Benigno S. Aquino III, a former president of the Philippines and a member of the country’s most prominent pro-democracy political family, died on Thursday in Manila. He was 61 years old.
His death was confirmed by Manuel Roxas II, a former interior minister whose family has long been associated with the Aquinos. The cause of his death was not immediately known, but he had been admitted to a hospital, according to local news reports.
Mr. Aquino was president from 2010 to 2016, riding a wave of support following his mother, Corazon Aquino’s, death in 2009. Mrs. Aquino, a former president, and her husband, slain Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., were leaders of the 1986 People Power Revolution that ended President Ferdinand Marcos’ two-decade dictatorship.
Mr. Aquino, also known as Noynoy and PNoy, was praised early in his presidency for combating corruption, stabilising the country’s faltering economy, and enacting a reproductive rights law that made contraception more widely available to the poor — a move long opposed by the Roman Catholic Church in a devoutly Catholic country.
He was also one of the few Southeast Asian leaders willing to confront China, which has multiple territorial disputes in the region. Mr. Aquino effectively sued Beijing in the South China Sea over the two countries’ competing claims, taking his case to an international tribunal in The Hague. The tribunal found no legal basis to support China’s expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters in a landmark ruling in 2016.
“I learned this morning with profound sadness of the passing of former President Benigno S. Aquino III,” Justice Marvic Leonen, an Aquino appointee to the Supreme Court, said in a statement. “I knew him to be a kind man, driven by his desire to serve the people, diligent in his duties, and with an avid and consuming curiosity about new world knowledge in general.”
However, Mr. Aquino’s presidency was marred by allegations of inaction and graft. Following Typhoon Haiyan, which killed 6,000 Filipinos in 2013, many accused the president of being too slow to respond to the crisis. Some Western countries, including Canada, cited the Aquino administration’s lack of urgency in their decisions to bypass the government and instead donate money and aid directly to nongovernmental organisations.
That same year, Mr. Aquino, who had made combating corruption a priority during his presidency, faced a slew of high-profile allegations. They included the arrest of a businesswoman suspected of diverting funds intended for poverty-reduction programmes into the bank accounts of lawmakers, as well as allegations of police officers engaging in extrajudicial killings.
But it was the deaths of 44 police commandos in a clash with Muslim insurgents in 2015 that brought an end to his presidency. The botched raid to apprehend a Muslim insurgent in the southern town of Mamasapano was the country’s police force’s deadliest day in modern history.
The country’s anti-corruption prosecutor said in 2017 that Mr. Aquino should be held accountable for the officers’ deaths because he allowed a suspended national police chief accused of corruption to oversee the operation.
Mr. Aquino was succeeded in office in 2016 by Rodrigo Duterte, a populist president whose policies have included a bloody drug war and whose authoritarianism has been compared to that of the Marcos regime.
Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, his parents’ only son, was born on February 8, 1960. He worked in the family’s first business, sugar, before entering the family’s second business, politics, in 1998.
In the years since, he has joined his parents on the front lines of the fight to depose Marcos. His father’s assassination in 1983 is widely regarded as a watershed moment in popular support for the revolution.
Mr. Aquino was shot five times during his mother’s presidency in 1987, during an attempted military coup. He spent the rest of his life with shrapnel in his neck.
He served three terms in the House of Representatives, representing his family’s ancestral home in the northern province of Tarlac, from 1998 to 2007. When he was elected president in 2010, he was halfway through his first term in the Senate.
He never married and had no children, but he leaves behind four sisters.