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Philippines, Southeast Asia, Mourn Death of Former President Aquino

  • Daniel Schearf

The Philippines is mourning the death of former president Corazon Aquino, who succumbed to cancer early Saturday morning. Mrs. Aquino is remembered as the icon of democracy in the Philippines for leading a "people power" movement against dictatorship. But, Mrs. Aquino also inspired democracy beyond the Philippines.

The Philippines is planning ten days of public mourning, masses and overnight vigils to honor the passing of former President Corazon Aquino.

She died Saturday at the age of 76 after a year-long battle with colon cancer. Corazon Aquino was known affectionately as "Cory" and was the Philippines first female president.

Mrs. Aquino's son, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, told journalists he never asked his mother how she wanted to be remembered. But, he said he believed Corazon Aquino would be thought of as someone who did her best to help others and never gave in to the temptation of power.

"She really put into practice defending not only the rights of her friends but even those who would oppose you, relinquishing her power as fast as possible with adoption of the 1987 constitution. And, then, I can go on and on," he said.

Corazon Aquino is widely respected for leading a peaceful and popular movement in the late 1980s that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The "people power" movement that swept Corazon Aquino into the presidency was felt not just in the Philippines but also across the world.

Southeast Asia in the 1980s was marked by communist governments and military dictators.

Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for Indonesia's department of Foreign Affairs, says Mrs. Aquino helped to inspire Indonesia's own movement to become a stable democracy.

"We are close neighbor," he said. "We watched the development in the Philippines at that time. And, certainly, there are a lot of resemblance-what happened in late 90s Indonesia and what happened in the late 80s in Philippines. People learned that by being together we were able to make a change in our political landscape."

Singapore's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Mrs. Aquino will long be remembered and respected both in the Philippines and internationally for her devotion to her people.

Even after retiring from politics, Mrs. Aquino actively challenged Philippines politicians she saw as corrupt.

She joined the Catholic Church and army in helping to oust President Joseph Estrada. And, until she became sick last year, Mrs. Aquino supported street protests against his successor, current President Gloria Arroyo.

But, even those Mrs. Aquino opposed had good things to say about her.

Mrs. Arroyo, who was in the United States on an official visit, praised Mrs. Aquino for helping restore democracy and the rule of law.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was deeply saddened by Mrs. Aquino's death.

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