May 24, 2024

Corazon Aquino, born on January 25, 1933, in Paniqui, Tarlac, Philippines, was a pivotal figure in Philippine history. As the first female president of the Philippines, she played a monumental role in restoring democracy to the nation following years of authoritarian rule under Ferdinand Marcos. Her rise to power, marked by the historic People Power Revolution in 1986, symbolized the triumph of people’s collective will over oppression and tyranny. Throughout her presidency and beyond, Aquino remained a steadfast advocate for democracy, human rights, and social justice, leaving behind a lasting legacy that continues to inspire generations.

Birth and Early Life: Corazon Aquino was born on January 25, 1933, in Paniqui, Tarlac, Philippines. She was the sixth of eight children born to José Cojuangco, a wealthy landowner, and Demetria Sumulong, a pharmacist. Raised in a privileged environment, Corazon, known affectionately as “Cory,” received her education at private schools, including the Assumption Convent in Manila. Her family’s prominence in society provided her with connections and opportunities that would shape her future role in Philippine politics.

First Female President: Following the tumultuous snap election held on February 25, 1986, Corazon Aquino emerged as the Philippines’ first female president. The election was marred by allegations of fraud and corruption, with the incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos widely accused of rigging the results in his favor. However, Aquino’s steadfast determination and widespread support from the Filipino people propelled her to victory, marking a historic milestone for gender equality and democracy in the Philippines.

Defeat of Ferdinand Marcos: Aquino’s victory in the 1986 snap election dealt a significant blow to the entrenched regime of Ferdinand Marcos, who had ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for over two decades. Marcos, facing mounting pressure and international condemnation, ultimately fled the country following the election results, seeking exile in the United States. Aquino’s triumph symbolized the rejection of authoritarian rule and the dawn of a new era of democracy in the Philippines.

Assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr.: The assassination of Corazon Aquino’s husband, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., on August 21, 1983, was a pivotal moment that catalyzed the People Power Revolution. Benigno, known as “Ninoy,” was a prominent opposition leader who had spent several years in exile in the United States. Upon his return to the Philippines, he was gunned down by military personnel upon disembarking from his flight at Manila International Airport. His assassination sparked widespread outrage and fueled calls for justice and political reform, laying the groundwork for the popular uprising that would eventually propel Corazon Aquino to the presidency.

People Power Revolution: The People Power Revolution, which unfolded from February 22 to 25, 1986, was a watershed moment in Philippine history. Millions of Filipinos took to the streets in a series of peaceful protests, demanding an end to the oppressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos and the restoration of democracy. The revolution culminated in the iconic scene of hundreds of thousands of people gathered at EDSA, a major highway in Manila, where they faced down military tanks and troops loyal to Marcos. Through sheer force of numbers and collective resolve, the Filipino people successfully ousted Marcos from power and paved the way for Corazon Aquino’s ascent to the presidency.

Age at Presidency: At the age of 53, Corazon Aquino became one of the youngest presidents in Philippine history upon assuming office in 1986. Despite her relatively young age, Aquino brought to the presidency a wealth of life experience, political acumen, and a steadfast commitment to democratic principles. Her leadership during this pivotal period in Philippine history earned her widespread admiration and respect both at home and abroad.

Restoration of Democracy: One of Corazon Aquino’s most significant accomplishments as president was the restoration of democracy to the Philippines following years of authoritarian rule under Ferdinand Marcos. Upon assuming office, Aquino moved swiftly to dismantle the repressive structures put in place by the Marcos regime, including abolishing the authoritarian constitution and restoring civil liberties and political freedoms. Her commitment to democratic governance set the stage for a new era of pluralism, transparency, and accountability in Philippine politics.

Establishment of PCGG: In her efforts to combat corruption and hold accountable those who had enriched themselves at the expense of the Filipino people, Corazon Aquino established the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) in 1986. The PCGG was tasked with recovering ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcos family and their cronies during their years in power. Through its investigations and legal actions, the PCGG successfully recovered billions of dollars in stolen assets, returning them to the Philippine government for the benefit of the nation’s development.

Signing of New Constitution: In 1987, Corazon Aquino signed into law a new constitution for the Philippines, which represented a fundamental departure from the authoritarianism of the Marcos era. The new constitution introduced a range of democratic reforms, including provisions to limit the powers of the presidency, safeguard civil liberties, and promote social justice and economic development. Notably, the constitution imposed a single six-year term limit for the president, a measure aimed at preventing the consolidation of power and fostering democratic transitions of leadership.

Commission to Investigate Human Rights Abuses: Recognizing the need to address the widespread human rights abuses perpetrated during the Marcos regime, Corazon Aquino appointed a commission to investigate these atrocities. The commission, known as the Presidential Commission on Human Rights (PCHR), was tasked with documenting cases of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other violations of human rights committed under martial law. The findings of the commission shed light on the extent of state-sponsored violence and provided a basis for seeking justice and accountability for the victims and their families.

Coup Attempts: Throughout her presidency, Corazon Aquino faced several coup attempts orchestrated by factions within the military and disgruntled elements of society opposed to her administration. The most serious of these attempts occurred in December 1989 when a group of rebel soldiers launched a coordinated attack on Malacañang Palace, the presidential residence. Despite the grave threat to her government, Aquino remained resolute in defending democracy and the rule of law, ultimately thwarting the coup attempt and reaffirming the resilience of Philippine democracy in the face of internal challenges.

Diplomatic Relations: In a significant diplomatic shift, Corazon Aquino re-established diplomatic relations with communist countries and pursued a policy of neutrality in the Cold War. This marked a departure from the previous administration’s staunch anti-communist stance and reflected Aquino’s commitment to pursuing a more balanced and pragmatic approach to international relations. By reaching out to former adversaries and promoting dialogue and engagement, Aquino sought to foster peace and stability both regionally and globally.

End of Presidency: Corazon Aquino served a single term as president, leaving office in 1992 after overseeing the successful transition to democracy and laying the groundwork for future reforms. Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks during her tenure, Aquino’s steadfast leadership and commitment to democratic principles earned her widespread praise and admiration both domestically and internationally. Her decision to step down after one term demonstrated her respect for democratic norms and her willingness to prioritize the long-term stability and progress of the Philippines over personal ambition.

Successor: Following Corazon Aquino’s departure from office, she was succeeded by Fidel Ramos, a former military general who had served as her defense secretary during her presidency. Ramos, a pragmatic and reform-minded leader, continued many of the policies initiated by Aquino while also pursuing his own agenda of economic liberalization and modernization. Under Ramos’ leadership, the Philippines experienced a period of relative stability and economic growth, further solidifying the gains made during Aquino’s presidency.

Post-Presidency Activism: After leaving office, Corazon Aquino remained actively engaged in Philippine politics and society, advocating for good governance, human rights, and social justice. She used her platform and influence to speak out against corruption and injustice, becoming a prominent voice for reform and progress in the country. Aquino’s continued involvement in public affairs underscored her enduring commitment to the principles of democracy and her belief in the power of ordinary citizens to effect positive change.

Death: Corazon Aquino passed away on August 1, 2009, after a battle with colon cancer. Her death was mourned by the Filipino nation, which remembered her as a courageous leader and a symbol of hope and inspiration. Aquino’s passing marked the end of an era in Philippine politics, but her legacy of integrity, compassion, and unwavering dedication to the welfare of the Filipino people lived on, continuing to inspire future generations of leaders and activists.

State Funeral: In recognition of her contributions to the nation, Corazon Aquino was accorded a state funeral, a rare honor reserved for individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the Philippines. The funeral procession drew massive crowds of mourners from all walks of life, reflecting the profound impact that Aquino had on the collective consciousness of the Filipino people. Tributes poured in from around the world, with leaders and dignitaries paying homage to her legacy and expressing condolences to her family and loved ones.

First Woman President in Asia: Corazon Aquino’s historic election as the first female president of the Philippines also made her the first woman to hold such a high office in Asia through a democratic process. Her groundbreaking achievement shattered gender barriers and inspired women across the region to aspire to leadership roles in politics and society. Aquino’s presidency served as a beacon of hope for women’s empowerment and gender equality, paving the way for future generations of female leaders in Asia and beyond.

Time Magazine Recognition: Time Magazine named Corazon Aquino “Woman of the Year” in 1986 in recognition of her pivotal role in the People Power Revolution and her steadfast commitment to democratic principles. The prestigious accolade brought international attention to Aquino’s leadership and further elevated her status as a symbol of courage and resilience in the fight against tyranny and oppression. The honor underscored Aquino’s global significance as a trailblazer for democracy and human rights.

United States Presidential Medal of Freedom: In 1993, Corazon Aquino was awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in recognition of her contributions to the advancement of democracy and human rights in the Philippines. The medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. government, highlighted Aquino’s stature as a global icon of democracy and a staunch ally of the United States in promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ramon Magsaysay Award: Corazon Aquino was honored with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1996, regarded as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. The prestigious award recognized Aquino’s exemplary leadership and selfless dedication to serving the Filipino people, particularly in her efforts to restore democracy and promote social justice and human rights. The Ramon Magsaysay Award further solidified Aquino’s reputation as a transformative leader and a beacon of hope for millions in the Philippines and beyond.

Posthumous Gandhi Peace Prize: In 2010, Corazon Aquino was posthumously awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize by the Government of India, honoring her legacy of nonviolent resistance and peaceful activism. The prize recognized Aquino’s role in leading the People Power Revolution, a momentous event characterized by its adherence to nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. By bestowing the Gandhi Peace Prize upon Aquino, India paid tribute to her enduring commitment to the principles of peace, justice, and democracy, which resonated deeply with Mahatma Gandhi’s own philosophy of satyagraha.

Children: Corazon Aquino had five children with her husband, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.: Benigno III (who also served as president of the Philippines), Maria Teresa (known as “Tessie”), Kristina, Victoria, and Viel Aquino. The Aquino children played various roles in Philippine society, with Benigno III following in his mother’s footsteps to become the country’s 15th president, continuing the family’s legacy of public service and leadership.

Hacienda Luisita: The Aquino family’s ancestral house, Hacienda Luisita, is a vast sugar plantation located in Tarlac province, Philippines. The hacienda has been a source of controversy for decades, with critics arguing that the land should be redistributed to farmers in accordance with agrarian reform laws. The issue of land ownership and distribution at Hacienda Luisita became a focal point of political debate in the Philippines, highlighting broader issues of social justice and economic inequality in the country.

Legacy: Corazon Aquino’s legacy is one of courage, determination, and unwavering commitment to democracy and human rights. She is remembered as a transformative leader who played a pivotal role in restoring democracy to the Philippines and inspiring millions around the world with her resilience and integrity. Aquino’s presidency marked a turning point in Philippine history, ushering in a new era of freedom, justice, and hope for the Filipino people. Her enduring legacy continues to inspire future generations to strive for a better, more just society, grounded in the principles of democracy and human dignity.

5 FAQs about Corazon Aquino:

Who was Corazon Aquino before she became president?

Corazon Aquino, fondly called Cory, was a homemaker with no prior political experience before the assassination of her husband, Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. She came from a wealthy family, the Cojuangcos, and had a comfortable life. However, Ninoy’s activism against the Marcos regime thrust her into the spotlight.

How did Corazon Aquino become president?

Corazon Aquino became president through a series of events following the assassination of her husband, Ninoy Aquino. His death sparked massive protests against the Marcos regime, culminating in the four-day People Power Revolution in February 1986. Aquino emerged as the leading opposition figure, running against Ferdinand Marcos in a snap election. Despite intimidation and fraud attempts by the Marcos regime, Aquino won the election by a landslide, leading to Marcos’ exile and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.

What were some of Corazon Aquino’s major achievements as president?

Restored Democracy: Aquino dismantled the authoritarian structures of the Marcos regime and established a new constitution that limited presidential power and guaranteed basic freedoms.

Promoted Human Rights: She appointed a commission to investigate human rights abuses under Marcos and sought to rebuild trust in government institutions.

Recovered Ill-gotten Wealth: The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was established to recover wealth stolen by the Marcoses.

Peaceful Foreign Policy: She pursued neutrality in the Cold War and re-established diplomatic relations with communist countries.

What were some of the challenges Corazon Aquino faced as president?

Coup Attempts: Aquino faced several coup attempts from disgruntled military factions loyal to Marcos.

Economic Difficulties: The Philippines was in a deep economic crisis when Aquino took office, and she struggled to implement reforms.

Social Unrest: Rebel groups continued to operate in some parts of the country, posing a security threat.

What is Corazon Aquino’s legacy?

Corazon Aquino is remembered as a symbol of democracy and people power. She is admired for her courage in defying a dictator and her unwavering commitment to peaceful change. Despite the challenges she faced, Aquino laid the foundation for a more democratic and just Philippines. Her legacy inspires Filipinos and others around the world to fight for freedom and human rights.

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