10 events that define Philippine President Aquino's legacy

In this handout photo taken on April 13 and released by Malacanang Photo Bureau, Philippine President Benigno Aquino (right) talking to one of the wounded soldiers who clashed with Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants.
In this handout photo taken on April 13 and released by Malacanang Photo Bureau, Philippine President Benigno Aquino (right) talking to one of the wounded soldiers who clashed with Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines holds elections on Monday (May 9) to choose a successor to President Benigno Aquino, who will step down on June 30. Here are 10 crucial victories and setbacks that came to define his six years in office:

1. Hong Kong hostage crisis

Barely two months in office, Aquino faces his first major crisis when a disgraced policeman takes a busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage on Aug 23, 2010.

The gunman and eight hostages are killed in a hail of gunfire hours later in a bungled police rescue operation that deeply embarrasses the young administration and strains ties with the Chinese territory for years.

2. Prosecution of ex-President Arroyo for vote fraud

Aquino made good on a vow in 2011 to have his predecessor and arch-rival Gloria Arroyo arrested and stand trial for vote fraud.

When the country's chief justice, Renato Corona, takes steps to get Arroyo bailed, Aquino allies have him impeached and removed from office. Arroyo remains under house arrest for the rest of Aquino's term as the trial drags on with little progress.

3. Law mandating free contraceptives 

Aquino signed in 2012 a landmark law mandating the state provide free contraceptives to poor couples and teach sex education in schools, defeating years of opposition by the dominant Roman Catholic church. The law was suspended by the Supreme Court after church groups filed petitions arguing it was unconstitutional, but was approved by the top court in 2014.

4. Improved credit rating

Once regarded as Asia's basket case, the Philippines wins its first investment-grade credit rating in 2013, with Fitch Ratings citing the political and economic reforms implemented under Aquino.

Similar upgrades from Moody's and Standard and Poor's follow later that year.

5. Typhoon Haiyan

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land at the time, smashed into the central islands and launched tsunami-like waves that devastate the city of Tacloban on Nov 8, 2013.

The typhoon left at least 7,350 dead or missing across a swathe of poverty-stricken central islands the size of Portugal.

6. Confronting China over South China Sea

Unable to counter China's military might as it lays claim to most of the South China Sea, Aquino's government countered by filing a suit at a UN-linked international arbitration tribunal in the Hague in July 2015. China refuses to recognise the proceedings.

A ruling on Manila's bid to have the Chinese claims declared illegal is expected shortly after Aquino stands down.

7. Cementing US military ties

In the face of an increasingly assertive China, the Philippines in March 2016 sealed an agreement with its main defence ally allowing US troops and equipment to rotate through Philippine military bases in a move designed to bolster the country's territorial defence.

8. 44 elite commandos killed in botched raid

Elite police commandos raided in January 2015 a remote southern village and kill Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, who is on a US "terrorist" most wanted hitlist, but the team was ambushed by other Muslim guerrilla groups and militias.

Forty-four soldiers died in what has become known as the Mamasapano massacre, after the town where the killings occurred. The incident provoked public outrage that eventually derailed a peace agreement with the country's main Muslim rebel group.

9. Mindanao peace pact canned

Angered by the killings of the police commandos, Congress failed in 2015 to pass a law aimed at creating a Muslim autonomous region in the south of the mainly Catholic nation.

The law had been key to complying with the terms of a 2014 peace deal with the 10,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the nation's biggest Muslim rebel group. The peace process is placed in limbo until the next president takes over.

10. Abu Sayyaf beheading

Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State extremists dumped the head of Canadian retiree John Ridsdel on a street on a remote island in April 2016. Ridsdel was one of four people kidnapped six months earlier from yachts harboured at a luxury marina.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed outrage and Aquino vowed to "neutralise" the group, which holds other Canadian, Dutch, Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino hostages.

But, as in the past, the militants survive.