Former Philippines president Corazon Aquino dies

Corazon Aquino, the former Philippines president whose 'people power' revolt in 1986 ended the repressive 20-year regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has died. She was 76.

Corazon Aquino, the former Philippines president whose "people power" revolt in 1986 ended the repressive 20-year regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has died. She was 76.

In this Aug. 21, 2007, file photo, former Philippine president Corazon Aquino attends a mass to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the assassination of her husband. ((Bullit Marquez/Associated Press))
Her son, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, said his mother died at 3:18 a.m. local time on Saturday.

Aquino was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer last year and had been confined to a Manila hospital for more than a month.

Requiem masses were scheduled for later Saturday, and yellow ribbons were tied on trees around her neighbourhood in Quezon City.

Aquino will lie in state at the De La Salle Catholic school in Manila from Saturday evening to Monday morning, and she will be buried beside her husband at the Manila Memorial Park in a private ceremony Wednesday, her son told reporters.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is on an official visit to the United States, remembered Aquino as a "national treasure" who helped lead "a revolution to restore democracy and the rule of law to our nation at a time of great peril."

"She picked up the standard from the fallen warrior Ninoy and helped lead our nation to a brighter day," Arroyo said.

The Philippines will observe 10 days of national mourning, she said. The armed forces of the Philippines said it would accord full military honours during Aquino's wake, including gun salutes and lowering flags to half-mast.

TV stations on Saturday ran footage of Aquino's years in power together with prayers while her former aides and supporters offered condolences.

"She was headstrong and single-minded in one goal, and that was to remove all vestiges of an entrenched dictatorship," Raul C. Pangalangan, former dean of the law school at the University of the Philippines, said earlier this year. "We all owe her in a big way."

Husband's assassination sparked Aquino's rise

Aquino's rise began in 1983 when her husband, opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., was assassinated on the tarmac of Manila's international airport as he returned from exile in the United States to challenge Marcos, his longtime adversary.

The killing enraged many Filipinos and unleashed a broad-based opposition movement that thrust Aquino into the role of national leader.

With public opposition mounting against Marcos, he stunned the nation in November 1985 by calling a snap election in a bid to shore up his mandate. The opposition, including then Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, urged Aquino to run.

"I don't know anything about the presidency," she declared in 1985, a year before she agreed to run against Marcos, uniting the fractious opposition, the business community and later the armed forces to drive the dictator out.

The vote was held on Feb. 7, 1986. The National Assembly declared Marcos the winner, but journalists, foreign observers and church leaders alleged massive fraud.

With the result in dispute, a group of military officers mutinied against Marcos on Feb. 22 and holed up with a small force in a military camp in Manila.

Over the following three days, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos responded to a call by the Roman Catholic Church to jam the broad highway in front of the camp to prevent an attack by Marcos's forces.

Aquino publicly supported mutineers

On the third day, against the advice of her security detail, Aquino appeared at the rally alongside the mutineers, led by Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, the military vice chief of staff and Marcos's cousin.

From a makeshift platform, she declared: "For the first time in the history of the world, a civilian population has been called to defend the military."

The military chiefs pledged their loyalty to Aquino and charged that Marcos had won the election by fraud.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan, a longtime supporter of Marcos, called on him to resign. "Attempts to prolong the life of the present regime by violence are futile," the White House said. American officials offered to fly Marcos out of the Philippines.

In this Jan. 27, 1986, file picture, opposition presidential candidate Corazon Aquino waves from the podium as thousands of supporters cheer during a campaign rally in downtown Manila. ((Val Rodriguez/Associated Press))
On Feb. 25, Marcos and his family went to the U.S.-run Clark Air Base outside Manila and flew to Hawaii, where he died three years later.

The same day, Aquino was sworn in as the first woman to lead the Philippines.

Over time, the euphoria fizzled as the public became impatient and Aquino more defensive as she struggled to navigate treacherous political waters and build alliances to push her agenda. The right attacked her for making overtures to communist rebels and the left, for protecting the interests of wealthy landowners.

Aquino's term marked by repeated coup attempts

Aquino signed an agrarian reform bill that virtually exempted large plantations such as her family's sugar plantation from being distributed to landless farmers. When farmers protested outside the Malacanang Presidential Palace on Jan. 22, 1987, troops opened fire, killing 13 and wounding 100.

The bloodshed scuttled talks with communist rebels, who had galvanized opposition to Marcos but weren't satisfied with Aquino either.

Her term was punctuated by repeated coup attempts — most staged by the same clique of officers who had risen up against Marcos and felt they had been denied their fair share of power. The most serious attempt came in December 1989 when only a flyover by U.S. jets prevented mutinous troops from toppling her.

After stepping down in 1992, Aquino remained active in social and political causes.

Until diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2008, she joined rallies calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Aquino "helped bring democracy back" to her country after years of authoritarian rule.

Clinton said Aquino showed "extraordinary courage" following the assassination of her husband.

Clinton said Aquino's "quiet strength and her unshakable commitment to justice and freedom" inspired her and former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Clinton is sending her condolences to the Philippines and the Aquino family.