Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino, who pushed for anti-corruption reforms and scored a landmark ruling against China’s sweeping claims in the disputed South China Sea, died on Thursday at the age of 61.
“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,” Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
“We’re grateful to 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,” he added.
Aquino, the 15th president of the Philippines, passed away from heart failure after being rushed to hospital, the Manila Bulletin newspaper reported, citing an unnamed family member.
The former president was undergoing dialysis three times a week and had stage 4 lung cancer, the report added.
The family was expected to issue a statement later, said Abigail Valte, the former president’s spokeswoman.
Flags in the country were flown at half mast to honour the bachelor president popularly known as Noynoy.
He was the only son of two democracy icons in the country, the late senator Benigno Aquino Junior and the late president Corazon Aquino.
He had four sisters.
He was a heavy smoker, and loved soft drinks, steaks and sweets, according to colleagues and friends.
Aquino was elected president in 2010, one year after his mother died, on a platform of good governance and a promise to end corruption.
The former president was known for calling the Filipinos his “bosses” during his term that ended in 2016.
He shunned special treatment for himself and government officials and kept his simple lifestyle.
“My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have travelled far on the right path,” Aquino said in his official biography.
He will be remembered for cementing a Philippine economic revival, passing a controversial reproductive health law, and filing a successful arbitration case against China over the disputed South China Sea.
He stayed out of the public eye after his term and refused to give statements about his successor, current president Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte criticized some of Aquino’s past policies, especially on the diplomatic row with Beijing over the South China Sea.
But he is remembered well by many, and tributes began to pour in after news of his death on Thursday.
“I am deeply saddened to hear about the sudden passing of former President Noynoy Aquino,” said Senator Loren Legarda. “Thank you for your firm leadership, hard work and integrity.”
“I knew him to be a kind man, driven by his passion to serve our people, diligent in his duties, and with an avid and consuming curiousity about new knowledge and the world in general,” Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said.(dpa/NAN)