(Note: When the 18th Senate adjourns this June, eight senators, including the trio of Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Ralph Recto, will bid it goodbye. On Tuesday, May 31, Sen. Grace Poe took the floor to pay tribute to them)
Mr. President, it’s never easy to say goodbye, especially to colleagues you admire and are grateful for. Eight—or one third—of the seats around us will soon be vacated. Their departure leaves us with the same feeling as having lost somebody.
Many of those who will answer the roll for the last time began as work colleagues, who later became allies in causes fought, and ended up as great friends from whom I freely receive and also gave life hacks to, like food and tips on where to eat when visiting a town or province in the country.
Dahil tao lang din po kami, also often shared among us are jokes that light up our day and lighten our work—jokes which, thankfully, have not become laws. Ang biro nga, iba’t-iba man ang adhikain ng mga mambabatas, lahat sila ay mga ‘Marites’ naman, lalong lalo na ang mga kalalakihan. I cannot yet begin to imagine a Senate without its three top leaders: The presiding officer who is equally firm and fair in the use of the gavel; a minority leader who knew when to stand his ground and when to strike common ground; a president pro-tempore who has the interrogatory and intimidatory skills of a terror teacher, but from whom one learns so much.
In the age of Covid, Senate President Tito, because of his youth, was classified as medically vulnerable. But instead of sheltering at home, he showed up without fail in this House of ours, reporting for duty so that we can work from home. The image of him presiding over an almost deserted plenary, save for the majority leader, is a profile of courage that will be forever etched in my mind. When the pandemic bred confusion, he kept us cohesive so that we were still able to churn out laws, in the same deliberative fashion that did not sacrifice scrutiny for speed.
Diyan ako saludo kay Senator Sotto. He never pulled the plug on any of us, when he could have easily done so and abbreviated debates with the pandemic as a convenient excuse. This makes this musical legend a great conductor of the symphony of legislation. He allowed us to find our own voice and sing our own songs, while keeping us on the same page. The result is that all the laws passed under his skillfull baton were in perfect harmony with the challenges of the times.
To the other Tito in the Senate, Tito Frank, damo nga salamat for your generous mentoring. When I was a neophyte in the Senate, I deemed myself your apprentice. Now I could say that my life has been blessed for having been touched by kindness twice by Ilonggos, first in the church in Iloilo, and later in this cathedral of ideas that is the Senate.
Senator Frank teaches by example. No need for a tutorial. Just watch and learn. Especially on how to raise the quality of bills without raising one’s voice and everybody else’s blood pressure. The Senate is his classroom where he teaches us how to compose laws without having to lose one’s composure.
He’s a legal powerhouse that dispenses advice pro bono, often privately, so that your pet bills have been improved and constitutionally armorplated even before they reach plenary.
What can I say about Senator Ralph but share the impression of every person in this room. That one should not go up against him in debates unprepared. Grabe itong Batangueñong ito. He kept us awake at nights preparing and kept us on our toes on the floor when he is carpetbombing us with questions. He would say, “No, no, am with you on this bill. This is a good bill,” until you’re in plenary.
He can numb you with statistics and neutralize you with novel theories. He treats bills as needlework and examines each thread carefully. And sometimes it is easier for a carabao to pass through the eye of a needle than for a bill to pass through Senator Ralph.
But the good thing about Senator Ralph is that he cancels his being cantankerous on the floor by being Mr. Congeniality outside of it.
I will also miss the company and counsel of those I have shared the trenches with for the past decade or so.
Beginning with the lady behind bars but who keeps on fighting the good fight. Senator Leila is unbroken, but her incarceration is proof that our justice system is— broken.
Senator Dick is one senator who repaid the two Senate terms the people had given him with fearless fiscalizing in the Senate’s finest tradition. He would wade into issues without fear of stepping on the toes of the powerful, as bravely as he would wade into floodwaters to help typhoon victims.
To Senator Kiko, I see that you have gone back to farming. You indeed plant what you preach. You leave behind an orchard of laws that will put food on the table of people you have never given up fighting for since your UP barikada days.
Senator Manny, ikaw ang tunay na GP—Ginoong may Puso. Your life story is inspiring. Hindi ka nagpa-knockout sa kahirapan, your fights are legendary, ni-knockdown mo sila. But what will enshrine you in the Hall of Fame up there is you sharing your blessings with people who are struggling like you were once before. Ibinangon mo at binago mo ang buhay ng marami.
Senator Ping, take your well-deserved R&R after 55 years of service to the Republic—panahong mas mahaba pa sa buhay ko.
From guardian of the peace to guardian of the purse is one great career that was only made possible because you called a spade a spade, and you spoke truth to power and to the people uncomfortable with that truth.
All of the eight, every one of them, will leave a void in this Chamber as big as the one in my hear.
It is now up to us to fill this with the same dedication and industry they had shown when they walked and worked with us.
For that is how we honor the labors of departing colleagues—not by remembering their deeds and pine that they are sorely missed, but by working as hard as them so that their spirit lives on.
Image credits: Roy Domingo