Press Release
November 17, 2014

Senators pay tribute to former Senator Juan Flavier

Senators today paid tribute to former Senator and Health Secretary Juan Flavier, "who was described as a giant of a man" despite his diminutive size.

"Although he was the first one to make a joke of his height, Johnny was a giant of a man. His monumental achievements made him stand out from the rest. But what made him more extraordinary was his strong compassion for those who have less in life, his sense of duty, and commitment to make a difference," Senate President Franklin Drilon said in his eulogy.

"He will always be remembered for passionately and courageously advocating for a reproductive health law despite strong opposition from different sectors. That law was finally passed two years ago, and we dedicate it to his memory. The passage of the Reproductive Health Law is a fitting tribute to him," Drilon added.

Senators received the remains of Flavier at 9:30 a.m. Monday, November 17, and hosted lunch for his family, relatives, senators and guests at the Recto-Laurel Rooms after the necrological services. Flavier succumbed to pneumonia last October 30 at age 79.

For her part, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she would chat with the former health secretary when she was bored or tired. "I was confident I was sharing time with an honest man. He was the most honest senator," she said.

"Hardly had the dust settled from the campaign, when I rose in a privilege speech to denounce pork barrel kickbacks, which in that simpler time consisted of 10 percent of the public funds involved. I denounce the system, expecting that my colleagues would leap to their feet and confirm my narrative," Santiago said in her eulogy.

"But, foolish me, after my speech there was no interpellation and no comment from anybody. Nobody spoke. Except for one man - Sen. Juan Flavier. With an offended expression, he rose to affirm my accusation of corruption in the Senate. If Sen. Flavier did not have the courage and the purity of heart to support my story of corruption, I would have made no impact. Because of Sen. Flavier's comment, the media picked up the story," she added.

"He had no air. His ways were simple. He was always for the common man," Senator Serge Osmena recalled.

Senator Gregorio Honasan II said he had "lethal exposure to the viral Flavier humor," when Flavier was in Congress.

Flavier laid the foundations for tobacco health warning and reproductive health laws, Senator Pia Cayetano added.

"He was a father to me but as a legislator, we complemented each other. We shared a common passion for healthcare, Cayetano said.

"At the start of the 13th Congress, I asked him if he would continue to chair the Committee on Health, he said, "It's your turn. I will support you. With the former secretary of health at my side, I faced the challenges with a positive outlook. I sponsored my first bill on the expanded vaccination program" she added.

Legarda recalled how Flavier mentored her when she was a neophyte senator and described him as the Senate's quorum maker. "Siya po ang pulitiko na hindi kailangang umikot sa buong Pilipinas para manalong topnotcher," Legarda said.

Legarda said she sought Flavier's advice on what to do with her first privilege speech. He told to talk about something distinct, something that the rest of the Senators know nothing or very little about.

"And so I remember I spoke about the delineation of our forests and filed it as one of my first bills in 1998. Manong Johnny will always be remembered for bringing healthcare to the unempowered and to the marginalized, for being kind, for being generous, for being noble. He has touched us all and his memory shall forever be etched in our minds and in our hearts," Legarda said.

Meanwhile, the Senate is scheduled to adopt a resolution in the afternoon expressing sympathy and condolence to Flavier's family.

Resolution 1014, introduced by Drilon, cited Flavier's perfect attendance in sessions during the 10th to Congresses as well as the landmark laws he authored and sponsored.

"The death of the illustrious doctor and senator is a great loss not only to his bereaved family but also to the millions of Filipinos whom he loved and served so well," the resolution stated.

Flavier, a Tondo native who was raised in the Mountain Province, was a shoeshine boy, newspaper boy, waiter, tutor until he earned his Medicine degree from the University of the Philippines in 1960 and Master's degree in Public Health from John Hopkins University in 1969.

He placed fifth in the 1995 senatorial elections as "people acknowledged his outstanding work as a Cabinet member." In his re-election in 2001, he ranked second for his "excellent performance as a senator during his first term."

Flavier served as chairman of the Senate Committees on Health and Demography, Education, Arts and Culture, Cultural Communities and was the longest serving Senate President Pro-Tempore since the 8th Congress when he was elected for the position in August 2002 (12th Congress) and in July 26, 2004 (13th Congress).

"The hardworking Senator Flavier registered a perfect attendance during the sessions and authored or co-authored landmark laws which promoted public health care and disease prevention and improved the quality of life of the people," the resolution stated. (Apple Buenaventura)

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