Helena Benitez, educator, 102

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FORMER Senator Helena Z. Benitez, a pioneer environmentalist, educator and advocate of culture passed away early Thursday. She was 102.

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Benitez, fondly called Tita Helen, was known for her genuine dedication to environment protection and conservation when she was a member of the Senate.

The Senate has lowered its flag at half-mast to honor the former senator.

The former senator’s remains will be cremated Friday. On Monday, her ashes will be taken to the Senate.

Her family requested the public to consider making a donation to the Helena Z. Benitez Endowment Fund in lieu of sending flowers.

Born in Manila on June 27, 1914 to Conrado Benitez and Francisca Tirona-Benitez, the former lawmaker served in the Philippine Senate from 1968 to 1972. She authored and co-authored significant legislation on education, manpower and youth development, family, housing and environment.

Among the laws she helped pass includes Republic Act 5752 or The Municipal Forests and Watersheds Act, RA 6147- The Philippine Eagle Protection Act; Republic Act 6148 – The Tamaraw Sanctuaries Act;. Republic Act 6239 – The Forestry Profession Law; and Republic Act 6541 – The National Building Code.

She is also responsible for the first comprehensive report on the State of the Philippine Environment in 1971; and Congressional Joint Resolution No.3 establishing basic policies which shall guide the country in its efforts to bring about social and economic development through environmental planning.

Benitez was the first Filipina to have chaired the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the first Filipina member of the Board of the International Association of Universities, and the first Filipina conferred the Presidential Award of the Order of Sikatuna, with a Rank of Datu.

She held several university degrees including Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science in Education, Magna Cum Laude, Philippine Women’s University; and Master of Arts, George Washington University, USA (1939); Post Graduate Studies, University of Chicago and Iowa State College, USA.

On June 4, 2012, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 786, sponsored by Sen. Loren Legarda, honoring her for her service to the Filipino people.

She is also a recipient of numerous citations and awards from many government and
non-government entities for her contribution in education, women, environment and habitat, civic and church work and international affairs.

Benitez served as the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Women’s University.

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