MANILA, Philippines - OFW Family Club party-list Rep. Roy Señeres yesterday died of cardiac arrest, three days after he announced his withdrawal from the May 9 presidential race. He was 68.
According to his lawyer Candy Rivas, family members were present when Señeres passed away at 8 a.m. yesterday morning. She did not give further details.
Last Friday, Rivas and Señeres’ daughter Hannah tried to file his statement of withdrawal with the Law Department of the Commission on Elections, citing his poor health. The Comelec did not accept the statement because the law provides that he should do it personally.
Rivas said she last saw Señeres, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, on Saturday.
“He was telling me then that his prayers were answered because he was feeling good. There was no indication that he was not feeling well,” said Rivas.
A known advocate of the rights of overseas Filipino workers, Señeres helped save domestic helper Sarah Balabagan from the death penalty in the UAE after she was sentenced to die for killing her employer after he tried to rape her in 1994.
Balabagan, now based in the US, posted her condolences to the Señeres family on her Facebook account.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista yesterday also expressed condolences to Señeres’ family.
Bautista said that based on substitution rules in case of death, Señeres could be replaced by someone from his political party Partido ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka, until midday of election day, provided that the replacement has a similar surname.
He, however, added that Señeres’ camp must formally notify the Comelec about this because the poll body is set to start loading the names of candidates into the election management system (EMS) today. Othewise, his name will be included in the official ballots.
EMS generates the information that will be printed on the official ballots.
Señeres’ son Roy Jr. would replace the late lawmaker as representative of the OFW Family Club party-list group in the House of Representatives.
Malacañang yesterday expressed its condolences to the Señeres family.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Señeres had pushed for the welfare of workers while serving as chairman of the National Labor Relations Commission and as ambassador to the UAE.
Though he did not become president, Señeres left a remarkable legacy for Filipinos working here and abroad.
Señeres, until the time of his death, had been fighting for the rights and welfare of millions of Filipino workers, recruitment industry leader Lito Soriano said.
“His advocacy to put an end to contractualization, which has been a growing problem affecting Filipino workers, was the main reason why he wanted to seek the presidency,” Soriano told The STAR.
Soriano said Señeres told him that he would run for president because “now is the right time to push for necessary measures against contractualization.”
He said the late lawmaker is strongly against contractualization because it affects not only the lives of local workers, but also OFWs.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the untimely demise of Señeres was a big loss to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the OFWs.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario presented to Señeres on Feb. 24, 2012 the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his exceptional accomplishments, performance of duties and substantive contributions in advancing the interests of the country and the Filipino people as he performed his work as ambassador.
The Filipino Workers Resource Center in Abu Dhabi also awarded Señeres for his exemplary leadership in providing all out support to OFWs, particularly “maltreated domestic helpers” and for saving the life of Balabagan.
Some presidential candidates and other aspirants for national posts had approached Señeres for his endorsement when news spread that he was withdrawing his candidacy for the presidency, a family member disclosed yesterday.
Señeres’ group is said to have over five million members worldwide.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said Señeres’ death was “a great loss to our overseas Filipino workers’ community, having spent most of his life championing their concerns as well as those of the labor sector.”
“On behalf of my colleagues at the House of Representatives and of my family, I extend my sympathy and prayers to Roy’s loved ones and offer our great respect and gratitude for his unwavering dedication and sincere service to our nation onto the very end,” Belmonte said.
OFW advocate Susan Ople described Señeres as “a courageous leader” who consistently took up the cudgels for distressed OFWs even when he was a diplomat.
“The OFW community lost a voice filled with passion, a man who went down fighting regardless of the odds, for principles that he believed in,” Ople said.
Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said Señeres showed unwavering compassion for OFWs and he and other lawmakers should continue his crusade.
Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano III said Señeres not only fought for the rights of OFWs but also for welfare of local workers.
Sen. Grace Poe said Señeres “will be remembered for his cause to make better working conditions for Filipino workers through their security of tenure.”
Sen. Francis Escudero said he was shocked by the sad news, while Sen. Bongbong Marcos noted that Seneres “championed the rights of OFWs as a diplomat and fought for the causes of the oppressed labor sector.” – Sheila Crisostomo, Mayen Jaymalin, Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez, Perseus Echeminada, Pia Lee-Brago, Paolo Romero