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Duterte criticizes Cory legacy a day after her death anniversary

MANILA, Philippines – A day after the late president Corazon Aquino's 10th death anniversary, President Rodrigo Duterte criticized her legacy, zeroing in on her controversial land reform program.

Speaking to land reform beneficiaries in Davao City on Friday, August 2, Duterte said that while Aquino was a celebrated icon of democracy, she had deprived many farmers of their land by allowing her family's own sugar plantation in Tarlac to be exempt from land reform.

"Cory Aquino may be popular, she is popular. Why? For losing the husband in the hands of Mr Marcos. But what is the fundamental reason why some day 30 years from now we may try to balance history? Because Aquino declared land reform for the entire Philippines but exempted [Hacienda] Luisita, her own land," Duterte said.

He, however, acknowledged that many Filipinos may feel gratitude towards Aquino for bringing back democracy after the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

But he said Aquino's legacy is an "incongruity."

"So you call her what – the one who freed, emancipated? It's incongruity, they call it," the President said.

In a historic final ruling in 2012, the Supreme Court awarded to farmer beneficiaries about 4,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita.

In 2013, the Aquino government began giving farmer beneficiaries land titles to plots of Hacienda Luisita land.

Admirer of Marcos

Duterte has openly expressed admiration for Marcos, saying he was the best president the Philippines has ever had, save for the dictatorship. The Marcos regime plunged the government into billions of pesos of debt and was tainted with human rights abuses and massive corruption.

Today, members of the Marcos family are staunch allies of Duterte. Meanwhile, former president Benigno Aquino III is a symbol for the opposition Liberal Party. Duterte has accused its members and leaders of plotting to overthrow his government.

Cory Aquino, widow of prominent opposition senator Benigno Aquino Jr, was catapulted into the presidency after the People Power Revolution, which led Marcos to flee the Philippines.

Her term, while celebrated as a return to democracy, had its own issues, from military coup attempts to allegations of incompetence. Still, Cory remained one of the country's most beloved political figures, until her death in August 1, 2009.

It was during her term when Duterte was appointed Davao City vice mayor officer-in-charge, kickstarting his political career. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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