Filipinos pay last respects to Aquino

Aug. 4, 2009 at 11:40 AM
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MANILA, Philippines, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Filipinos will have Wednesday as a holiday to pay their final respects to former President Corazon Aquino, who died last week of colon cancer.

Hundreds of people filed past the body of "Cory" Aquino, 76, which lay in state at a Catholic school in the capital Manila since Sunday, the day after she died, local media report.

Afterwards tens of thousands braved the rain-soaked streets as her body was transferred to lie in state at Manila Cathedral yesterday. Flags have been flying at half-staff through the capital, and people have been tying yellow ribbons around trees and cars out of respect.

The government immediately declared 10 days of mourning until Aug. 10.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who gave notice that she is cutting short her current visit to the United States, also proclaimed that Wednesday will be a "special non-working holiday nationwide."

The government offered a state funeral, but the Aquino family controversially declined. She will be buried beside her assassinated husband, former Sen. Benigno Aquino, at the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Paranaque City.

Macapagal-Arroyo will arrive in Manila at around 3 a.m. Wednesday, her official press office noted, only hours before the private Aquino funeral is to take place. There is no official announcement that she will be attending the funeral, but the press office said she intends at least to pay her respects if possible before that.

Tensions between the Aquino family and Macapagal-Arroyo were revealed by Kristina Bernadette Aquino, the youngest daughter of the former president, in a national television program on Sunday.

She said the government decided to recall two soldiers serving as her mother's bodyguards after the former president called on Macapagal-Arroyo to step down in 2005.

"From what I understand, the unit taking care of former presidents was being dissolved. We were requested to write a letter justifying why my mom should keep her bodyguards," Kristina Aquino said on the popular celebrity program called "The Buzz," in which she is also a co-host.

"But it's my mom's right to have security. We just wanted the respect due my mom, a former president. Don't take away my mom's security blanket," she was quoted as saying by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.

Kristina Aquino also expressed gratitude to the family of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos who was unseated by an Aquino-led non-violent Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986. She thanked the Marcos family for offering their prayers, the Inquirer reported.

"I never thought the time would come (that I would say this), but thank you to the Marcoses for really praying for mom," she said.

Manila media widely reported that former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos said she wanted a reconciliation with the Aquino family.

"I can feel the pain, the loss of a loved one, so I am in prayer. If these two families reconciled, there will be a miracle for the Philippines," she said on national television.

Aquino's husband, Benigno, was believed assassinated by a group operating for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1983, the main event that pushed a reluctant Cory Aquino into politics.

Benigno had been preparing to run for president and had just returned from exile in the United States.

Cory Aquino's presidency helped set up a more stable democracy in the island nation, and her government oversaw the writing of a new constitution limiting a president's time in office to one six-year term.

But analysts point out that greater economic progress was not a lasting legacy, and she left office in 1992.

She is also known for a famous remark when embarking upon her political quest for the presidency. "What on Earth do I know about being president?" she asked.

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