Escudero, Sorsogon solon, dies of cancer; 69
The House of Representatives lost one of its hardest-working members with the death of Sorsogon Rep. Salvador “Sonny” Escudero III, father of Sen. Francis Escudero, before daybreak on Monday.
Escudero, 69, died in his sleep in his Quezon City home. He battled colon cancer for more than two years.
In a statement released by his office, Senator Escudero said his father died in the family home in Sanville, Quezon City, at 3:30 a.m. Monday.
“Tatay had always been the center of our family,” Senator Escudero said. “He was a father first and foremost and a man who deeply loved his country and his people second,” he said.
Public service for life
Senator Escudero said his father devoted his entire life to public service.
“While we mourn the passing of our father, we thank everyone who cared for him and supported him in life, and we thank those who continue to pour their love, support and prayers for him and our family in this most trying moment.”
Escudero served in the House from 1984 to 1986. He was reelected in 1987, and served up to 1998. In 2010, he again ran for Sorsogon’s seat in the House and won.
The Philippine flag in front of the House of Representatives was lowered to half-staff Monday morning as Congress began to mourn Escudero’s passing.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. led the House in mourning the death of Escudero, whom he described as a “valued personal friend.” Belmonte hailed Escudero for his dedication to his duty as lawmaker, which “he did not take lightly.”
He extolled Escudero’s “distinguished career,” which included serving as minister of food and agriculture (1984-1986) under the Marcos administration and as dean of the University of the Philippines College of Veterinary Medicine at Los Baños, Laguna province, from 1970 to 1984.
Escudero also served as director of the Bureau of Animal Industry from 1975 to 1984.
In the Senate, Senator Escudero’s colleagues passed a resolution expressing the chamber’s condolence to him and his family.
The resolution described Escudero as “a dedicated and committed lawmaker, who religiously attended and participated in the plenary sessions and committee hearings of the House of Representatives.”
“He continued to serve the interest of the people in spite of his frail condition during the past years,” the resolution said.
“His death is not only a loss to his family and constituents but to the nation as well,” it said.
Escudero was born in Casiguran, Sorsogon province, on Dec. 18, 1942. He earned his degree in veterinary medicine at the UP Los Baños in 1963. He also studied tropical veterinary medicine at the University of Queensland in Australia, completing the course in 1968.
As minister of agriculture, Escudero introduced an intensive rice production program, an import-substitution plan, and expanded the program for increased cattle and swine production.
As secretary of agriculture in the Ramos administration, Escudero introduced the Gintong Ani food production and security program, which achieved yearly increases in the country’s rice production.
DepEd mourns, too
At the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City, the flag was also lowered to half-staff on Monday to mourn the death of Escudero, whom the department described as a “champion of education” for helping to raise the standards of Philippine education through legislation.
In a statement, the DepEd praised Escudero for his “consistent, determined and unwavering support to push for education reforms and make Philippine education step up to international standards.”
Escudero’s body lies in state in the main chapel of Mt. Carmel Church on Broadway Avenue and 5th Street in New Manila, Quezon City. It will be taken to the House of Representatives on Wednesday for necrological services that will start at 9 a.m.
Senator Escudero said a final wake would be held on Thursday through Saturday in the family’s hometown in Sorsogon City.
“His remains will be transported back to Quezon City on Sunday morning,” Escudero said.
A Mass will be held at the Arlington Memorial Chapel on Araneta Avenue, Quezon City, where Escudero’s remains will be cremated. His ashes will be taken to the columbary at the Christ the King Parish on E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue in Quezon City.
Dedicated public servant
“Despite battling cancer for the past years, Sonny has shown utmost dedication to public service worthy of emulation by all of us who served in government,” Belmonte said.
He said Escudero religiously attended sessions and committee hearings, and actively participated in all of them on a wheelchair.
Escudero was present at the Aug. 6 meeting in Malacañang where President Aquino discussed with lawmakers his stand on the controversial reproductive health bill, An Waray party-list Rep. Florencio Noel, a friend of the Escudero family, said.
Praising Escudero’s dedication to his work, Noel said Escudero would always tell lawmakers to do their duty and attend sessions.
Even in the 14th Congress, which was dominated by the allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Escudero put a premium on attendance at official House functions and railed against his colleagues who frequently absented themselves from legislative work.
At one press briefing during the 14th Congress, according to Noel, an exasperated Escudero disclosed that on days that the House managed to muster a quorum, the number of lawmakers in the session hall dwindled an hour after the roll call.
Vital to legislation
To Escudero, attendance was vital in the legislature because the representatives of the people must contribute to the proceedings, Noel said.
“Let’s face it, all elected members have an idea to contribute and the more interaction, the better for the ultimate product which is a piece of legislation,” Escudero once said.
“He passed on that lesson to Chiz (Senator Escudero’s nickname),” Noel said. “I think that is why Chiz attends the JBC (Judicial Bar and Council).”
Escudero also personally answered letters from his constituents, writing to them by hand one by one, Noel said.
Escudero chaired the House committee on basic education and culture. He authored and sponsored 129 measures, and coauthored 288.
Anthem, flag law
Escudero wrote the law against the improper singing of the national anthem and the unpatriotic display of the flag.
He also introduced legislation that sought to authorize a hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. With reports from Cathy Yamsuan and Dona Pazzibugan
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