Benjamin ‘Kokoy’ Romualdez dies; 81
Former Leyte Governor Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, a younger brother of former first lady Imelda Marcos, died Wednesday afternoon at Makati Medical Center after a lingering illness. He was 81.
Said to be the favorite kid brother of Imelda Marcos, he was one of the more controversial but colorful power players of the martial law years.
To the workers in his publishing empire that included its flagship People’s Journal, he was known as “Datu Puti” for his head of white hair and his all-white and bush jacket.
Romualdez’s body lies at the family residence at 1 Palm Avenue, Forbes Park, Makati City, prior to being transferred to Tacloban City, Leyte, for memorial services. Interment details will be announced later.
Romualdez, also a former Philippine ambassador, served as governor of Leyte from 1967 until 1986, the year the country witnessed the Edsa People Power Revolution.
Romualdez’s son, Ferdinand Martin, is the incumbent representative of Leyte’s first district.
The family plans to bring Romualdez’s body to Tacloban on Friday to allow viewing by relatives and supporters, according to Bernardita Valenzuela, an executive assistant to Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, a nephew of the former governor.
“He was a very good man,” Valenzuela, a close family friend, said in a brief interview.
The Leyte provincial administrator, Vicente Emnas, said the family would be welcome to hold the wake of Romualdez at the provincial capitol.
The Philippine flags at the provincial capitol and public buildings in the province will be placed at half-staff as a sign of respect for the former governor.
Resolution of condolence
Leyte Board Member Roque Tiu authored a resolution on Tuesday expressing condolences to the Romualdez family.
“This is our way of expressing of deepest condolences to the family of the late governor,” Tiu said in a phone interview.
He said Romualdez left a legacy which benefited the people of Leyte while he was its governor.
It was during Romualdez’s time that major infrastructure projects were undertaken, including the putting up of the Leyte Estate Industrial Development, the only economic zone in Eastern Visayas located in Isabel town.
It was also during Romualdez’s incumbency as governor that the geothermal plant in Kananga town, the main source of power of Eastern Visayas, was established.
The son of the late Vicente Orestes Romualdez, a former dean of the law school of St. Paul’s College in Tacloban, Kokoy Romualdez began his career in politics after serving as an assistant of then Speaker Daniel Romualdez from 1957 to 1961.
Romualdez embarked on his own career in the diplomatic service and in politics spanning more than 20 years. He served several terms as Leyte governor.
Romualdez was appointed ambassador to China, Saudi Arabia and the United States while serving as Leyte governor until 1986, when his family went into exile following the Edsa revolution.
He was instrumental in the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China in the 1970s, becoming Manila’s first ambassador to Beijing.
Known for his organizational skills, Romualdez paved the way for the state visits of President Marcos to various countries, including the United States.
He is survived by his wife Juliette and children Daniel, a practicing architect in New York, and partner Michael; Benjamin Philip, president and chief executive officer of Benguet Corp., who is married to Inquirer president and CEO Maria Alexandra; Ferdinand Martin, who is married to Yedda Marie; Marean, an investment banker, and husband Thomas; sisters Imelda Marcos, Alita Martel, Conchita Yap and brothers Alfredo and Armando. Reports from Inquirer Research and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas
Sources: Inquirer Archives, Benguet Corp. and Forbes Magazine
Originally posted: 6:03 pm | Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
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