowledged that because of the current pandemic, their family decided to make the memorial rites for the deceased former president “as private as possible” to avoid turning them into superspreader events. “We would have wanted so much more for our brother,” she added.
It can be recalled that millions of Filipinos paid their last respects and took part in the funeral processions for the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late former President Corazon Aquino which happened in 1983 and 2009, respectively.
The Aquino family opted to have just one day for the public viewing for Aquino’s cremated remains, and it took place June 25 at the Church of the Gesu inside the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) campus. Aquino completed his elementary, high school, and college years at the said Jesuit-run education institution.
Like most of you, I was shocked by Aquino’s sudden death. After all, it was his decision not to inform the public about the serious health problems he has been dealing with since leaving the presidency. His fellow former presidents aren’t exactly in the pink of health. Joseph Estrada is overweight and had to battle COVID-19 back in April and was even put on ventilator.
Meanwhile, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wore a neckbrace and had to use a wheelchair because of a spinal condition during the years she was under prosecution for election fraud and plunder. Among his predecessors, Fidel Ramos is the only one with no known health issues. A former military officer, Ramos is now 93 and has been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 according to the Muntinlupa City local government. For his part, there has been consistent rumors about President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed illnesses.
I am one of those who paid their final respects for the late former president there at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Church of the Gesu. To be honest, I was a critic during the Aquino administration, and you can read here on The Filipino Scribe articles criticizing his government’s response to the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda, the Mamasapano massacre, among others. In fact, I did not vote for Mar Roxas, his endorsed successor. I generally stand by those criticisms. However, in retrospect and given the last five years under Rodrigo Duterte, PNoy’s term now doesn’t look so bad.
Yes, Aquino was brutally frank at times, but Duterte is such an embarassment in his words and actions. While Aquino was perceived as a lazy president (remember the “noynoying” meme?), Duterte actually just shows up to the public once or twice a week to have a verbal diarrhea on national television. Aquino disliked the negative reporting of journalists on his administration – but Duterte led an effort to shutdown ABS-CBN and made moves against Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler. Aquino’s government fought for Philippines’ territorial claims before the Permanent Court of Arbitration – while Duterte never bothered to stand up against China’s aggression, bowing to them at every turn despite his “independent foreign policy” rhetoric.
I could go on and on – but I will raise just two more things that makes Aquino superior to Duterte: he didn’t get thousands killed in a failed “War on Drugs,” and I believe he could have handled the current COVID-19 pandemic much better. Thank you for your service, Mr. President! May your legacy guide us as we elect new leaders for 2022.