President Duterte paid tribute to the late President Benigno S. Aquino III, saying he gave his “best” to serve the Filipino nation.
The President joined the nation in offering heartfelt sympathies and asked Filipinos to unite in prayer for the late leader.
Aquino, the country’s 15th president from 2010 to 2016, passed away Thursday morning at the age of 61. His death was due renal failure arising from diabetes, according to his family.
“I join the entire nation in mourning the passing of former President Benigno S. Aquino III,” the President said in a statement Thursday.
“Let us take this opportunity to unite in prayer and set aside our differences as we pay respects to a leader who has given his best to serve the Filipino people. His memory and his family’s legacy of offering their lives for the cause of democracy will forever remain etched in our hearts,” he added.
The President also offered his condolences to Aquino’s family and friends.
“I express my deepest sympathies to his siblings Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris as well as to all his loved ones, friends and supporters, in this period of sadness,” he said.
“May you take comfort in the knowledge that he is now in a better place with his Creator,” he added.
Aquino, who led the anti-corruption campaign and sued China before an arbitration court over excessive claims in the South China Sea, ended his six-year term in 2010. In the run-up to the elections where Duterte was the frontrunner, he had warned the public to remember how Adolf Hitler came to power and told them to defend the nation’s freedom.
Duterte, a tough-talking mayor of Davao City, eventually won the presidential elections in 2016 on a promise to eliminate illegal drugs and corruption.
In previous speeches, Duterte took a swipe at Aquino over his role in the bungled Mamasapano operation that left 44 police troopers dead in 2015. He claimed that Aquino sent the policemen to the “lion’s den” and left them for dead. He asked Aquino why he kept the police operation under wraps, allowed the involvement of the United States’ intelligence unit, and failed to tap military air support to aid the embattled cops.
Aquino had taken responsibility for Mamasapano operation he had sanctioned while some policemen have been charged for the lapses.