SENATORS from past and present Congresses gathered on Thursday at the Senate Office to pay tribute to their former colleague, ex-senator Eva Estrada Kalaw, who passed away last week.
Kalaw, 96, was first elected to office in 1965 as a senatorial candidate of Nacionalista Party and was reelected in 1969, earning her the title as the first woman who served the Senate for two consecutive terms.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd led the presentation of Senate Resolution (SR) 399, expressing the Senate’s sympathy and condolences to the family of the former senator, who was also an outstanding volunteer social worker.
SR 399 described Kalaw as “a fighter for freedom and democracy,” being one of the major voices against the Marcos regime for which she was imprisoned twice on false charges.
“Even before martial law was declared in 1972, she was already active in [opposing][then-] President [Ferdinand] Marcos. She hosted meetings of opposition stalwarts like Ninoy Aquino and Jovy Salonga in her house. She was injured in the Plaza Miranda blast,” Pimentel said in his eulogy.
Ninoy was late former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jovy was another late former senator, Jovito Salonga
The Plaza Miranda bombing in 1972 nearly wiped out top leaders of the opposition Liberal Party.
Pimentel cited Kalaw’s role in the Senate as chairman of the Committee on Games, Amusement and Tourism and of the Committee on National Minorities, where she pushed for creation of a single government office to handle national policy for tourism.
“Truly, hers was a life well-lived. And by her choice, it was well-lived in the service of the Filipino people,” he said.
Pimentel added that apart from being a lawmaker, Kalaw worked with organizations that sought to help children in conflict with the law and special children.
She also joined hands with groups that helped people with tuberculosis and those that helped the youth and the community.
“She may have been born in a different era, but the values of integrity, respect for the rule of law and dedicated service to the people that she believed in and practiced remain as relevant as ever. Tita [Aunt] Eva, we are here to continue your causes,” the Senate president said.
Former senator Eddie Illarde, a colleague of Kalaw in the 7th Congress, described the late senator as a “model public servant, beautiful in mind and in spirit, sincere in her ardent desire to dedicate her life in the service of our people.”
“She was our muse, a term which she hated when we were together campaigning. She was our older sister. She was our mentor, our team leader. She was an inspiration in our quest for political victory. She was one of the boys, with much courage in fighting for what is right, for the good of our country and our people,” Ilarde said.
For former senator Rene Saguisag, Kalaw was a voice during their time and Congress needs lawmakers like her who will be asking questions.
“Unfortunately, what we see now are echoes, not voices. She was a voice in our time,” he said.
Senator Gregorio Honasan 2nd, who first met Kalaw when he graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1971, said that as a public servant the late senator was “ideologically and politically blind, reaching out and finding common cause across the imaginary partisan political divide.”
“She eloquently spoke by clear example, decisive action and reflective silence, driven by rational and responsible choices that motivated her to demand that any government, must above all, protect life, liberty and property,” he said.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza mourned the passing of the former senator.
“We have lost a dedicated freedom fighter—a leader of the democratic system in our continuing struggle for a better Philippines,”Atienza said in a statement.
“We will always cherish the years we spent with Tita Eva in the struggle to liberate our country from martial law. She was a guiding light, a steady hand, a courageous fighter who not only led our group of oppositionists from Manila in the Batasang Pambansa elections in 1984, but also led our battles on the floor of the Batasan as we fought to remove 14 years of martial rule. She had developed such a reputation as a brave and tireless freedom fighter that she could very well be considered as the Filipino Joan of Arc,” he added.