Filipinos in U.S. laud the late Sen. Jovito Salonga
SAN FRANCISCO — U.S.-based Filipinos extolled the late Senate President Jovito Salonga, who passed away at 95 on March 10 as a towering fighter for democracy, in the Philippines and while he was in exile in the United States.
Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara, sister of Salonga’s contemporary Senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr., fondly recalled that Ninoy called Salonga “Prof,” a sign of respect and admiration for the latter’s intellect and role as one of Ninoy’s lead lawyers during his “kangaroo trial” before a military tribunal during Martial Law.
“I remember Jovy (Salonga) as one of the leaders of the opposition forces who fought against the tyranny of dictatorship, both in the Philippines and during his exile in the U.S. He was a man of principle and vision, qualities that seem to be in short supply among those who are in the political arena. He will be missed,” shared Kashiwahara.
Philippine Consul-General in San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr. believe the whole country was saddened by the passing of “a very good man who was a very integral part of contemporary history, a very valiant defender of democracy, an institution when it comes to human rights, and the struggle for freedom and dignity.”
“Having participated in those struggles for democratic rights, I am saddened to see a good man die,” Bensurto intimated. “His legacy includes all the things that he fought for, democracy, human rights, freedom, human dignity, these are values that we will continue to hold dear to our hearts and continue to fight for and ensure not to lose again. This is something we will carry in the next decades or so and have to fight for and exert a lot of effort to preserve. The whole country and the next generations will forever be grateful to him and he has our love and admiration.”
Senator Heherson Alvarez, erstwhile secretary-general of the Movement for Free Philippines (MFP also led by Senator Raul Manglapus) and a founding chairman of Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM), recalled that Salonga was a guerilla fighter maltreated in prison during the Japanese occupation.
“We deeply mourn the loss of a fellow freedom fighter against a home grown oppressor,” Alvarez said in an email message. “The clarity of his democratic vision was the spine for his vigorous conscientious objection to martial rule, contrary to the current attempts of twisting history that the dark era of the Marcos conjugal dictatorship was the ‘golden age’ in our country.”
Alvarez recalled that under a restored democracy, Salonga vigorously asserted Philippine sovereignty, helping terminate the U.S. bases agreement.
“He impressed me as an intelligent man with high principles and integrity,” said attorney Ted Laguatan who worked closely with Salonga in uncovering “the billions (of dollars) stolen from the Filipino people by the Marcoses,” preparing the mechanism for the search “even before the dictator’s downfall. He devoted his entire life to public service and continued even after the serious injuries he suffered in the Plaza Miranda bombing. Truly an admirable man.”
Rodel Rodis, also an attorney and an INQUIRER.net columnist said Salonga w was his inspiration in becoming a lawyer: “I knew he topped the bar in 1944 and that he went to Yale.”
“I met him personally in 1986 after he was appointed by President Cory Aquino as chair of the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) tasked with the recovery of the billions of dollars Marcos and his cronies stole from the PH government. He came to San Francisco and I met him as a volunteer PCGG attorney,” Rodis said.
Rodis recalled that Salonga went to Pasadena and interviewed Marcos paramour Dovie Beams about what she knew of the Marcos wealth. Beams told them that she didn’t know that much because she barely got out of the country after Imelda tried to get her killed.
“I got to know him personally and I was impressed by the sharpness of his intellect and inspired by his passionate love of our country. He was a patriot of the first order,” Rodis said.
For her part, author, editor and journalist Gemma Nemenzo believes that if Senator Salonga was set as the standard by which Filipinos choose their leaders, no one in the current crop of politicians would pass.
“He was the last of the great statesmen, along with Senators Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Tanada, Jose W. Diokno — people who made us proud at a time when being a legislator was considered a sacred trust, not a means to plunder or to abuse.”
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