Cory Aquino, the first woman president in Asia and symbol of democracy, dies
Manila (AsiaNews) - Maria Corazon C. Aquino, the first woman president of Asia and 7th President of the Philippines died tonight at 3:18 local time from colon cancer. She was 76 years old. Fr. Laguerta, rector of the seminary of San Carlos said that Aquino - familiarly known as "Tita (aunt) Cory" - "was a woman of faith, full of courage and a symbol of democracy." In 1986, Aquino with the collaboration of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, archbishop of the capital, and the support millions led the “rosary revolution" that resulted in the ousting of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the restoration of democracy in the country after years of martial law and political attacks, including one on Aquino’s husband, Benigno, in 1983.
Current President Gloria Arroyo, who owes her election to the support of Cory, has declared 10 days of national mourning. Thousands of people are flocking to her house and the Edsa Shrine in Quezon City, where the “rosary revolution” culminated, praying, leaving flowers and yellow bows, the color of that uprising. The shrine, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace, was built 89 to celebrate the end of the dictatorship in a peaceful manner, without bloodshed. In recent days, processions, rosaries, Masses, Eucharistic adoration have occurred at the shrine to ask God to cure Cory Aquino.
Communicating the death of his mother to the press, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. said: "My mother would have wanted to thank each of you for all the prayers and for your continued support and love. Her desire was that we pray for one another and for our nation. "
Cory Aquino was born July 25 1933 in Tarlac, the daughter of a very rich family. After studying in the U.S. in '54 she married Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, a journalist and also heir to a wealthy Filipino family. While her husband realised an astonishing political career, Aquino was always at his side, without attracting the spotlight to herself. Many people now recall her as "a perfect wife and a very careful mother."
In 1973 Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law and Benigno Aquino was imprisoned. Cory became the only link between her husband and the opposition to the dictatorship. In 1980, thanks to pressure from Carter, Benigno Aquino was released and his family emigrated to the USA. But 1983 he returned to the Philippines, to participate in the presidential elections the following year. Marcos thugs killed him as soon as he touched the ground at Manila airport in the Philippines.
While not having political experience, Cory began to organize and lead the opposition, and her message of honesty and justice, and disgust for the violence of the Marcos regime led her to take part in the presidential election against Marcos in 1986, a ballot both claimed as victors. But the violence used by Marcos’ troops emerged as well as his manipulation of the polls, and paying for votes.
This was the moment when Card. Sin stepped in, organizing demonstration marches, asking everyone to make a non-violent revolution, "according to the teachings of Jesus." Millions of people poured into the streets, praying and calling for the end of the dictatorship. It was the revolution of the rosaries, then called "revolution of the power of the people", or Edsa I. Marcos tried to block the flood deploying tanks and soldiers, but the army led by Fidel Ramos, sided with the people and the Marcos family is exiled.
In the following years, Aquino tried to pacify the nation: she freed for political prisoners, opened up to dialogue with communist guerrillas and Muslim movements in Mindanao; alienated corrupt friends of Marcos, reduced the power of the military in society and in parliament.
Despite her popularity, her government suffered several attempted coups d'état. But she was always the symbol of democracy, human rights and of honesty, although she came from one of the richest families in the country, used treating the nation as their own personal property. In 2001 she helped end the presidency of Estrada (Edsa II), facilitating the presidency of Gloria Arroyo.
Sr Edylin Lapar, Davao concludes for AsiaNews: "The nation will remember her forever because she was a symbol of freedom", a "gift of God to the Philippines."