Former Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III passed away today, June 24, according to various sources close to the Aquino family.
Initial reports said that Aquino was brought to the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City earlier today for undisclosed reasons. Soon after, it was confirmed that the former president has passed on. He was 61 years old.
Aquino has been silent and away from the public eye since the end of his presidency, so his hospitalization came as a shock to both supporters and critics alike. (Read: Prayer of Corazon Aquino on the 2nd Anniversary of the EDSA Revolution)
A Complex Relationship
PNoy, as he was called during his presidency, was swept into power following the death of his mother, former president Cory Aquino. He championed the “Daang Matuwid” and “Kayo ang Boss Ko” slogans during his administration.
Raised in the Catholic faith, PNoy had a love-hate relationship with the Church. His presidential campaign was supported by various Church groups— largely because of his faithful mother, Cory, the face of the EDSA Revolution. However, early on in his presidency, PNoy’s relationship with the Catholic church and other religious groups turned sour.
During the visit of Pope Francis in 2015, PNoy had openly criticized some members of the clergy whom he said were choosing to remain silent about social issues. (Read: Bishop Pabillo Urges Church Leaders Not to Remain Silent)
“We were taught that the Catholic Church is the true church and that there is constancy, for it upholds the truth at all times. Hence, there was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day,” Aquino said.
Partnership With the Pope
But Pope Francis himself restored the former president’s faith in the Church when he said that PNoy’s “statements bear witness to the compassion and understanding of Christ.”
PNoy, in turn, thanked the Pope for his role “as a unifying and revitalizing voice, not just among Catholics, but also among all peoples of goodwill.” After the meeting, Aquino said he found a “partnership” with the Pope.
“I believe that you (Francis) are a kindred spirit, one who sees things as they are, and is unafraid of asking, ‘Why not?’,” he said. (Read: Pope Francis Homilies: Valuable Lessons on Christian Living)
The then-President added: “Some of your statements might have been shocking or offensive to some peers, but Your Holiness is meant to be the instrument through which the Kingdom of God is allowed to flourish. In your example, we see the wisdom of continuing to ask, ‘Why not?’”
EDSA and The Church
The son of the pro-democracy icons the late president Corazon Aquino and former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was born in Manila on February 8, 1960. (Read: 3 YouTube Documentaries About the EDSA People Power)
The Catholic Church has played a major part in restoring democracy in the country during the Martial Law era of the Marcos regime— a role that PNoy has greatly recognized.
“The courage and daring displayed by the clergy solidified my belief: Especially during the Martial Law years, the Church of the poor and oppressed shone vividly. The clergy was always at the forefront of those wanting to emulate Christ and carry the burdens for all of us,” he said.