Incumbent and past senators on Wednesday tagged their late colleague Ernesto “Boy” Herrera as a modern-day Apolinario Mabini.
Herrera, a member of the Senate from its revival in 1987 to 1998, passed away on October 29 at age 73.
Herrera’s remains were taken to his hometown in Cebu after necrological services at the Senate. His interment is scheduled for November 10.
Herrera represented the First District of Bohol after his stint as senator and wrote a column for The Manila Times.
A stalwart of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, he rose to prominence as the youngest member of the Agrava fact-finding commission, which probed the 1983 assassination of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd and former Senate president Ernesto Maceda likened the polio-stricken late senator to Mabini, the revolutionary hero known as the “Sublime Paralytic.”
Drilon, who was Labor secretary in the first Aquino administration, described Herrera as the “20th century Apolinario Mabini who courageously overcame polio to become one of the country’s outstanding public servants.”
He said he initially met Herrera in the 1970s when he was still in private law practice as legal counsel for corporate entities. The late senator was then secretary-general of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).
“In many labor disputes, we found ourselves sitting across the bargaining table. I have nothing but my admiration for this principled man, he defended the rights of the working class, not for his personal gain but for the improvement of the workers’ general well-being,” Drilon noted during the necrological services at the Senate where the remains of Herrera were taken on Wednesday.
Senate Resolution 1639, expressing sympathy and condolence on the demise of Herrera, was adopted in consideration of Senate Resolution 1646. The resolutions were authored by Drilon and Sen. Nancy Binay, respectively.
“[He was a] cut above the rest, a legend in his own right,” Drilon said. “As a person, Boy Herrera was a decent man with a noble heart and a gentle soul, his dedication to public service is sterling example to younger generation of politicians and public servants,” he added.
“His integrity and idealism set him apart and put him the in the lead of truly honorable men who will continue to inspire many generations of labor leaders and lawmakers,” Drilon said.
Sotto, meanwhile, reminisced on the time he and Herrera were seatmates. He said he also had the privilege of working with Herrera in their anti-illegal drugs advocacy that dated back when Sotto was vice mayor of Quezon City with the late senator spearheading the Citizen’s Drug Watch.
“No words can measure the life of Herrera, his works speak louder than words, our words,” Sotto added.
“In the obsession of power and wealth, he did not shout about humility, he was simply humble. At the time, it was dangerous to decide, he did not shout about courage, he was simply courageous. He did not shout of protecting the youth, he was in the forefront in the fight against crime and illegal drugs. He did not shout for labor, he was there for them. He did not shout about excelling, he simply excelled,” he said.
Maceda said Herrera shepherded more than 20 laws, mostly on labor.
“There is no issue that he could not discuss,” he noted.
“He is always a very quiet but an effective legislator, he is a quiet supporter of everybody’s pet bill,” Maceda said.
“We are suffering in a feeling of loss. We only hope that being the moder-day Apolinario Mabini, there will be many others who will follow you,” said Maceda, who like Herrera was among the 24 “Cory’s choice” in the 1987 senatorial elections.
Cory is then-President Corazon Aquino.
Former Senate President Edgardo Angara’s speech was delivered on his behalf by his son, Sen. Juan Edagardo Angara.
“I joined Cory’s ticket to represent education, while Boy represented the trade unions. We were among the 22 of 24 senators in her ticket to emerge victorious. I remember Boy speaking from rally-to-rally, in province after province. He was on his crutches, he was a dramatic figure with a booming voice and a quaint accent when speaking in English,” Angara said.
“He achieved far more than his able-bodied counterparts and he lived a life of singular purpose. He remains an inspiration to us all,” he added.