(Delivered at the Senate necrological services for the late former Senate President Ernesto Maceda, June 23.)
MR. Senate President, distinguished members of the Senate, Mrs. Marichu Maceda, members of the Maceda family, friends, ladies and gentlemen:
We gather here this afternoon to express the profound sorrow of the Senate and the nation upon the passing of our dear brother, comrade and friend, former Senator and Senate President Ernesto Maceda, whose voice once reverberated in this hall to expose the wrongdoings of wrongdoers and to help craft laws, good laws, for the present and future of this Republic.
Together with his family and loved ones, we bid him farewell and pray that God in his infinite love and mercy will not consider his human frailties and imperfections but look only upon the love and sincerity with which he had sought to serve Him, his country and his people. Imperfect he came unto this world, imperfect he departs; but our faith allows us to believe that an all-loving and all-merciful God will clothe him with perfection.
Love or friendship can lead us to idealize or enlarge in death the life of those who are dear to us. It is never easy to be moderate when speaking of a brother, comrade or friend we have just lost.
We hope we are forgiven this excess if we lapse into it when speaking of our dear departed brother.
Manong, as he liked to be called and as everyone called him, was on top of every activity in which he chose to involve himself. For someone who never got to be President, he dominated the public consciousness in ways very few could imagine possible.
This was true even when he was just a young Manila councilor, true when he was in the Marcos and Cory Cabinets, true when he was here in the Senate, true when he briefly became an ambassador to the United States, and true when he gave up all official duties and titles to preside over his column, “Search for Truth,” on the Philippine Star.
In the Senate, no coup to change the Senate president was possible, or even thinkable, without Manong. He helped to unseat and install Senate presidents; at one time he even managed to install himself. Even after he had left the Senate and had become the Ambassador to the United States, he still managed to influence his former colleagues in installing his friend, Nene Pimentel, as Senate president.
He left a permanent mark upon this institution not only as some kind of Inspector Javert determined to hound wrongdoers beyond the water’s edge, but above all as a patriot prepared to sacrifice honor and every political comfort or convenience for the motherland, whenever necessary or possible.
Elected senator as one of Cory Aquino’s candidates in the first senatorial election after the EDSA revolt, he chose, together with 11 other mostly Cory Aquino senators, to reject the President’s treaty with the United States renewing the term of the bases for another 10 years. For someone who had gotten part of his higher education from Harvard and received sanctuary in the US during the Marcos years, this seemed unthinkable.
But setting aside his long close personal friendship with the late Ninoy Aquino and his widow Cory, he stood on the Senate floor on Sept 16, 1991 to help pronounce the death of the treaty. “In this summer of disaster and discontent,” he said, “I vote NO to a document of enmity, division and disadvantage, and another instrument of surrender. Mr. President, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, for God and country, consummatum est.”
He lived long enough to see that spectacular patriotic Senate victory grounded into cinders under the presidency of the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, who signed an executive agreement instead of negotiating a treaty (to turn the whole country into one large military base under EDCA), just to avoid its possible rejection by the Senate. A servile vote by the Supreme Court has since constitutionalized the unconstitutional agreement, but this does not blur the line that Manong and his 11 other companions had drawn between patriots and their antitheses in our midst.
Most of our countrymen will long remember Manong mainly or probably only as “Mr. Expose.” Even that is more than enough. For it was an irreplaceable service, which the investigative and prosecutory branch of our government simply failed to support and pursue to its very end. But when today we hear that the most notorious drug lords are conspiring to put up a bounty on the head of our newly elected President no less, it becomes very clear that the matter of being Mr. Expose entails no small amount of risk and no small amount of courage.
The wonder of it all is that in spite of the enormous number of scams Manong had exposed, he was never known to have made personal enemies of those he had exposed. He was adversarial, uncompromising and firm, but he was never mean-hearted or mean-spirited, and even the objects of his exposes never doubted that he was doing things for the common good.
On Monday evening, I got the message that Manong had passed away. I could not believe it. For there was no prior report of accident or illness, and it seemed like he could go on forever—as in forever. And when his family and the Senate asked me the next day to say a few words here this afternoon, I immediately began to ask myself, what can I possibly say about him? For although I am in the business of words and could say a few thousand words on maybe anything, Manong was the most public of all public men, and he left very little about himself for anyone to talk about, which the public did not already know.
As Senate majority leader, I ran the Floor for Manong when he was Senate president, as I did for several other Senate presidents—Ed Angara, Neptali Gonzales, who with Manong’s help became Senate president more than once, Frank Drilon, and Nene Pimentel, who again with Manong’s help, even from Washington, DC, became the Senate president. Together, we had one of the most productive partnerships in the recent history of the Senate. But my close official association with Manong simply enlarged my knowledge of his public persona without allowing me to enter the inner sanctum of his private self.
Most probably because he gave himself totally to the nation and left himself no private life at all. But I have no doubt that in his moments of deep anguish and torment he bared himself naked before the Lord and surrendered himself wholly to his care. I suspect that his interior life was much richer and bigger than he had allowed the public to see—for it was for God alone to see.
For me, the presence of his beautiful family with us this afternoon, his faithful wife Ichu and all his sons, all accomplished in their respective fields, is but a small proof of this.
We shall miss and mourn Manong deeply. But for those of us who see death simply as a final stop in the journey that begins with God, and ends with God, we have every reason to hope that this cannot be the end. I pray, and I hope you pray with me, that when the moment of final reckoning comes, the Lord who came, died and rose again for us will thank Manong for giving him food and drink when he was hungry and thirsty, for sheltering him from the heat and the cold, for protecting him when he was being harassed, and when Manong asks him, in utter disbelief, when and where did he ever do these things to the Lord, the Master of Eternity will tell him, as Scripture tells us, “when as public servant you did these to the least of your brethren, you did them unto me.”
Let us all pray for the soul of Manong Maceda, and let us pray that whatever good he has failed to do we and our children would be able to do ourselves.