The sudden demise of former president Benigno Simeon “PNoy” Cojuangco Aquino III was felt across the miles even in the United States where the late PNoy stayed during the Marcos years.

His family stayed in Boston until his father and senator Ninoy was assassinated in Manila in 1983. 

Among those who feel a very personal loss is President Aquino’s San Francisco-based aunt Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara, Ninoy’s sister.  

Kashiwahara fondly recalls Pnoy as a gentle, caring soul, considerate and open-minded nephew.  

Aunt Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara (right) with President Pnoy (left)

“In politics, we had major differences but he was always willing to listen. Whenever I needed to contact him, even though he was busy with affairs of state, he would always respond and for that I will always be grateful,” Kashiwahara remembers. “He continued the return of Philippine democracy started by his father Ninoy and nurtured by his mother Cory. And for that the country will be eternally grateful.”  

In an email statement, community leader and US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) President and lawyer Rodel Rodis offered deepest condolences to former President Benigno Aquino III’s family and to all his loved ones at this unfortunate time on behalf of USP4GG.  

Rodis recalled that the precursor of their organization was the US Pinoys for NoyMar which was formed in August of 2009 after the death of former Pres. Cory Aquino which sparked the presidential campaign of Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III.  

Following PNoy’s victory, they decided to mobilize their members to attend the presidential inauguration on June 30, 2010 and over 150 of them from all over the US attended PNoy’s induction at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta.  

On July 1, 2010, their organization was transformed into what is now USP4GG as they committed themselves to assist PNoy in his efforts to reform Philippine society and rid the government of corruption. 

Not wanting to limit themselves to those goals, USP4GG learned about China’s violation of the territorial integrity of the Philippines in 2011 and “we concentrated our global efforts to exposing China’s invasive intentions in the Philippines.”

To this end, they organized protest rallies in front of Chinese consulates and embassies throughout the world that PNoy supported and that subsequently led to the president denouncing China in the United Nations (UN) and in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). After China invaded the Scarborough Shoal in 2012, PNoy filed a claim against China before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations. 

“Under PNoy’s leadership, the Philippines won the most significant maritime victory in world history. Unfortunately, the Philippine UN victory was handed down in July of 2016 when Pres. Aquino was no longer president,” lamented Rodis. “To properly honor Pres. Benigno Aquino III, we pledge to continue his defense of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and we dedicate ourselves to ensuring that foreign invaders will never trample our sacred shores. Mabuhay si Pres. Benigno Aquino III!” 

Another key player in the Philippine UN victory against China was former San Francisco Philippine Consul General Henry Bensurto, Jr. (2014-2020) who also was concurrently assigned as the Head of Department of Foreign Affairs Legal Team on West Philippine Sea (formerly referred to as South China Sea or SCS) issues from July 21, 2014 to July 31, 2016. 

Former San Francisco Philippine Consulate General head Henry Bensurto Jr. (right) conferred the Order of Lakandula by President Aquino (left) in 2013.

“That man may have many faults…as all of us have. But he stood for the country. He walked the talk. Walked with the rest of us … the entire Filipino Nation … all the way to 12 July 2016 … against all odds … all difficulties … all humps … sometimes even against his closest friends and allies to do what is right …for me, that is character. Viriliter Agite,” wrote Bensurto in describing PNoy.

Bensurto remembered standing very close with then Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario and PNoy in all ASEAN meetings and Summit quietly conferring on their next move, adjustments in the strategy, what to articulate and what to do in resisting China’s bullying and its expansive 9-dash line claim.  

 “Nobody wanted to confront the awakened Giant.  It was very tempting to take the easy route:  to abandon the campaign and go back to the fold and good favor of China.  But the President and Secretary del Rosario did not. We did not. Walang iwanan.  We stayed the course. We endured. We persevered. We struggled,” Bensurto poignantly recalled. By 2016, the Tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines. 

“This is his legacy to all Filipinos — past, present, future generations; those in the archipelago or elsewhere; whether full, half, one-fourth, or any with an iota of Filipino blood in their veins – our dignity,” Bensurto declared.

Province mate in Concepcion, Tarlac Donnie de Leon said, “Both mother (Cory) and son (PNoy) were so very careful, upright and honest avoiding the impression of favoritism for Tarlac on infrastructure projects. They don’t want to give even a tinge of suspicion that Tarlac was being favored particularly in the appropriation of budget through the so-called pork barrel system. Most of the time, the province mates were told that other places in the country, particularly in the remote areas of Visayas and Mindanao, needed the limited resources more than Tarlac. And that to me is something that our province mates understood and admired — the integrity that both Aquino presidents had.”    

Tarlaqueños agreed with the Aquino sisters in their decision not to bring the remains of PNoy to Tarlac for viewing and wake as requested by Tarlac Gov. Susan Yap in due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic 

For their part, Digong Duterte Supporters NorCal (DDS-Northern California) leader Reynaldo Aralar sent this message of sympathy.

“DDS-NorCal joins the Filipino people in mourning the passing of former president Benigno Aquino III.  His impact and contributions to the advancement of the Filipino people will be remembered.  We are asking everyone to set politics aside at this time and let’s all unite in prayer and give respect to the man (and family).”