Corazon Aquino and the ultimate resource

Summing up a life as eventful as Corazon Aquino's is a talented obituary writer's dream. In these early hours after the death of the former president of the Philippines, I think Phil Bronstein of the San Francisco Chronicle has done the finest job.

Bronstein, who reported from the Philippines during Aquino's peaceful overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos, understands the most important points: That she was a Nobel Prize nominee, not that she was a Time Person of the Year; that her vision was informed by her Catholic faith, but that she could only change so many things in her six years as president.

Unlike other reporters, Bronstein identifies the moment that transformed Aquino from a widow into a formidable challenges of Marcos:

... She only shook those doubts when a godson, Jeremias de Jesus, and a campaign worker were murdered in the family province of Tarlac.

"When they killed Jerry," she told me soon after, "that had such an impact on me I went on the offensive."

She began giving speeches, calling Marcos "a coward, a liar and a thief."

"Normally I don't like attacking people," she said. "It's not my nature."

But she relished it and so did the growing crowds.

In the Los Angeles Times, reporters Bob Drogin and John M. Glionna deliver this Catholic-bashing shot:

Her administration had little success in alleviating the grinding poverty that affects more than half the population or in stamping out the nation's endemic cronyism, graft and corruption. A staunch Roman Catholic, she gutted birth control programs in one of Asia's most crowded and poorest countries.

Imagine that: A Catholic politician in a nation that's about 80 percent Catholic allowed Catholic faith to shape her policy on birth control. Did I miss the memo that declares Malthusianism as such an important standard for evaluating politicians?

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