OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE. They just fade away.
Senator Raul S. Roco is gone. And forever. And he is a good man. A good soldier for our sick political regime. And for our government. Gone is the hope of the multitude of students who looked up to him as a solid foundation of hope and a brighter future. Gone too is another idol of millions of Pilipinos who saw in him a true man willing to sacrifice his own life for the emancipation from poverty, injustice and endless political hullabaloo of millions of Pilipinos going through for many years now. Fernando Poe Jr., the great screen hero is gone, both of whom were victims of alleged political riggings.
Senator Raul Roco, a fellow Bicolano of this writer, was born in Naga City in Camarines Sur on October 26, 1941. His father Sulpicio, a farmer, and his mother Rosario, a teacher, were simple folks whose simple dreams was to see their children through college. Senator Roco finished his elementary grades at 10 and finished high school at the Ateneo de Naga when he was 14 years old. At 18, he completed his college course in Bachelor of Arts in English and graduated magna-cum laude at the San Beda college in Manila where he also finished his law course. He too was conferred the Abbot Award for Overall Excellence. He pursued his Master of Comparative Law at the University of Pennsylvania and cross enrolled at the Wharton School for Multinational Studies.
He was the youngest president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines in 1961 and one of the 10 Outstanding Students of the Philippines in 1964. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1971 and the youngest president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines from 1983 to 1985.
During his law practice, Senator Roco joined the prestigious ACCRA Law office and was in the company of its founder Senator Edgardo Angara, Senate President Franklin Drilon and the late Senator Rene Cayuetano.
I have two big reasons for writing this article about Senator Raul Roco. First, because we are both Bicolanos and he was my ROTC platoon leader at the San Beda college during my college days and because he too was a movie producer. During the Marco s regime, he was the executive producer of Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, a film of the late Director Lino Brocka. The film garnered six major awards in the FAMAS derby including best actor for Christopher de Leon. He produced another film some years back, the title of which escaped my mind.
During the presidental campaign, I visited the senator in his office at Roxas Boulevard and talked to him about producing another film from my script but he told me to wait until after the elections. Unfortunately he lost in his bid.
He joined politics and was elected congressman for Camarines Sur in 1987 up to 1992. He joined the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino senatorial race in 1992 and won as one of the 16 elected candidates. As Senator since1992 to 2000, Senator Roco sponsored a law creating the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers and was a champion for the cause of women.
As a man with humble beginnings, the late Senator had a soft heart for the less fortunate Pilipinos. He sponsored bills in the senate for the alleviation of thousands of Pilipinos with less food on their tables. He had several proposals that benefited thousands of overseas Filipino Workers, some of which may still be pending approval in the senate.
During the 2001 EDSA Revolution, he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Education. I considered it a good move for the senator in his bid for political supremacy considering the number of teachers in the country and the good number of students he could reach through his unquestionable services.
In the 1998 presidential elections, the good senator ran for president but was defeated by then vice president Joseph Estrada. He ran once again as president in the 2004 presidential race pitted against Fernando Poe Jr. and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo but near the homestreach, Senator Roco decided to go abroad for medical consultation about his lingering ailment. In his return to the country, the King was already way ahead of Senator Roco in the race. The fight was then between FPJ and Macapagal-Arroyo.
For several months, Raul Roco remained in seclusion. Then we heard his voice again urging Ms. Arroyo to resign for the sake of millions of Pilipinos now desperate and below the poverty line. That time, the good senator was already very ill and was brought to the intensive care unit of the St. Luke’s Hospital. After some weeks, he succumbed to his prostate cancer already on it’s fourth stage and complications had already developed.
From St; Luke’s Hospital, the Arlington Funeral Homes brought the remains of Senator Roco to the Chapel of La Strada in La Vista Subdivision along Katipunan Road in Quezon City for the wake. Senator Raul Roco was 64 when he died of prostate cancer.
It could be recalled that even during his last hour, Senator Raul Roco begged the peaceful resignation of President Arroyo to finally set the country free and peaceful.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) commented that Senator Raul Roco was one of the victims of Ms. Arroyo’s black propaganda and smear campaign launched against her critics, including all her opponents and all personalities of the opposition came.
Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya bitterly said: If history will view Raul Roco as the best president the country never had, no one will argue the statement.
Really, Senator Raul Roco was a great loss not only to all Bicolanos but to the great majority of the Pilipino people, specially those who belong to the marginal sector of the country’s population. Raul Roco was recognized as a human rights lawyer, a righteous and principled man of honor and integrity who had served his country and his countrymen as well as the inspiration of the youth of the land.
The remains of the great senator and former Secretary of Education was brought to his home town in Naga City in a chartered 19-seater aircraft from the hangar of Andres Soriano Corporation at the General Aviation of the Manila Domestic Airport.
The remains of the great Senator will lie in state at the Ateneo de Naga where he completed his secondary education for his fellow Bicolanos to pay their last homage to the great stateman. The interment will be at the Sto. Nino Memorial Park in Naga City this coming Thursday August 11.
For the National Democratic Front, Senator Raul Roco was called the exemplary Filipino and his demise was a great loss to the whole country. NDF Chairman Luis Jalandoni shares the grief for the passing of an exemplary Filipino patriot and a great civil libertarian who stood for substantial progress and reforms to uplift the condition of the people from their oppressed and exploited condition in life.
Goodbye to a good man of principles and unselfish servant of his countrymen.