CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 24 June) – Philippine flags in several government buildings and military camps in Mindanao were already flying at half-mast Thursday in honor of the late former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III even if his family has yet to make an official announcement of his death.
Local officials and civil society leaders also praised the late president for his contributions to the Mindanao peace process and other achievements.
Aquino III reportedly passed away at 4:30 a.m. Thursday at the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City. He was 61.
In Marawi City, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. ordered the flag at the provincial capitol to be flown at half-mast for the “initiator of the peace process between the national government and the Bangsamoro.”
“We deeply mourn the death of former President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino, III,” Adiong said.
At Kampo Ranao, headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, also in Marawi, Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo said their flag will fly at half-mast starting tomorrow.
“We have already raised the flag this morning and following protocol it cannot be lowered. So we start tomorrow,” Cuerpo said.
In Cagayan de Oro, Mayor Oscar Moreno, a political ally, ordered the flag at City Hall to be flown at half-mast.
The local government of Zamboanga city also lowered their flag to half-mast, crediting Aquino for his handling of the standoff with the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in 2013.
“At the height of the siege, he held office in Zamboanga City for 21 days to personally oversee the operations, as government forces fought to defend the city from the MNLF,” the LGU said on its Facebook wall.
“Zamboanga City joins the nation in mourning the demise of former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, the 15th president of the Philippines from 2010-2016,” Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco said.
“Highlight of his contributions to Zamboanga City was the rehabilitation of areas affected by the 2013 siege with the allocation of P3.7B under the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction (Z3R) project, now 80% complete. At the height of the siege, he held office in Zamboanga City for 21 days to personally oversee the operations, as government forces fought to defend the city from the MNLF,” Climaco said.
“Fondly called PNoy, the late President Aquino established Memorandum Order 11 on December 22, 2010, directing a moratorium on the transfer of regional offices of all departments and agencies from Zamboanga City to Pagadian City. The order suspended the regional center transfer at that time until the matter was formally decided several years after,” she said.
“Thank you very much for your dedicated service to the Republic of the Philippines, bearing the legacy of Senator Benigno Aquino and your mother, former President Corazon Aquino. He was one person who had much love and dedication for the entire nation,” she added.
Many leaders in Mindanao remembered Aquino for the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“Ito po ang pinaka-importanteng nagawa nya para sa (This was his most important achievement for) Mindanao during his time and with the MILF,” Undersecretary Nabil Tan of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said.
Bangsamoro Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said it was during the Aquino administration that the pace of the negotiations between the government and MILF accelerated.
“We remember with a deep sense of gratitude his contribution in establishing the self-governing political entity now called the BARMM. He was bold and brave enough to meet with the then rebel and Chairman of the MILF in a third country, a first in the history of the Moro struggle,” he said.
The meeting hastened the pace of the negotiations and led to the signing of the FAB and CAB, he added.
On June 16, 2015, Aquino and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim inspected the 70 firearms decommissioned in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.
“His administration showed its commitment to working with the Bangsamoro people and facilitated a peace process that help ease the burden of armed conflict and displacement of the Bangsamoro people,” Bangsamoro Member of Parliament Zia Alonto Adiong said.
Basilan Governor Jim Hataman Saliman expressed his “deepest condolence to the bereaved family.”
“The completion of the circumferential road of Basilan was a support that was given to us Basileños, when I was then the representative of the lone district of Basilan, and the appointment of (then Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) regional governor Mujiv Hataman paved the way for us in the defunct ARMM to at least realize that all is not hopeless. A legacy that words are not enough to thank him (PNoy).”
“We always remember him as a good friend and a good leader, who will always be at your side when you are on the right side. His memories will always be a part of the province and am sure the country as a whole. May his soul rest in peace,” the governor said.
“It is with deep sadness to learn of the passing away of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III at an early age of 61. It is in the custom of Muslims for the soul of the departed to face his Lord and be judged in peace, and the living should not speak ill nor pass judgements on the departed for Allah, alone, has the Power and the Majesty over all creations,and He is the ultimate Judge,” Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said.
“We condole with the bereaved family, friends and supporters of the late President. May his soul rest in eternal peace with his Lord,” Tan said.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the sudden and untimely demise of our 15th President. His leadership and services to the country will never be forgotten,” Dipolog City Mayor Darel Uy said, adding, “Paalam Former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy’ Aquino III.”
The local governments of South Cotabato and General Santos City also joined other LGUs in mourning the passing of the former president on Thursday.
South Cotabato and GenSan flew the Philippine flag at half-mast to grieve and pay tribute to the contributions of Aquino to the Filipino people.
Tributes from civil society leaders
Meranaw leader Samira Gutoc said she was saddened by the death of the former president.
“He was a calm leader, an epitome, the one who believed first and foremost in reforms in a post-Ampatuan era of the autonomous region,” Gutoc said.
Moro Consensus Group Chair Drieza Lininding said the Bangsamoro people should credit Aquino for not launching a bloody military operation in Mindanao.
Lininding said the Mamasapano raid that left 44 police commandos, 17 MILF fighters, and five civilians dead in January 2015, was targeted against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Even during the Zamboanga standoff in 2013, Lininding said Aquino stayed in the city for 21 days to ensure that the fighting would not spread.
“I have to give it to President Noy, as a critic (but I have no personal enmity) of his administration for what happened (Mamasapano and Bangsamoro Basic Law), but compared to others, I think he was the only one who did not launch a war against Moro communities or did not kill Moros unlike now,” Lininding said.
Balay Mindanaw Foundation Chair Charlito Manlupig said they remembered they played host to Aquino as he made his journey of discernment in Mindanao before the 2010 elections.
“We honor and celebrate his life, his legacy and significant contribution to peacebuilding in Mindanao,” Manlupig said. (Froilan Gallardo and Frencie L. Carreon with report from Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)