Benigno Aquino III

Noynoy Aquino honored on 5th anniversary of Hague ruling

Jairo Bolledo

LEGACY. This file photo shows late former president Benigno Aquino III during his inauguration.

Presidential photo

'As we commemorate this landmark ruling, so too do we commemorate the kind of leadership that makes victories like this possible,' the Liberal Party says, paying tribute to the late former president

Tributes poured in for the late former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III on Monday, July 12, the fifth anniversary of the 2016 Hague ruling.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima, Aquino’s longtime ally, honored the former president for fighting for the country’s sovereign rights. In a statement, the senator narrated Aquino’s confrontational stance against China.

Hindi naduwag. Hindi nagpakatuta. Hindi nagpa-bully. Hindi huwad ang tapang. Ang salita niya ay tinumbasan ng gawa. Hindi nagpasindak sa lakas ng Tsina, sa halip ay inuna ang Pilipino, ipinaglaban ang ating kalikasan at kabuhayan, ipinagtanggol ang integridad ng ating soberanya, at itinaguyod ang ating pambansang dangal,” De Lima said.

(He stood his ground. He did not appease anyone. He did not allow himself to be bullied. His courage was genuine. He walked the talk. He was not terrorized by China but instead prioritized Filipinos, fought for the environment and livelihood, defended the integrity of our sovereignty, and upheld our nation’s reputation.)

Sa ngalan ni PNoy at ng kanyang legasiya, patuloy nating ipamalas sa buong mundo ang pagkakaisa at paninindigan para sa katarungan, katotohanan, at demokrasya,” she added.

(For the sake of PNoy and his legacy, let us continue to show the world our unity and resolve for justice, truth, and democracy.)

Aquino, who died of renal disease secondary to diabetes on June 24, was known as the president who brought China to court.

Under his administration, the Philippine government filed an arbitration case against China at the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration to address the problem with China’s territorial ambition.

On July 12, 2016, the Hague ruling favored the Philippines on its claims in the West Philippine Sea. The ruling invalidated China’s claims and reaffirmed the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea principle, which states that the Philippines owns all the features located within its exclusive economic zone. 

According to former deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, Aquino meticulously read the decision of the arbitral tribunal first before issuing a statement. 

“He would read the decision, line by line, word for word, until he was satisfied that he understood it fully. Only then would he speak, despite having been handed the decision of a lifetime,” Valte shared in a tweet. 

“As I told him after the dust had settled: Maraming salamat, Mr. President. Napakatayog ng lipad ng bandila natin sa araw na ito (Thank you, Mr. President. Our flag flies more triumphantly today),” she added.

The Liberal Party (LP), Aquino’s political party, also paid tribute to the former president and said that the commemoration of the 2016 Hague ruling is also the commemoration of Aquino’s leadership.

“As we commemorate this landmark ruling, so too do we commemorate the kind of leadership that makes victories like this possible: a leadership founded on the belief that ‘The Filipino is worth fighting for,’ as opposed to one that cowers and yields to bullies,” the LP said.

The National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea (NYMWPS), a youth organization that promotes the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, also honored Aquino for the 2016 Hague ruling, which, according to the group, is his greatest legacy.

The youth group added that Aquino shepherded the country through very difficult times and helped the Filipinos renew their patriotism.

“[Aquino], in faithful performance of his duties under the Constitution, zealously guarded and protected the country’s sovereignty on all fronts – culminating in the country’s victory in the arbitral tribunal decision on the West Philippine Sea against China’s territorial ambitions,” the youth group said. 

On Monday, during a forum commemorating the landmark Hague ruling, international security expert and former consultant of the National Security Council Renato de Castro said that while Aquino had a confrontational approach, President Rodrigo Duterte has changed the political landscape and approach against China. 

He added that Duterte’s nonenforcement of the 2016 Hague ruling sent a signal that the the Duterte administration is appeasing China instead of confronting it. 

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“This policy of appeasement is clearly manifested when President Duterte himself declared just a few months after the ruling came out in July 2016 that he had to set aside the ruling because of [the] changes in the regional security equation given the fact that the People’s Liberation Army already occupied those seven artificial islands that were created and occupied by Chinese forces,” De Castro said.

For the past five years, Duterte never enforced the ruling. Instead, he continuously reiterated his defeatist remarks that the country cannot do anything against China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.