Aquino mourns death of Mandela

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Friday, December 6, 2013

MANILA (Updated) -- President Benigno Aquino III joined other leaders on Friday in expressing sympathies to the family of Nelson Mandela and the South African people.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president who became one of the world's most beloved statesmen and a colossus of the 20th century when he emerged from 27 years in prison to negotiate an end to white minority rule in South Africa, died Friday. He was 95.

"On behalf of the entire Filipino people, I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Mandela, the people of South Africa, and all men and women of peace and goodwill who mourn the passing of a truly great man," Aquino said in a statement.

For today, Aquino said Mandela united his people in the spirit of compassion and inclusiveness, so too does he unite the rest of the world -- not only in grief and mourning, but also in respect and admiration for a life lived with strength, courage, humility, and dignity.

Aquino said that Mandela's memory will serve as durable guide to humanity, as "we seek to bequeath to future generations a world better than we found it."

He called Mandela as the father of modern South Africa, an exemplar of conscientious resistance to racism, and exponent of reconciliation founded on justice.

"The life he lived makes us cognizant of those who have suffered persecution, yet refused to allow it to plunge their lives into bitterness or vengeance. Whether in the isolation of his prison cell, or in subsequently renouncing violence and making possible the abolition of apartheid and the creation of a truly pluralistic South Africa, Nelson Mandela sought to unite his people on the basis of humane aspirations for a just society," he said.

On a personal note, Aquino recalled the kind words that Mandela told him when the latter visited the Philippines when he was still a congressman of Tarlac.

"He told me then, 'You chose your parents well.' My mother admired him; like all of us, she would have been deeply saddened by his passing," Aquino said.

The President said he understands what the global outpouring of support and sympathy might mean to Mandela’s family and all South Africans, especially after a long-drawn illness such as the one that he went through.

"We must now all take comfort from the fact that a great man is now at peace, with the Filipino people and all humanity heirs to his example and vision," he said.

Other political leaders also expressed their admiration for Mandela.

"Mandela embodied the unconquerable spirit and the healing power of forgiveness. His life inspires us to strive for a world where freedom, equality, tolerance and understanding reign," said Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Senator Loren Legarda, a former journalist, recalled Mandela's humble character during his state visit to the Philippines in 1997.

Legarda said Mandela told her in an interview that he did not see the need to run for reelection because he believed in collective leadership.

Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, stepped down in 1999 after five years in power.

"Mandela's life was fully dedicated towards world peace for which he has received numerous awards, recognition and earned the great respect of a global nation," said House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

"He was and continues to be a legacy that has inspired many world leaders to uphold our freedoms. He has left a void in many hearts and shoes difficult to fill in this lifetime," he added.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. described Mandela as a revered world leader who led his nation and people to freedom via peaceful means.

"We grieve over the death of Nelson Mandela, a revered world leader, who led his nation and people to freedom by treading the path of peace. He endured decades of imprisonment with unwavering fortitude and perseverance, affirming that taking the peaceful, non-violent path to freedom is one that brings about sustained and enduring fulfillment of a people’s aspirations for full emancipation," Coloma said in a statement.

"In death as in life, he will always be a shining beacon of inspiration to all freedom-loving peoples," he added.

Mandela fought apartheid and served 27 years in prison for his cause.

Following his presidency, he continued to serve as an elder statesman.

Coloma said that in March 1997, then President Mandela visited the Philippines and praised the restoration of democracy in the country.

Mandela also paid tribute to the late President Corazon Aquino for leading the struggle against authoritarianism.

During his visit, Mandela was also conferred an honorary doctorate degree by the University of the Philippines.

The Philippines and South Africa established diplomatic relations in November 1993 and the Philippines opened an embassy in Pretoria, South Africa in June 1994 shortly after President Mandela’s inauguration. (SDR/Virgil Lopez/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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