Benigno S. Aquino III, ex-president of the Philippines, died at 61


Under Mr. Aquino, average economic growth exceeded 6.0%, the highest in recent years, achieving investment country status from rating agencies. In the first quarter of 2016, shortly before the end of his tenure, the Philippine economy grew at a rate of 6.9%, which was, at the time, the fastest in Asia.

One of his most significant accomplishments was the enactment of a reproductive rights law that made contraception readily available to the poor. To do so, he faced decades of resistance from the powerful Roman Catholic Church in a predominantly Catholic country.

Under Mr. Aquino’s leadership, the Philippines was one of the few Southeast Asian nations ready to stand up to China. He effectively sued Beijing over the two countries’ competing claims in the South China Sea, bringing his case to an international tribunal in The Hague. In a landmark 2016 ruling, the court concluded that there was no legal basis to support China’s broad claim to sovereignty over the waters.

Mr. Aquino’s difficulties started early. Two months after taking office, a disgruntled former police officer hijacked a tourist bus carrying passengers from Hong Kong. Eight people were killed in a failed rescue attempt. As a result, Hong Kong has issued a warning advising residents not to travel to the Philippines.

In November 2013, Mr. Aquino was accused of reacting slowly to the powerful Typhoon Haiyan, which killed 6,000 people in the central Philippines. Some Western countries, including Canada, have cited the Aquino administration’s lack of immediacy in their decisions to bypass the government and give money and aid directly to non-governmental organizations.

In its biggest setback, 44 special forces policemen and a number of civilians were killed in 2015 in a botched attempt to capture one of the region’s most wanted terrorism suspects. The raid resulted in the highest death toll among Filipino police officers in recent memory.

In 2017, the country’s anti-corruption prosecutor said Mr. Aquino should be held responsible for the deaths of police officers for allowing a suspended national police chief accused of corruption to oversee the operation.

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