FATE, IT SEEMS, HAS LINKED the fortunes of the Philippines and the Aquino family. The charismatic Benigno Aquino Jr. enjoyed a meteoric political career before falling out with then-President Ferdinand Marcos and leading the opposition to his corrupt and dictatorial regime. In 1983, returning to his homeland from exile in the U.S. to campaign for a return to democracy, Aquino was gunned down moments after landing at Manila International Airport.

His widow, Corazon, picked up the reform mantle and led the historic People Power Revolution that peacefully deposed Marcos in 1986 and installed her in the Malacañang Palace. Her six-year presidential term entrenched democracy in the archipelago nation but did little to improve the country’s lagging economic performance or bridge the yawning gap between rich and poor.

Today, Benigno Aquino III is seeking to fulfill his parents’ legacy. Since assuming the presidency after a resounding election victory almost two years ago, Aquino, 52, has been pursuing a two-pronged strategy that he contends will enable the Philippines to finally achieve its potential. His government is leading a crackdown on the corruption that has plagued the country for decades, and has promised to pursue wrongdoing at the highest levels. So far, it hasn’t flinched. In November the authorities arrested Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, on charges of election fraud and barred her from leaving the country. In January the Senate, which is controlled by Aquino’s Liberal Party and its allies, began a trial on articles of impeachment against Renato Corona, chief....