Aquino’s Lasting Legacy

She may have had greatness thrust upon her. But Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino, the Philippines democracy icon who toppled a despised dictatorship personified by Ferdinand Marcos, also achieved it on the sheer strength of her own merit – and that of the “People Power” movement that swept her into power as Asia’s first woman president.

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Published: Thu 6 Aug 2009, 9:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:27 AM

Her political baptism by fire, literally, when her husband Senator Benigno Aquino was killed by an assassin’s bullet in 1983 at Manila International Airport (later renamed in his honour) on his return from exile in the US, marked a traumatic turning point in her personal life. It also led to the ouster of an entrenched dictator and, eventually, changed the destiny of a nation.

Many of those who followed Cory’s cortege in Central Manila yesterday may have been too young to remember the ‘fairytale revolution’ she had inspired once upon a time. But the spontaneous outpouring of grief and sympathy and tributes from across the country and the world reminded everyone, yet again, of what she had stood for and achieved. The revolution that she had led had proved that the best democracy for the people is one that is backed by the people

That she never forgot she was a ‘people’s president’ contributed to her compelling charisma. It also helped her unite a divided nation, as well as restore and protect the gains of a fledgling democracy surrounded by many detractors and much hostility.

Even when she was no longer president, Cory Aquino always had the courage and the conviction to challenge the omissions or excesses of those who followed her into the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila – including Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, when serious allegations of vote-rigging and corruption surfaced against the incumbent president.

Cory’s was always essentially a moral campaign against the petty political betrayals and social inequities that wrecked the life of many ordinary citizens in her country. She was well aware they were struggling to somehow ensure they do get the government they deserve and she was well prepared to do something about it. And she did. And how!

However, that struggle has not ended in the Philippines. Nor has it ended elsewhere in many other troubled parts of the world. It is therefore in this context that Cory Aquino’s legacy will most likely have its most lasting impact. She captured the imagination of a people and made them aware of what their power is and can be all about.

She was, indeed, a woman of much substance and shall long be remembered for it. When comes such another?

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