The lawyers in his government remembered the late former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III as the Philippine leader who took regional giant China to international court.
"President Aquino will be remembered for initiating the filing of the arbitration on West Philippine Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration as chief architect of our foreign policy," said retired Supreme Court justice Francis Jardeleza, who was Aquino's solicitor general when the Philippines took the territorial dispute to The Hague.
"This is, to me, is his lasting legacy to the Filipino people," said Jardeleza, who had reached out to the Duterte administration to propose a new baselines law to enforce the arbitral award.
"We will do [Aquino] honor by helping our present president, President Duterte, and future presidents, chart a durable enforcement mechanism, by joining the present, and future, debate on enforcement," he added.
Aquino died on Thursday morning, June 24. He was 61 years old, and had been suffering from several illnesses since 2019.
Retired supreme court justice Conchita Carpio Morales, who began serving as ombudsman during the Aquino administration, noted that Aquino earned the Philippines "international respect."
"He was an example of decency and earned us international respect," Morales said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who had served Aquino as deputy executive secretary for legal affairs, also highlighted Aquino's initiative to bring China to court.
"One of former president Aquino's biggest decisions was to confront China in an international tribunal over the issue of the West Philippine Sea," said Guevarra.
As Duterte continued to dawdle on how to enforce the arbitral award in consideration of his friendship with China, Guevarra said of Aquino's move, "Only history will judge if it was his greatest decision."
After serving the Aquino administration, Guevarra continued his work in Malacañang under his close friend, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and later, as Duterte's second justice secretary.
"Leading a country like the Philippines with enormous social, economic, and political challenges is a colossal task. Anyone who accepts this awesome responsibility, like the late president Benigno Aquino III, deserves our utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude," said Guevarra. – Rappler.com