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Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, whose name became synonymous with ‘people’s power’, has passed away. She was not only Asia’s first female President but also, the person who spearheaded the movement that toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. As wife of Senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino, a fierce opponent of Marcos, she was often regarded as “just a housewife,” even dismissed as a “political zero.” It was only after the assassination of her husband that Corazon Aquino shot into the limelight. She was catapulted into the leadership of the anti-Marcos movement and became the opposition’s presidential candidate in the 1986 elections. She provided momentum to the movement to oust Marcos and united a fractious opposition. She won over the support of the country’s business community and the military as well, sections that were loyal to Marcos. When Marcos rigged the presidential election, she was able to get millions of people marching on the streets of Manila demanding his exit.

Aquino’s achievements as President of Manila were patchy. Her land redistribution program did not weaken the hold of the Philippines’ feudal families. Her social and economic reforms were a disappointment. However, her contribution to consolidating democracy in the Philippines cannot be ignored. She encouraged a free press, set up an independent judiciary and presided over free elections. This was not an easy task given the considerable opposition she faced from Marcos loyalists and right-wing sections in the military. There were seven bloody coup attempts during her tenure as President.

Aquino’s ‘people’s power’ movement inspired movements against military dictators and authoritarian rulers in Asia and other parts of the world. Not all these other movements succeeded as some simply ran out of steam or were brutally crushed. Still Aquino’s ‘people’s power’ movement showed the world that ordinary people, armed with nothing but determination can bring the most repressive dictators to their knees. It made people believe that change was possible. It was a signal to dictators that even the support of the US was not insurance enough against the might of ‘people’s power.’ Though active in the political arena for less than a decade, Aquino leaves behind a formidable legacy.

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