Maria Corazon "Cory" Cojuangco Aquino (January 25, 1933 August 1, 2009) was a President of the Philippines and a world-renowned advocate of democracy, peace, women's empowerment, and religious piety. She served as the 11th president of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992. She was the first female president of the Philippines and was Asia's first female president. Aquino died on August 1, 2009 after suffering from colon cancer.
A self-proclaimed "plain housewife",Aquino was married to Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. (19321983), a leading figure in the political opposition against the autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. After her husband was assassinated upon his return from exile in the United States on August 21, 1983, Aquino, who had no prior political experience, became a focal point and unifying force of the opposition against Marcos. She was drafted to run against Marcos in the 1986 snap presidential elections. After Marcos was proclaimed the winner despite widespread reports of electoral fraud, Aquino was installed as President by the peaceful 1986 People Power Revolution.
Early life and education
Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco was born the sixth among eight children from a family considered to be a member of one of the richest Chinese-mestizo families in the Philippines, in Tarlac.She was born to Jose Cojuangco of Tarlac and Demetria Sumulong of Antipolo, Rizal. Her ancestry was one-eighth Tagalog from her maternal side, one-eighth Kapampangan and one-fourth Spanish from her paternal side, and half-Chinese from both maternal and paternal sides.
She was sent to St. Scholastica's College in Manila where she finished grade school as class valedictorian in 1943. In 1946, she enrolled for a year in high school at the Assumption Convent in Manila. Later, she was sent to the United States to study at the Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia, the Notre Dame Convent School in New York, and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, also in New York.Meanwhile, she worked as a volunteer in the 1948 United States presidential campaign of Republican Thomas Dewey against President Harry Truman.She studied Liberal Arts and graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts in French Language, with a minor in Mathematics. She intended to become a math teacher and a language interpreter.
Aquino returned to the Philippines to study law at the Far Eastern University, owned by the family of the late Nicanor Reyes, Sr., who had been the father-in-law of her older sister Josephine. She gave up her law studies when in 1954, she married Benigno Servillano "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., the son of a former Speaker of the National Assembly. They had five children together: a son, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who was elected to the Philippine Senate in 2007, and four daughters, Maria Elena A. Cruz, Aurora Corazon A. Abellada, Victoria Eliza A. Dee, and actress-television host Kristina Bernadette A. Yap. Aquino had initial difficulty adjusting to provincial life when she and her husband moved to Concepcion, Tarlac, in 1955, after her husband had been elected the town's mayor at the age of 22. The American-educated Aquino found herself bored in Concepcion, and welcomed the opportunity to have dinner with her husband inside the American military facility at nearby Clark Field.
A member of the Liberal Party, Aquino's husband rose to be governor of Tarlac, and was elected to the Philippine Senate in 1967. During her husband's political career, Aquino remained a housewife who helped raise the children and played hostess to her spouse's political allies who would frequent their Quezon City home.She would decline to join her husband on stage during campaign rallies, preferring instead to stand at the back of the audience in order to listen to him. Nonetheless, she was consulted upon on political matters by her husband, who valued her judgments enormously.
Benigno Aquino soon emerged as a leading critic of the government of President Ferdinand Marcos of the Nacionalista Party, and there was wide speculation that he would run in the 1973 presidential elections, Marcos then being term limited. However, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, and later abolished the 1935 Constitution, allowing him to remain in office. Aquino's husband was among those arrested at the onset of martial law, later being sentenced to death. During his incarceration, Aquino drew strength from prayer, attending daily mass and saying three rosaries a day.As a measure of sacrifice, she enjoined her children from attending parties, and she herself stopped going to the beauty salon or buying new clothes, until a priest advised her and her children to instead live as normal lives as possible.
In 1978, despite her initial opposition, Aquino's imprisoned husband decided to run the 1978 Batasang Pambansa elections. Aquino campaigned in behalf of her imprisoned husband and for the first time in her life, delivered a political speech, though she willingly relinquished having to speak in public when it emerged that her six-year old daughter Kris was more than willing to speak on stage.
In 1980, upon the intervention of United States President Jimmy Carter,Marcos allowed Senator Aquino and his family to leave for exile in the United States, where he sought medical treatment. The family settled in Boston, and Aquino would later call the next three years as the happiest days of her marriage. He returned without his family to the Philippines on August 21, 1983, only to be assassinated on a staircase leading to the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, which was later renamed in his honor. Corazon Aquino returned to the Philippines a few days later and led her husband's funeral rites, where more than two million people were estimated to have participated, the biggest funeral ever in Philippine history.
Aquino participated in many of the mass actions that were staged in the two years following the assassination of her husband. In the last week of November 1985, Marcos unexpectedly announced a snap presidential election to be held in February 1986. Initially, Senator Salvador Laurel of Batangas, the son of a former president, was seen as the favorite presidential candidate of the opposition, under the United Nationalists Democratic Organizations. However, business tycoon Don Joaquin "Chino" Roces was not convinced that Laurel could defeat Marcos in the polls. Roces initiated the Cory Aquino for President Movement to gather one million signatures in one week for Aquino to run as president.
Aquino was reluctant at first to run for presidency, despite pleas that she was the one candidate who could unite the opposition against Marcos.She eventually was convinced following a ten-hour meditation session at a Catholic convent. Laurel did not immediately accede to calls for him to give way to Aquino, and offered her the vice-presidential slot under his UNIDO party. Aquino instead offered to give up her affiliation with her husband's political party, the Lakas ng Bayan (LABAN), which had just merged with Partido Demokratiko Pilipino, and run under the UNIDO banner with Laurel sliding down to the vice-presidential slot.Laurel gave way to Aquino to run as President and ran as her running-mate under UNIDO as the main political umbrella of the opposition.
In the succeeding political campaign, Marcos charged that Aquino was being supported by communists and agreed to share power with them, to which she responded that she would not appoint one to her cabinet. Marcos also accused Aquino of playing "political football" with the United States with respect to the continued United States military presence in the Philippines at Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base. Marcos also derided Aquino as "just a woman" whose place was in the bedroom.
The elections held on February 7, 1986 were marred by the intimidation and mass disenfranchisement of voters.Election day itself and the days immediately after were marred by violence, including the murder of one of Aquino's top allies, Antique governor Evelio Javier. While the official tally of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) consistently showed Marcos in the lead, the unofficial tally of the National Movement for Free Elections indicated that Aquino was leading. Despite the job walkout of 30 COMELEC computer technicians alleging election-rigging in favor of Marcos,the Batasang Pambansa, controlled by Marcos allies, ratified the official count and proclaimed Marcos the winner on February 15, 1986. The country's Catholic bishops and the United States Senate condemned the election,and Aquino called for a general strike and a boycott of business enterprises controlled by Marcos allies.She also rejected a power-sharing agreement proposed by the American diplomat Philip Habib, who had been sent as an emissary by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to help defuse the tension.
Installation as President
Main article: People Power Revolution
On February 22, 1986, the People Power Revolution was triggered after two key Marcos allies, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Vice-Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos called on Marcos to resign and holed up in two military camps in Quezon City. Aquino, who was in Cebu City when the revolt broke out, returned to Manila and insisted on joining the swelling crowd that had gathered outside the camps as a human barricade to protect the defectors. On the morning of 25 February 1986, at the Club Filipino in San Juan, Aquino took the presidential oath of office administered by Supreme Court Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee. Marcos himself was sworn into office at Malacañang Palace on that same day, but fled into exile later that night.
The relatively peaceful manner by which Aquino assumed the presidency through the EDSA Revolution won her widespread international acclaim as an icon of democracy. She was selected as Time magazine's Woman of the Year in 1986. She was also nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize but lost to Elie Wiesel also in 1986. In September 1986, Aquino delivered a speech before a joint session of the United States Congress which was interrupted by applause several times, and which then U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill hailed as "the finest speech I've ever heard in my 34 years in Congress." Above the din of cheering officials, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole said to Mrs. Aquino, "Cory, you hit a home run." Without missing a beat, Aquino smiled and shot back: "I hope the bases were loaded."
The six-year administration of President Aquino saw the enactment of a new Philippine Constitution and several significant legal reforms, including a new agrarian reform law. While her allies maintained a majority in both houses of Congress, she faced considerable opposition from communist insurgency and right-wing soldiers who instituted several coup attempts against her government. Her government also dealt with several major natural disasters that struck the Philippines, as well as a severe power crisis that hampered the Philippine economy. It was also during her administration that the presence of United States military bases in the Philippines came to an end.
Constitutional and law reform
One month after assuming the presidency, Aquino issued Proclamation No. 3, which proclaimed her government as a revolutionary government. She suspended the 1973 Constitution installed during martial law, and promulgated a provisional Freedom Constitution pending the enactment of a new Constitution. She likewise closed the Batasang Pambansa and reorganized the membership of the Supreme Court. In May 1986, the reorganized Supreme Court declared the Aquino government as not merely a de facto government but in fact and law a de jure government, whose legitimacy had been affirmed by the community of nations.
Aquino appointed 48 members of a Constitutional Commission tasked with drafting a new Constitution. The commission, which was chaired by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma completed its final draft in October 1986 The 1987 Constitution was approved in a national plebiscite in February 1987. Both the Freedom Constitution and the 1987 Constitution authorized President Aquino to exercise legislative power until such time a new Congress was organized.She continued to exercise such powers until the new Congress organized under the 1987 Constitution convened in July 1987. Within that period, Aquino promulgated two legal codes that set forth significant legal reformsthe Family Code of 1987, which reformed the civil law on family relations, and the Administrative Code of 1987, which reorganized the structure of the executive branch of government.
However, as President instead of repudiating debts incurred by the former regime or repudiating the debts through selective debt repudiation Mrs. Aquino chose to honor the debts to the detriment of the country.In 1991, Aquino signed into law the Local Government Code partly written by Aquilino Pimentel, which further devolved national government powers to local government units. The new Code enhanced the power of local government units to enact local taxation measures, and assured them of a share of the national internal revenue.
On July 22, 1987, Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order 229, which outlined the Presidents land reform program, and expanded land reform to sugar lands. Her agrarian reform policy was enacted into law by the 8th Congress of the Philippines, which in 1988 passed Republic Act No. 6657, also known as The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. The law authorized the redistribution of agricultural lands to tenant-farmers from landowners, who were paid in exchange by the government just compensation and allowed to retain not more than five hectares of land. Corporate landowners were also allowed under the law to voluntarily divest a proportion of their capital stock, equity or participation in favor of their workers or other qualified beneficiaries, in lieu of turning over their land to the government for redistribution. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law in 1989, characterizing the agrarian reform policy as a revolutionary kind of expropriation.
Prior to signing CARP a large farmer's group under Jimmy Tadeo tried desperately to air their grievances to the government. Among their grievances was the desire of peasants and farmers to acquire the land being tilled by them. However, instead of holding a dialogue with Heherson Alvarez, the group marched to Mendiola; as the group of farmers tried to breach the line of the police, several Marines fired, killing around 12 of the marchers and injuring 39. This caused Ka Pepe Diokno and several members of the Aquino government to resign.
Controversies eventually centered on the landholdings of Aquino, who inherited from her parents the 6,453-hectare large Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, which was owned through the Tarlac Development Company. Opting for the stock distribution option under the agrarian reform law, Tarlac Development Company established Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated (HLI) in order to effect the distribution of stocks to the farmer-tenants of the hacienda. Ownership of the agricultural portions of the hacienda were transferred to the new corporation, which in turn distributed its shares of stocks to the farmers.The arrangement withstood until 2006, when the Department of Agrarian Reform revoked the stock distribution scheme implemented in Hacienda Luisita, and ordered instead the redistribution of a large portion of the property to the tenant-farmers. The Department had stepped into the controversy when in 2004, violence erupted over the retrenchment of workers in the Hacienda, eventually leaving seven people dead.
From 1986 to 1989, Aquino was confronted with a series of attempts at military interventions by some members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, aimed at the overthrow of the Aquino government. Most of these attempts were instigated by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), a group of middle-ranking officers closely linked with Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. Soldiers loyal to former President Marcos were likewise involved in some of these attempts. The first five of the attempts were either crushed before they were put in operation, or repelled with minimal or no violence. The sixth attempt, staged on August 28, 1987, left 53 people dead and over 200 wounded, including Aquino's son, Noynoy. The seventh and final attempt, which occurred throughout the first week of January, 1989, ended with 99 dead (including 50 civilians) and 570 wounded.
The coup attempts would collectively impair the Aquino government, even though it survived, as it indicated political instability, an unruly military, and diminished the confidence of foreign investors in the Philippine economy. The 1989 coup alone resulted in combined financial losses of between 800 million to 1 billion pesos.
The November 1986 and August 1987 coup plots would also lead to significant reorganizations within the Aquino government. Given the apparent involvement of Defense Secretary Enrile in the November 1986 plot, a fact which was reaffirmed by the Davide Commission Report, Aquino fired him on November 22, 1986, and likewise announced an overall Cabinet revamp, "to give the government a chance to start all over again." The revamp would lead to the dismissal of Labor Secretary Augusto Sanchez, a perceived leftist, which was believed to be a compromise measure in light of a key rebel demand to cleanse the Cabinet of left-leaning members. Following the August 1987 coup attempt, the Aquino government was seen to have veered to the right, dismissing perceived left-leaning officials such as Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo and tacitly authorizing the establishment of armed quasi-military groups to combat the communist insurgency. It was also believed that General Fidel Ramos, who remained loyal to Aquino, emerged as the second most powerful person in government following his successful quelling of the coup. Across-the-board wage increases for soldiers were also granted.
Aquino herself would sue Philippine Star columnist Louie Beltran and publisher Maximo Soliven for libel after Beltran wrote that the President had hid under her bed during the August 1987 coup as the siege of Malacañang began.
Natural disasters and man-made disasters
The Aquino administration faced a series of natural disasters during its last two years in office. The 1990 Luzon earthquake left around 1,600 dead, with around a thousand of the fatalities in Baguio City. The 1991 eruption of the long-dormant Mount Pinatubo was the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century, killing around 300 people and causing widespread long-term devastation of agricultural lands in Central Luzon. The worst loss of life occurred when Tropical Storm Thelma (also known as Typhoon Uring) caused massive flooding in Ormoc City in November 1991, leaving around 6,000 dead in what was the deadliest typhoon in Philippine history.
It was during the term of Corazon Aquino that brownouts became sporadic and a lot of households during that time bought generators. Complaints were made against Napocor which was headed by Aboitiz who also owns shares in a firm making generators. It was also during Aquino's term that the MV Doña Paz sank, which is the worst maritime disaster in Philippine history. The disaster occurred in December 1987 which killed more than 1,700 people.
Influence in 1992 presidential campaign
The Philippine Constitution bars a President from serving more than one six-year term, however, President Aquino was not covered of this provision. She rejected re-election and instead, she backed her Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos (after initially naming Ramon Mitra, Jr., her former Agriculture Secretary and then Speaker of the House of Representatives, as her candidate), Marcos' armed forces vice-chief of staff whose defection to the Aquino party proved crucial to the popular revolution. This decision was unpopular among many of her core supporters, including the Roman Catholic Church (Ramos is a Protestant). Ramos narrowly won with just 23.58 percent of the vote, and succeeded Aquino as president on June 30, 1992.
Mrs. Aquino speaking before the 2003 Ninoy Aquino Award ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.Following the end of her term, Aquino retired to private life. When she rode away from the inauguration of her successor, she chose to go in a simple white Toyota Crown she had purchased (rather than the government-issue Mercedes), to make the point that she was once again an ordinary citizen.
Aquino led the PinoyME Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists microfinance institutions through the provision of loans.She also oversaw social welfare and scholarship assistance projects through the Benigno S. Aquino Foundation, and good governance advocacy through the EDSA People Power Commission, and the People Power People Movement.
President Aquino was likewise a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an International network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.
Aquino was a skilled painter, and was fond of giving her own paintings as gifts to her close friends and acquaintances, including world leaders, diplomats, and corporate executives.
Aquino continued to speak out on political issues. In the 1998 presidential elections, she supported the candidacy of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who placed fifth. In January 2001, Aquino played an active role in the second EDSA Revolution which ousted President Joseph Estrada and installed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the presidency. In 2005, Aquino condemned President Macapagal-Arroyo for allegedly rigging the 2004 presidential elections. She was a visible participant in mass demonstrations against the Arroyo government and called for the President's resignation.
In December 2008, Aquino publicly expressed some regrets for her participation in the 2001 EDSA Revolution and apologized to former President Joseph Estrada, who had been ousted following that revolt, in his presence. An Aquino spokesperson however later clarified that Aquino's remarks were taken out of context, they having been made in jest at a light-hearted affair.
In the 2007 senatorial elections, Aquino actively campaigned for her only son, Benigno III, in his successful bid for a Senate seat.
After leaving the presidency, Aquino received several awards and citations. In 1994, Aquino was cited as one of 100 Women Who Shaped World History in a reference book written by Gail Meyer Rolka and published by Bluewood Books in San Francisco, California. In 1996, she received the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding from the Fulbright Association, joining past recipients such as Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela. In August 1999, Aquino was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th century. The same magazine cited her in November 2006 as one of 65 great Asian Heroes, along with Mahatma Gandhi, Deng Xiaoping, Aung San Suu Kyi, Lee Kuan Yew, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In January 2008, the Europe-based A Different View selected Aquino as one of the 15 Champions of World Democracy, alongside Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa, and Vaclav Havel.
In 2002, Aquino became the first woman named to the Board of Governors of the Board of the Asian Institute of Management, a leading graduate business school and think tank in the Asia Pacific region. She served on the Board until 2006.
On March 24, 2008, the Aquino family announced that the former President had been diagnosed with colon cancer.While she had initially been informed by her doctors that she had only three months to live, Aquino pursued chemotherapy. In public remarks made on May 13, 2008, she announced that blood tests indicated that she was responding positively to the medical treatment.
By July 2009, Aquino was reported to be in a very serious condition and confined to Makati Medical Center due to loss of appetite.It was announced that Aquino and her family had decided to cease chemotherapy and other medical interventions.
Death of Corazon Aquino
Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino dies at age 76
Aquino died of cardiopulmonary arrest after complications of colon cancer at the age of 76 on August 1, 2009, 3:18 a.m., at the Makati Medical Center. Aquino was diagnosed with the disease in March 2008 but kept up public appearances this year. A devout Catholic, she was a regular at weekend mass until shortly before being admitted to hospital in late June.
"Our mother peacefully passed away at 3:18 a.m. (19:18 GMT Friday) of cardio-respiratory arrest," her son, Senator Benigno Aquino III, told reporters in Manila.
Aquino's body lies at a public wake at the St. Benilde Gymnasium of La Salle Green Hills in Mandaluyong up to August 3 when it would be transferred to the Manila Cathedral; the final rites will be done on August 5 which was declared as a special nonworking holiday by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Aquino will be buried in Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque. President of Timor-Leste Jose Ramos Horta is expected to arrive to pay his last respects to Aquino.
All Roman Catholic dioceses had started requiem masses for Aquino, after they held "healing masses". Meanwhile, the government declared a week of mourning for her death. Former President Estrada said that they lost a "mother" and a "guiding voice of the people." Estrada also described Aquino as "Philippines' most loved woman". Aquino supported Estrada's removal from office in 2001, but the two supported each other to oppose amendments in the constitution since last year. The Senate has also expressed its grieving with Aquino's death; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who along with Fidel Ramos launched the People Power Revolution, asked the public to pray for her. Minority leader Aquilino Pimentel, who previously served as interior and local government secretary during her administration, had "mixed feelings" with Aquino's passing, saying "We shall be forever indebted to Cory for rallying the nation behind the campaign to topple dictatorial rule and restore democracy."
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev in a telegram to President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stated, The name of Corazon Aquino is associated with a period of profound reforms and the democratic transformation of Filipino society. Medvedev also noted that Corazon Aquino showed great interest and sympathy to Russia and prioritised the development of Russian-Filipino relations. International figures expressed their grief, with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noting that Aquino was "admired by the world for her extraordinary courage". White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that "Her courage, determination, and moral leadership are an inspiration to us all and exemplify the best in the Filipino nation." Other ambassadors also sent their messages of condolence following her passing. Pope Benedict XVI recalled Aquino as a "courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people, her firm rejection of violence and intolerance," according to Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. President of South Africa Jacob Zuma called Aquino "a great leader who set a shining example of peaceful transition to democracy in her country."
Paalam Tita Cory!