Accolades pour in for Roco
Joel Francis Guinto Veronica Uy Maila Ager
A TRUE patriot and freedom fighter, and the "best president the country never had."
As the country mourns the passing of former senator Raul Roco, messages pour in remembering kindly the politician whom idealists and reformists said they once pinned their hopes on.
"If history will later view Raul Roco as the best president the country never had, no one will contest such a judgment," Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya said Friday.
He said Roco had set the template on excellence and ethics in public service "such that future aspirants for the presidency must demonstrate proof that they are as good as him."
"The Roco standard has been attached to the highest office of the land," Andaya said of his provincemate.
Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said Roco's death is "a great loss for our nation."
"He was an exemplary lawyer, legislator and leader who inspired many with not just his words, but with his actions," Bunye said.
Roco, who challenged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in last year's presidential race, passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 63.
Bukidnon Representative Juan Miguel Zubiri said if there was an office higher than the Office of the President, that would be the "Office of the Patriot" which Roco occupied.
"Fate may have not smiled kindly on his bid to lead the country, but his legacy of clean, competent and committed public service will last longer than those who, were able to occupy high positions, but did not, however, serve its highest ideals," Zubiri said.
"For this, Raul Roco now belongs to the ages," he said.
Opposition Representative Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan also grieved the loss of a close friend whom he described as "a bright and hard-working person.
"He's one of [the most] decent persons I know. His kindest principles remain appealing to the kind of society we're in," he said.
Zamora said he and Roco worked together as deputy majority leaders from 1987 to 1992.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo described Roco as "an esteemed colleague in the Senate, instrumental in landmark legislations in the Senate and Congress." Saying Roco, who served as Arroyo's education secretary before he ran against her in the polls, was "irreplaceable," Romulo added: "He conducted himself in public office with integrity and in statesmanship."
Former president Fidel Ramos praised Roco as "very brilliant and outstanding" lawyer and public servant. "I deeply regret his passing."
"I know Mrs. [Sonia] Roco and the brothers of the late senator, and I hope their feelings of loss will be assuaged by the fact that he has created for himself a special place in Philippine history," said Ramos.
"Raul's brand of leadership is just among the legacies that he left behind," Senator Manuel Villar said in a statement. "As a candidate in the last presidential election, he was the first to concede defeat--a mark of a true gentleman and statesman."
Roco ran against Arroyo in the May 2004 elections under the banner of his own party, the Democratic Action.
"His performance as a legislator speaks for itself also. He passionately upheld the welfare and rights of women and youth, which endeared him to many. His long bout with cancer did not deter him from continuing his advocacies," he said.
Although he enjoyed considerable support among the youth and students, his campaign did not have the widespread machinery of those of Arroyo and other candidates.
Roco's electoral foray was further hampered by his ill-health which forced him to curtail his campaigning.
After the election, Roco was a critic of the Arroyo administration but his illness largely kept him out of the spotlight.
He is survived by a wife, six children, and four grandchildren.