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Noynoy Aquino: The President who made the Filipino people his boss

"Kayo ang boss ko."

With these words, uttered during his inaugural speech on June 30, 2010, Benigno Aquino III made good governance and fighting corruption the centerpiece of his six-year presidency.

An economist and scion of a political family, Aquino, who passed away on Thursday, considered corruption as the cause of poverty, as epitomized by the slogan "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap."

To combat corruption, he implemented a full disclosure policy that set up a website that contained how local government units spend their funds. There was also the open data initiative where projects of various agencies can be seen on the government's website.

Though not certified urgent, one of Aquino's priority measures was the Freedom of Information bill. His leadership also came out with budget reforms, making it more transparent to the public.

More than this, the Aquino administration also went after ranking personalities linked to various anomalies, among them then-Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was ousted for failing to fully disclose his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

Aquino also ran after personalities involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, including Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr, who served years in detention.

It was also during Aquino's term that his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, spent years in hospital arrest over allegations of plunder. She was acquitted in July 2016, just weeks after Aquino's term ended.

An improved economy

Experts and analysts would say that the Aquino administration made the Philippine economy more stable. His presidency delivered an average annual economic growth of just over 6.0%, the highest since the 1970s.

It was also believed that under his term, the Philippines experienced the fastest growing economic gross domestic product as his administration attracted more investors.

An increased tax revenue also happened under his watch.

Though he had somehow eased poverty, this was still not enough for the entire poor sector, experts said.

Sovereignty vs. China

It was in January 2013 when Aquino strongly took the legal fight challenging China's massive claims in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Aquino's move was triggered by the standoff incident at the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales.

Chinese ships blocked the arrest of their fishermen who were then caught poaching by Philippine authorities.

More than three years after the case was filed, the international tribunal  invalidated China's territorial claims, stressing that there was no "legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line."

Beijing, however, has not recognized the ruling.

K-12, RH bill

Aquino also put up the K-12 program, which added two years of basic schooling in his 10-point proposal for fixing the Philippines' basic education system.

He believed that transforming the education system would provide public school students an even chance at succeeding, similar to those in private schools.

The new curriculum mandated Filipino students to undergo one year in kindergarten, six years in primary school, four years in junior high school and two years in senior high school.

It was also Aquino who signed into law the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 despite strong opposition from Catholic Church.

The law’s implementation experienced a setback after oppositors questioned its constitutionality before the Supreme Court (SC).

The controversial law was finally given a go by the SC but many of its provisions, including the implementing rules, were declared unconstitutional.

Who is Noynoy?

Born on February 8, 1960, he was the only son of slain senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late President Corazon "Cory" Aquino. He attained a degree in economics from the Ateneo de Manila University 

On Aug. 21, 1983, Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the tarmac of then Manila International Airport, which is now named in his honor. Cory, on the other hand, was a pro-democracy icon who became president following the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

The younger Aquino, who is more popularly known as Noynoy during his political career, ran for a seat at the House of Representatives and won in 1998. He served as congressman of the 2nd District of Tarlac until 2007.

During his term at the lower chamber, he focused on the fiscal aspect of crafting measures as he also actively took part during budget deliberations to ensure that the needs of those in need were addressed.

Noynoy Aquino also became deputy speaker but he resigned from his post when he joined Liberal Party leaders in calling for the resignation of then-President Arroyo amid the “Hello Garci” scandal, which bared the vote rigging that transpired in the 2004 elections.

Aquino, who also served as vice-chairman of the Liberal Party, won a Senate in 2007. At the Senate, he served as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Government and was also the vice-chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Weeks after his mother died in August 2009, Noynoy Aquino announced that he would run for president in 2010 in order to continue his parents’ push for democratic reforms. He won the following year's elections.

Legacy: Simplicity in public service

The legacy of former President “Noynoy” is public service rendered in simplicity, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the remark in connection with the former President’s death in a hospital in Quezon City early Thursday morning.

“Unang una, nanungkulan siya sa ilalim ng demokrasya” (First and foremost, he governed under a democracy), Roque said.

“Walang wangwang ...he was a simple public servant,”  Roque added.

[Aquino had prohibited officials from using sirens in their vehicles, which was also a metaphoric discouragement of public officials from demanding special treatment, and using power to pull to the head of the line].

Roque, however, said he has no information yet if the Duterte administration will offer state funeral for former President Aquino or if President Duterte will declare a national period of mourning in the aftermath of the death of former President Aquino.

Likewise, Roque could not say if the Philippine flags in Malacañang Palace will be on half-staff due to Noynoy's death. 

A hero’s burial for former President Aquino, Roque said, is also possible provided that the Aquino family consents to it. —KBK/LBG, GMA News