Former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was an incorruptible public servant, and a fighter while he privately battled his illnesses.
That is how Rene Almendras, who also served in various positions under the Aquino administration from 2010-2016, described the late president.
In his eulogy after the 8 p.m. mass at the Church of Gesu inside the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City on Friday, Almendras revealed that Aquino flatlined more than a year ago after undergoing a medical procedure.
“Nung binibigyan po siya ng anesthesia, nag-flatline po ang Presidente for a few seconds. Nagkagulo po kami. Hindi po namin alam kung anong gagawin. Buti na lang po na-revive ang Pangulo,” Almendras said.
[Translation: When he was given anesthesia, the President’s heart flatlined for a few seconds. We were rattled. We didn’t know what to do. Fortunately he was revived.]
Almendras served as Cabinet Secretary, Energy chief, and top diplomat of Aquino. He said the former President wanted the incident – and his subsequent illnesses – kept secret.
He added Aquino was also looking forward to undergo a kidney transplant and went through dialysis and angioplasty. The 61-year-old Aquino died Thursday due to renal disease secondary to diabetes.
“We were so looking forward to the transplant. He was a fighter to the end. Kilala nyo siya, hindi sumusuko si PNoy (You know him, PNoy doesn’t give up),” Almendras said.
‘Wang-wang’ represents abuse of power
Almendras met Aquino in their college years in Ateneo during Martial Law. He recounted that people were frightened to get close to the former President for fear of getting caught by the police. He also recalled they carefully chose places to eat so restaurant owners won’t be questioned by state forces.
“Alam ni PNoy ano pakiramdam, what it is to be helpless, to be powerless. Alam ni PNoy what it feels to be api but that did not make him a bitter person,” Almendras said.
[Translation: PNoy knows how it feels to be helpless, to be powerless. PNoy knows how it feels to be oppressed but that did not make him bitter.]
Aquino’s experience during the Martial Law years inspired him to ban wang-wang, or the indiscriminate use of sirens, when he assumed the presidency in 2010.
“Wang wang was a representation of the abuse of power that you rightfully have,” Almendras said.
Almendras also recalled the former President hates photo opportunities. He cited an instance where people questioned why Aquino did not hug the relatives of the 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force who died in a botched operation in Mamasapano in 2015.
“Sana niyakap ni Presidente yung isang namatayan. Hindi siya ganun. Hindi niya gagawin yun para pakitang tao lang (Some said the President should have hugged the relatives of the slain policemen. He’s not like that. He will not do that just to show off),” Almendras said.
Almendras added that Aquino did not want to immediately proceed to places ravaged by natural calamities because he wanted local officials to focus on their rescue and relief efforts.
“Bakit tayo pupunta doon ngayon? Manggugulo lang tayo. Imbes ayusin ng mga alkalde at military yung mga taong naapektuhan, tayo pa ang aalahanin nila,” Almendras recalled Aquino’s order.
[Translation: Why do we have to go there now? We will only cause an inconvenience there. Instead of the mayors and the military assisting the affected people, they would be worrying about us.]
Aquino as a man of faith
Almendras also denied earlier reports that Aquino is not religious, saying the late President expressed his prayers through music.
He said Aquino was listening to religious song “Anima Christi” on the day Filipino migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso was about to be executed in Indonesia. The Indonesian government did not push through with the execution of Veloso so she can testify against her alleged illegal recruiters.
“That is how he prayed and he prayed. There will be times in the midst of problems, yun po ang sasabihin niya: ‘Alam mo pre, hindi ako nakatulog kagabi pero nagdasal ako’ (he would say: ‘You know, I did not sleep last night but I prayed hard’),” Almendras said.
As he ended his eulogy, Almendras said Aquino laid the roots for a better nation that will be enjoyed by future generations.
“Alam ng Diyos ang iyong ginawa para sa bayan at para sa Pilipino (God knows what you did for this country and for Filipinos),” Almendras said.