Press Release
September 17, 2009

By Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
Necrological Services for former Sen. Sotero "Teroy" Laurel
Sept. 17, 2009

My dear colleagues in this Chamber, members of the Laurel family, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen:

I am sure that no one would dispute when I say that the late Sen. Sotero Hidalgo Laurel, who would have turned 91 ten days from now, was a distinguished lawyer, an outstanding educator, a legislator par excellence, a staunch nationalist who love to serve our people, and a quintessential statesman.

Allow me then to also share with you some fond memories, however brief they are, I have of Senator Laurel, whom we endearingly called Teroy.

When we were both elected to the Senate in 1987, I have witnessed Teroy's strength of character and his fierce independence, both as a person and as a politician. This fierce independence, however, has not clouded his belief that every person, friend or foe, is entitled to his or her own personal, political and ideological convictions.

Senator Teroy Laurel practiced what he preached. I recall that on October 1, 1987, five senators stood up in the hall of the Old Congress to deliver privilege speeches denouncing the so-called NICA list of left-leaning or leftist government officials. The list, which had created a public uproar when it was divulged by Teroy's own brother, then Vice President Salvador H. Laurel, included the five senators.

Senator Laurel then rose on the floor on a matter of personal privilege. He stood erect and in dignified manner crossed the aisle towards the left side of the Chamber---a move we members of the Senate at that time found rather amusing since he sat at the right side of the Chamber. He stood on the rostrum and said that he was not defending his brother; neither was he condemning him. Then in clear, resonant voice, he said he was outraged that he was not included in that list!

And I remember very well the thunderous applause from the gallery which greeted this righteous outrage!

Teroy then remarked that he was disappointed, because he believed that it was an honor to be a leftist, for to be a leftist is to stand for change. In his own words, and I quote: "I am unhappy that I am not in that list, because I should be there even ahead of my brother-Senators having been for many, many years President of the Lyceum of the Philippines, cradle of so many leftists and activists, now in the forefront of struggle for reforms in our country."

That, my friends, was in 1987.

Another trait which set off Senator Laurel from most of his colleagues was his aversion to political labels when it comes to national interest. When then Vice President Doy Laurel left the administration-coalition in 1988, speculation was rife that his Kuya Teroy would join the opposition too, the Laurels being known traditionally for their unique togetherness and unity.

Again, Senator Laurel rose on the floor on a question of personal privilege on August 15, 1988, to dispel those speculations. I recall him explaining in this Chamber that he, as a senator, had his own obligations not only to the Senate but also to our people; that political labels---whether one was a Nacionalista or a Liberal or a PDP or an NDP party member---should not deter one in helping legislate wise and beneficent laws for the country. And to cap his speech, this is what he said, in his own words:

"The label, to my mind, Mr. President, is of no matter or consequence when it comes to one's commitment, and fulfilment of his obligations to the country. Like all my fellow Members in this Chamber, we have been fiscalizing and also supporting the Administration whenever necessary, according to the dictates of our conscience."

Thus he was following the dictates of his conscience when he took the Aquino administration to task for what he considered then as its "habitual subversion" of the Constitution, calling it "the new social cancer." Although a member of the administration coalition, he marched to the beat of his own personal drummer when he felt that Malacanang was not attuned to the national interest. He sided with then President Cory when she was right and opposed her when she was wrong.

Such was Senator Laurel's strength of character and firmness of convictions. Very admirable, indeed. How I wish that more of his kind were still with us in the national leadership.

He exhibited the qualities that the country demands of its senators. No wonder he was known as "Mr. Integrity" of the Philippine Senate. He was among the very few public officials who had not been sullied by charges of graft and corruption. He had never been linked to any scandal, whether in private or public life.

As if this sterling distinction was not enough, distinguished colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen, Sen. Sotero Laurel was also one of the so-called Magnificent 12 of the Senate of the 8th Congress who voted against the treaty extending the stay of the US Bases in the country.

I remember how his incisive and challenging questions pricked our conscience, when in the explanation of his "No" vote, he asked (and I quote): "Does not common sense tell us that it is time to take stock of ourselves, to wake up and stand on our own two feet? Is it not time to leave the andador almost 50 years after the grant of independence by America and learn how to walk and fend for ourselves?"

That, my friends, comes from a true nationalist. In the end, he voted "No" based, he said, on the rule of law and reason.

I need not belabor further what Senator Laurel had accomplished as a legislator, or what he had achieved as an educator and as a national leader. Suffice it to say that they are too many and are spread out in the Records of the Senate. Above all, these achievements are firmly etched in the hearts and anchored in the memories of those who have worked with him, those whom he had helped, and in those who have loved him.

And so, my esteemed colleague, Senator Laurel, let me and this august Chamber and the nation bid you good bye, as you go gently into that good night, with the words from a poem I read long time ago about how our days on this earth will be measured (I quote):

"What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave.

"What will matter is not your success, but your significance; what will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

"What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

"What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you are gone.

"What will matter are the memories that live in those who loved you."

Good bye but not farewell, my friend.

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