US cable: Cory Aquino an ‘icon’ but ‘tarnished, weak’
The late President Corazon Aquino was undoubtedly an “icon of democracy” and “one of the Philippines’ modern heroes,” read a 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Manila that was released by WikiLeaks, the online whistle-blower.
However, in the unclassified July 2, 2009, memo to the Department of State, then US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney called Aquino “only a partial icon of morality.”
Kenney, since posted to Bangkok, noted that “Aquino’s credibility as a moral crusader was tarnished when she was seen with disgraced former President (Joseph) Estrada in protest movements against (then) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—even after she had supported then Vice President Arroyo’s successful second People Power revolt in 2001 that ousted Estrada.”
The diplomat reported that Aquino’s “falling out with Arroyo continued after Arroyo moved to distribute Hacienda Luisita—the huge sugar estate belonging to the Cojuangco family of which Aquino was a part—to its workers under the government’s agrarian reform program.”
“Revered as a hero for taking the reins of power at a difficult moment in Philippine politics and at a time of great personal loss, President Aquino leaves behind an incomplete transition to democratic governance that, while marked by great personal freedom for Philippine citizens, never seems to have properly taken root in the institutions that must handle the difficult task of governing a diverse and divided society,” said Kenney.
According to Kenney, Aquino’s “moral leadership, while coming at an important time for the Philippines, never fully compensated for her weak leadership style.”
“Her presidency was marked by numerous coup attempts and allegations of corruption.”
Following her tenure, “her antipathy toward President Arroyo led her to ally with more dubious political figures such as President Estrada, blemishing her reputation as a moral crusader,” the cable continued.
“The Philippines must also live with an imperfect 1987 Constitution that, according to some observers, was passed in extreme haste to meet an artificial deadline imposed by Aquino, taking the country from one extreme—rigid rule under Marcos—to another extreme, in which minority parties and groups without defined constituencies (such as the Philippine Senate) are given extensive power at the expense of a more mature and stable political system,” Kenney said.
In the same cable, Kenney reported on Aquino’s “serious medical condition after a 15-month battle against cancer.”
“Prospects for her recovery are dim… Relatives, friends and political supporters began a nine-day healing Mass on July 1 for the country’s venerated moral icon… Having witnessed their father’s political persecution under the Marcos dictatorship, the Aquino children are inconsolable over losing their remaining pillar of strength… Two of Aquino’s five children are popular personalities in politics and media and are likely to carry forth their mother’s support for democratic rule,” Kenney said.
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