Former President Aquino passes away at 61

Former President Benigno "Noynoy" S. Aquino III, who championed "Daang Matuwid" campaign and scored a landmark ruling against China's aggressive claims in West Philippine Sea, has passed away Thursday morning, according to the family. He was 61.

A file photo of the late President Benigno S. Aquino III (Malacañang)

Aquino, son of pro-democracy icons the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late President Corazon Aquino, died “peacefully in his sleep,” announced his sister Pinky Aquino-Abellada with “profound grief.”

“His death certificate pronounced his death at 6:30 a.m. due to renal disease secondary to diabetes. No words can express how broken our hearts are and how long it will take for us to accept the reality that he is gone,” Abellada said, reading the family's statement Thursday afternoon.

To her brother, she told him: “Mission accomplished Noy, be happy now with Dad and Mom.”

“We love you and we are so blessed to have had the privilege to have had as our brother. We’ll miss you forever,” she said.

Reports earlier said Aquino was rushed to the Capital Medical Center in Quezon City. The former President, fondly called PNoy during his stint in Malacañang, reportedly battled lung and kidney ailments and went through dialysis in preparation for a kidney transplant. He previously had an angioplasty.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen was among the first to express sadness over the death of Aquino, remembering the former leader's kindness, integrity, and hard work. It was the former President who appointed Leonen to the high tribunal in November 2012.

"It is with profound sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of former President Benigno S. Aquino III. 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 curiosity about new knowledge and the world in general," he said.

"I have learned a lot from him. I saw him carry his title with dignity and integrity. It was an honor to have served with him. He will be missed," he added.

Aquino, known for his simple and humble leadership, was the country's 15th President from June 2010 to June 2016.

Born in Manila on Feb. 8, 1960, Aquino served as a senator before getting elected to the country's highest government post.

Under Aquino’s watch, the Philippines enjoyed an economic boom, becoming “Asia’s new darling” from being the “Sick Man of Asia.” It registered an average growth of 6.2 percent amid robust foreign investments, stable credit ratings, and tourism growth. Aquino also sought to boost investments in social services as the government struggled to ensure economic growth trickled down to the country’s poor.

Among the highlights of his leadership were the signing of the landmark peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as intensified anti-corruption efforts, bringing to jail those involved in the controversial pork barrel scam.

The administration also initiated the filing of a case against China's excessive claims in the West Philippine Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The court handed a ruling in favor of the Philippines in 2016.

Aquino faced his first major crisis when several Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bus hostage-taking incident in Manila in August 2010. He faced other controversies, from the allegedly slow relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, to the bungled police operation that led to the death of 44 Special Action Force troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.

In 2016, Aquino endorsed then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to succeed him. Roxas, the Liberal Party presidential candidate, lost to then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the presidential elections.

Ever since he left Malacañang, Aquino spent a quiet retirement from politics. After living at the Bahay Pangarap for six years, the bachelor returned to living at the renovated family residence along Times Street in Quezon City. He spent more time for his hobbies, such as reading books, listening to music, and going to the shooting range.

In recent years, Aquino made rare public appearances, including attending historic occasions related to his parents. There were occasional public statements, including instances when Aquino’s name was dragged in the cases related to the Dengvaxia controversy and the Mamasapano tragedy.

Aquino’s health condition was put on spotlight in December 2019. He was confined at a Makati hospital for a week to undergo scheduled medical checkup.