Corazon Aquino, the former President of the Republic of the Philippines who led a peaceful urban revolution that ousted U.S.-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died on August 1 at Makati Medical Center in Manila.
Aquino was born into a wealthy family in Tarlac province, Philippines. After grade school, she went to the United States for college. She later married Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., who became a senator and leading critic of President Marcos’s government. In 1972, a year before he was term-limited out of office, President Marcos declared martial law and abolished the national constitution; Aquino’s husband was arrested and sentenced to death.
President Jimmy Carter reversed previous Republican policy on Marcos and refused to give the regime money unless democracy was restored. Marcos agreed to hold elections. In 1978, Aquino campaigned on her imprisoned husband’s behalf for the interim national assembly elections, which suffered widespread fraud. In 1980, Marcos exiled Aquino and her family to the U.S.
Aquino’s husband returned to the Philippines in 1983 and was summarily executed as he exited the airplane in Manila. Protests against the Marcos regime unified around the image of Aquino and her loss.
In November, 1985, Marcos announced a snap presidential election to be held the following year. A petition with a million signatures appeared within a week urging Aquino to run. She agreed. On February 7, 1986, an election was held. The Marcos-controlled Commission on Elections declared Marcos the winner while the independent National Movement for Free Elections indicated Aquino was victorious. The national assembly installed Marcos on February 15, 1986; Aquino called for a general strike and a boycott of Marcos-controlled businesses.
After a plot by junior officers to stage a military coup was discovered, on February 22, 1986, Marcos’s Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos called on Marcos to resign and took over two military bases in Metro Manila. Manila Cardinal Jaime Sin, a confidant of Aquino, used Catholic Veritas radio to encourage people to go to the bases to protect them from Marcos; the crowds eventually swelled to several million.
When it became clear Marcos would only survive the protests with massive civilian casualties, Marcos, his family and close allies were taken to Clark Air Force Base and eventually exiled to Hawaii.
Once in office, Aquino was confronted with a powerful right-wing military, a full-scale left-wing civil war and a systemic system of corruption. The military attempted seven coups against Aquino and forced her to spend most of her time in office stabilizing the political process. She retired at the end of her term.
In 2001, Aquino participated in the protests that successfully ousted President Joseph Estrada and installed current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. When charges of corruption were leveled against Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino called for her resignation as well.
Aquino has been hailed internationally as a symbol of the peaceful democratic revolutionary process that was subsequently followed in Eastern Europe and Asia. In Hawaii, however, where Marcos remains popular among his fellow Ilocanos, Aquino’s legacy is mixed and the remembrance of her death subdued. Maui Time Weekly, Jacob Shafer