Cory Aquino, the woman who beat a dictator, dies

Philippines to honour adored homemaker who toppled the Ferdinand Marcos regime

Corazon Aquino, who was propelled by the assassination of her husband into a crusade that saw her defeat Ferdinand Marcos, the then president of the Philippines and one of the 20th century's most corrupt dictators, died yesterday. She was 76.

Later, as supporters scattered yellow confetti on the procession, her body was taken to a Manila school, where it will lie in state. Her funeral will take place on Wednesday at the capital's cathedral. She had been diagnosed with advanced colon cancer last year, and, for the past month, had been confined to a Manila hospital. Her old adversary, Imelda Marcos, even led prayers for Cory Aquino in the final weeks of her illness.

So ends the life of the woman whose 1986 uprising inspired eruptions of street democracy around the world – heady years that were a far cry from the privileged circumstances in which she was born. She attended a private school in Manila and earned a degree in French from a New York college. In 1954 she married Ninoy Aquino, the ambitious heir of another political family who was to rise from provincial governor to senator and, finally, opposition leader.

Marcos, elected president in 1965, was not inclined to tolerate challenges to his rule. In 1972, he declared martial law to avoid term limits, abolished Congress, and jailed Ninoy and thousands of opponents, journalists and activists without charge. Mrs Aquino became her husband's political stand-in, confidante, message carrier and spokeswoman. A military tribunal sentenced her husband to death for alleged links to communist rebels but, under pressure from the then US president, Jimmy Carter, Marcos allowed him to leave in May 1980 for heart surgery in America.

It was the start of a three-year exile. With her husband at Harvard, holding court with fellow exiles, academics, journalists and visitors from Manila, Mrs Aquino was the homemaker, raising their five children and serving tea. Then, in 1983, her husband decided to return home. While she and the children remained in Boston, he flew to Manila, where he was shot on leaving the plane. The government blamed a communist rebel, but subsequent investigations pointed to a soldier escorting him from the aircraft. Mrs Aquino heard the news in a phone call from a Japanese journalist.

Three days later, the newly widowed Mrs Aquino returned to the Philippines, and, a week later, led the largest funeral procession Manila had seen, with crowds estimated at two million. With public opposition mounting against Marcos, he called a snap election in November 1985. The opposition, including the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime L Sin, urged Mrs Aquino to run. "What on earth do I know about being president?" she asked.

After the vote, on 7 February 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 two weeks later, 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 Catholic Church to jam the broad highway in front of the camp to prevent an attack by Marcos forces.

On the third day, against the advice of her security detail, Mrs Aquino appeared at the rally alongside the mutineers. 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 her, claiming that Marcos had won the election by fraud. President Ronald Reagan, a long-time supporter of Marcos, called on him to resign, and, on 25 February, he was flown with his family on a US plane to Hawaii, where Marcos died three years later. That day, Mrs Aquino was sworn in as the country's first female leader.

In office, she struggled to meet high public expectations. Her land redistribution programme fell short of ending economic domination by the landed elite, including her own family. She was often indecisive, her term punctuated by coup attempts. But, for all this, the bespectacled, smiling woman in her trademark yellow dress was beloved in the Philippines, where she was known as "Tita [Auntie] Cory".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Partnership Sales Executive - TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...

Sauce Recruitment: Account Director

£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Development Manager - North Kent - OTE £19K

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea