Page last updated at 04:51 GMT, Saturday, 1 August 2009 05:51 UK

Philippine ex-leader Aquino dies


Corazon Aquino had been suffering from colon cancer for more than a year

Former Philippine leader Corazon Aquino, Asia's first female president, has died at the age of 76.

She had been suffering from colon cancer for more than a year and recently refused further treatment.

Her family had said she was leaving her fate to God, prompting church services offering prayers for her health.

National mourning has been declared for Mrs Aquino who became president when the 1986 "people power" uprising deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Cory remained untainted by corruption up until her last days in office
Nelson, Long Beach USA
BBC News website reader

Hundreds of people have been visiting her home and the EDSA shrine where her 1986 revolution culminated, leaving flowers and lighting candles. Many tied symbolic yellow ribbons to their cars, and on trees near her home.

Mrs Aquino's body will lie in state at the De La Salle Catholic school in Manila from Saturday evening to Monday morning.

She will be buried beside her husband at the Manila Memorial Park in a private ceremony on Wednesday, her son said.

Coup attempts

"Our mother peacefully passed away at 0318 [1918 GMT Friday] of cardio-respiratory arrest," the son, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr, told the media.

Supporters of former Philippine President Corazon "Cory" Aquino pray for her recovery from cancer at a "healing mass" on 3 July at a Catholic chapel in Manilas financial district
Mrs Aquino's supporters had offered prayers for her recovery

"She would have wanted us to thank each and every one of you for all the prayers and the continuous love and support," he said.

"It was her wish for all of us to pray for one another and for the country."

Mrs Aquino, who was known as Tita (Aunty) Cory, had been admitted to hospital about a month ago suffering from a loss of appetite related to her condition.

A series of daily masses were held to pray for Mrs Aquino's health, at least one of which was attended by her former political rivals, President Joseph "Erap" Estrada and former first lady Imelda Marcos.

Catapulted to the top

Mrs Aquino was catapulted into politics following the murder of her husband, the prominent Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, who had been preparing to run for president.

He had already spent seven years in prison following President Marcos's declaration of martial law, with his wife as his only contact with the outside world.

Mrs Aquino said of her husband's death: "What is more important is that he did not die in vain and that his sacrifice, certainly, awakened the Filipino people from their apathy and indifference."

After winning the presidential elections in 1986, she went on to run a country deeply divided after years of martial law and communist insurgency.

She battled several coup attempts against her rule, protected the country's fledgling democracy and freed political prisoners.

In recent years, she campaigned against former President Estrada, but then reconciled with him to join protests against incumbent President Gloria Arroyo over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption.

She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and later received several awards and citations for her work to promote democracy and human rights.

Tribute from president

The current president of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, announced 10 days of national mourning.

Arroyo: Aquino "helped lead our nation to a brighter day"

"Cory Aquino helped lead a revolution that restored democracy and the rule of law to our nation at a time of great peril," she said.

"Our nation will mourn her passing. History was thrust upon her when her noble husband was cut down in the prime of his life, as he fought for democracy and the rule of law.

"She picked up the standard from the fallen warrior Ninoy and helped lead our nation to a brighter day...

"Our hearts go out to the family in this hour of grief and sorrow."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also paid tribute, saying Mrs Aquino had "helped bring democracy back to the Philippines after many years of authoritarian rule with a faith in her country and its people that never wavered".

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