In September 1972, Aquino's father, who was then a senator and prominent opposition leader to President Ferdinand Marcos, was arrested for subversion. In August 1973, Aquino's father was brought before a military tribunal in Fort Bonifacio. On August 25, 1973, Aquino's father wrote a letter to his son from Fort Bonifacio, giving advice to his son;
"The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience.
There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength.
In 1980, after a series of heart attacks, Aquino's father was allowed to seek medical treatment in the United States, where Aquino's family began a period of self-exile. In 1981, shortly after graduation, Aquino joined his family in the United States.
In 1983, after three years in exile in the United States, Aquino's family returned to the Philippines, shortly after the assassination of his father on August 21, 1983. He had a short tenure as a member of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, working as an assistant of the executive director of PBSP. He later joined Mondragon Industries Philippines, Inc. as an assistant Retail Sales Supervisor and assistant promotions manager for Nike Philippines, Inc.
From 1986 to 1992, during the presidency of his mother, Aquino joined the Intra-Strata Assurance Corporation, a company owned by his uncle Antolin Oreta Jr., as vice president.
On August 28, 1987, eighteen months into the presidency of Aquino's mother, rebel soldiers led by Gregorio Honasan staged an unsuccessful coup attempt, attempting to lay siege to Malacañang Palace. Aquino was two blocks from the palace when he came under fire. Three of Aquino's four security escorts were killed, and the last was wounded protecting him. He himself was hit by five bullets, one of which is still embedded in his neck.
From 1993 to 1998, he worked for Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the sugar refinery in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita. He was employed as the executive assistant for administration from 1993 to 1996 and subsequently worked as manager for field services from 1996 to 1998.
During the campaign, Aquino reached out to his former enemy, Senator Gregorio Honasan, supporting his application for bail. Aquino told Job Tabada of Cebu Daily News, on March 5, 2007;
"I endorse Honasan's request for bail para parehas ang laban [to even out the playing field]. I was hit by bullets from Honasan's men in the neck and hips but that's past now. The principle of my father was, 'Respect the rights even of your enemies.' Ito ang nagpatingkad ng demokrasya [This is what defines democracy]. Genuine reconciliation is democracy in action."
Aquino was referring to an unsuccessful coup attempt staged by rebel soldiers led by Gregorio Honasan on August 28, 1987, in which Aquino was seriously injured.
The Budget Impoundment and Control Act (SB 3121), wherein "impoundment" refers to the power of the president to refuse the release of funds appropriated by the Congress of the Philippines, is another bill Aquino is proud of; he regretted, however, that such power has been used and abused by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a result of which abuse has been the significant emasculation of Congress' ability to check the president's authority. Aquino filed this bill so the president would have to pass through Congress every time the president decides to impound part of the budget.
Another significant Aquino contribution to the Philippines' corruption problem is Senate Bill 2035, which is the Preservation of Public Infrastructures bill, seeking to raise standards in the construction of all public infrastructures by penalizing contractors of defective infrastructures. The bill also requires the Bureau of Maintenance under the Department of Public Works and Highways to conduct periodic inspections of public infrastructures.
Aquino also pushed for the passage of the Amending the Government Procurement Act (SB 2160), which applies to all government procurement activities regardless of source of funds whether local or foreign; only treaties or international/executive agreements entered into by the government prior to its enactment shall be exempt from coverage. The bill was filed in light of the Department of Justice declaration regarding the validity of the controversial NBN-ZTE scandal, wherein its international aspect, as well as the fact that it was an executive agreement, was cited as one reason for its exemption from the procurement process stipulated in Republic Act 9184.
Focusing further on accountability in government appropriations and spending, Aquino filed other reform-oriented, well-thought-out types of bills, among which were for: Philippine National Police reform; an increase in penalties for corporations and work establishments not compliant with minimum wage; the banning of reappointment to the Judicial and Bar Council; the prevention of reappointment and bypassing of the Commission on Appointments; real property valuation based on international standards; and superior responsibility for senior military officers, who are ultimately responsible for their own subordinates. However, none of these bills were passed into law.
On August 27, 2009, Edgardo "Eddie" Roces, son of the late Chino Roces, former publisher and owner of The Manila Times, and a group of lawyers and activists formed the Noynoy Aquino for President Movement (NAPM), a nationwide campaign to collect a million signatures in order to persuade Aquino to run for president, reminiscent of Roces' father, who on October 15, 1985, launched the Cory Aquino for President Movement (CAPM), collecting more than one million signatures nationwide, asking Aquino's mother to run against Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 presidential snap elections.
In September 2009, the Liberal Party held numerous press conferences in relation to the 2010 elections at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan, the site of the presidential inauguration of Aquino's mother in February 1986.
On September 1, 2009, at the Club Filipino, in a press conference, Senator Mar Roxas, president of the Liberal Party, announced his withdrawal from the 2010 presidential race and expressed his support for Aquino, as the party standard-bearer instead. Aquino later stood side by side with Roxas, but did not make a public statement at the press conference. The next day, Aquino announced that he would be going on a "spiritual retreat" over the weekend to finalize his decision for the elections,visiting the Carmelite sisters in Zamboanga City. reminiscent of his mother's own soul-searching in 1985 before deciding to run for the elections the following year. He came back on September 9 to formally announce his candidacy. Almost two weeks later, Roxas pledged to run alongside Aquino as the Liberal Party standard-bearer for vice-president. The two men filed their respective certificates of candidacy for president and vice-president on November 28, 2009.
Fake psychiatric reports on Aquino's mental health began circulating online during the 90-day election campaign period from February 9 – May 8, 2010, Aquino received information that the first such report came from the wife of Nacionalista Party supporter and former National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) president Guido Delgado, a move Aquino claims was made with "malicious intent". A second report came from an unidentified supporter of SenatorManny Villar, the Nacionalistas' leader and presidential candidate. Later presented by Delgado at a press conference, the psychiatric report was supposedly signed by Father Jaime C. Bulatao, S.J., PhD, a Jesuit priest, a professor of Psychology and a clinical psychologist at the Ateneo de Manila University, taken when Aquino was finishing his Bachelor's degree in Economics at the university in 1979. It reportedly showed that Aquino suffered from depression and melancholia, the priest later denied writing the document at all. Another supposed psychiatric report that later surfaced claimed that Aquino suffered from major depressive disorder; the report's supposed author, Jesuit priest Father Carmelo A. Caluag II, denied writing any evaluations of Aquino. The university's psychology department later debunked the documents, with Aquino labelling them as another desperate effort by rivals to malign his reputation.
The presidential residence of Aquino is Bahay Pangarap (English: House of Dreams), located inside of Malacañang Park, at the headquarters of the Presidential Security Group across the Pasig River from Malacañang Palace. Aquino is the first president to make Bahay Pangarap his official residence. Malacañang Park was intended as a recreational retreat by former President Manuel L. Quezon. The house was built and designed by architect Juan Arellano in the 1930s, and underwent a number of renovations. In 2008, the house was demolished and rebuilt in contemporary style by architect Conrad Onglao, a new swimming pool was built, replacing the Commonwealth-era swimming pool. The house originally had one bedroom, however, the house was renovated for Aquino to have four bedrooms, a guest room, a room for Aquino's household staff, and a room for Aquino's close-in security. The house was originally intended as a rest house, the venue for informal activities and social functions for the First Family by former President Manuel L. Quezon. Malacañang Park was refurbished through the efforts of First Lady Eva Macapagal, wife of former President Diosdado Macapagal, in the early 1960s. First Lady Macapagal renamed the rest house as Bahay Pangarap. During the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos, the house was restored and became the club house of the Malacañang Golf Club. The house was used by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to welcome special guests. Aquino refused to live in Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines, or in Arlegui Mansion, the residence of former presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos, stating that the two residences are too big, and also stated that his small family residence at Times Street in Quezon City would be impractical, since it would be a security concern for his neighbors.
On August 23, 2010, in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, Manila, the site of Aquino's presidential inauguration, the Manila hostage crisis occurred. Aquino expressed concern over the matter and gave his condolences to the victims. Aquino defended the actions of the police at the scene, stating that the gunman had not shown any signs of wanting to kill the hostages. Aquino ordered a "thorough investigation" into the incident, and would wait until it is completed before deciding whether anyone should lose his or her job. Aquino declared that the media may have worsened the situation by giving the gunman "a bird's-eye view of the entire situation". Aquino also made reference to the Moscow theater hostage crisis, which, according to Aquino, resulted in "more severe" casualties despite Russia's "resources and sophistication". On August 24, 2010, Aquino signed Proclamation No. 23, declaring August 25, 2010, as a national day of mourning, instructing all public institutions nationwide and all Philippine embassies and consulates overseas to lower the Philippine flag at half-mast, in honor of the eight Hong Kong residents who died in the crisis. On August 25, 2010, at a press conference in Malacañang, Aquino apologized to those offended when he was caught on television apparently smiling while being interviewed at the crime scene hours after the Manila hostage crisis. Aquino said;
"My smile might have been misunderstood. I have several expressions. I smile when I'm happy, I smile when I'm faced with a very absurd situation...and if I offended certain people, I apologize to them. It's more of an expression maybe of exasperation rather than anything and again, I apologize if I offended certain people, who misunderstood (my) facial expression."
President Aquino's administration was criticised during and after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in November 2013 for the government's "slow" response to aid the victims. This criticism resulted in countries like Canada to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of the typhoon through non-governmental organizations and not the Philippine government, wherein the Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines, Neil Reeder cited "the speed, because of the need to move quickly, and because we don’t, as a government, want to be involved in the details, nor do we think it’s efficient to have other governments involved."
Noynoying (pronounced noy-noy-YING or noy-NOY-ying) is a protest gimmick in the form of a neologism that Aquino's critics have used to question his work ethic, alleging his inaction on the issues of disaster response and rising oil prices. A play on the term planking and Aquino's nickname, Noynoying involves posing in a lazy manner, such as sitting idly while resting his head on one hand, and doing nothing.