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Corazón Cojuangco Aquino (born January 25, 1933), widely known as Cory Aquino, was President of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992. She was the wife of the popular opposition senator Benigno Aquino Jr., and when he was assassinated at Manila airport on his return from exile in 1983, Cory Aquino became the focus of the opposition to the autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Early life and career
Maria Corazón Sumulong Cojuangco was born in Manila into one of the richest families in the Philippines, the powerful Cojuangcos of Tarlac province. Her mother's family, the Sumulongs, also belong to a political family in Rizal. She has Spanish, Chinese, and Malay roots.
She grew up privileged, sent overseas to study in Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia, the Notre Dame Convent School in New York, and Mount St. Vincent College , also in New York. She studied mathematics and graduated with a degree in French in 1953.
She returned to the Philippines to study law at Far Eastern University, but in 1955 she married Benigno Aquino Jr., who had just been elected mayor of Concepción in Tarlac province at the age of 22. She eventually bore him five children: a son, Benigno III, and four daughters, Maria Elena , Aurora , Victoria , and Kristina. He rose to be governor and senator, then under the Marcos regime was arrested, sentenced to death, and exiled. She accompanied him into exile in 1980. After his death she entered politics as head of the Laban coalition.
When Ferdinand Marcos unexpectedly called for a presidential election in February 1986, the opposition united behind Aquino to oppose the Marcos regime. Although she was officially reported to have lost the election to Marcos, the elections were widely believed to be fraudulent. Both Marcos and Aquino claimed to have won, and held rival inaugurations on February 25, but Marcos then fled in the face of huge popular demonstrations and the refusal of the military to intervene against them.
Despite the euphoria following the overthrow of the Marcos government, Aquino faced the massive challenge of restoring the nation. She established a revolutionary government under the terms of a provisional "Freedom Constitution", legally establishing the structure of the government pending the adoption of a permanent, democratically-drafted constitution. In late 1986, the Aquino administration appointed a Constitutional Commission to draft the new constitution. It was ratified on February 7, 1987. Congressional and local elections soon followed, setting up a government based on popular and democratic mandate.
Aquino drew praise for her support for democracy, and was selected as Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 1986. Despite her enormous personal popularity and that of the new constitution, Aquino continued to face repeated military coup attempts and communist insurrection. Marcos loyalists continued to oppose the government, culminating in a failed July 1987 attempt to establish a rival government at the Manila Hotel, with Arturo Tolentino as temporary president. A more serious threat came from an attempted coup in August 1987 led by Col. Gregorio Honasan . Rumors of coup attempts continued to plague the Aquino administration.
In the 1992 Philippine elections, Aquino backed Fidel V. Ramos, Marcos' army chief-of-staff whose defection to the Aquino party proved crucial to the popular revolution. This decision was unpopular among many of her core supporters, including the Catholic Church (Ramos is a Protestant). Ramos narrowly won with just 23.5 percent of the vote, and succeeded Aquino as president on June 30, 1992.
Following the end of her term, Aquino retired to private life. When she rode away from the inauguration of her successor, she chose to go in a simple white Toyota Crown she had purchased (rather than the government-issue Mercedes), to make the point that she was once again an ordinary citizen. She has directed a number of projects that aim at furthering the spread of Asian democracy.
In 2002, Aquino received an honorary doctorate from the University of Washington in Seattle.
Holding a grandchild feels better than being president.—Corazon Aquino
- History of the Filipino People, by Teodoro Agoncillo , 1990.
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