Ailing Barbers dies of heart attack
- Mayen Jaymalin () - December 26, 2005 - 12:00am
Former senator Robert Barbers died of a heart attack yesterday morning. He was 61.

Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) General Manager Robert Dean Barbers said his father died at 10:29 a.m. with all family members at his deathbed.

The former senator was said to be suffering from cancer of the throat but died from heart failure at the Medical City Hospital in Pasig City, where he has been confined since last Wednesday, when his condition deteriorated.

The younger Barbers said his father did not suffer much and even left with a smile.

"He didn’t suffer. In fact, he even managed to give us a smile before he breathed his last," the PTA manager said.

The remains of the former senator was to be transferred to the Santuario de San Antonio at Forbes Park in Makati City last night.

No interment date has been set yet, the family said.

President Arroyo expressed her condolences to the Barbers family, saying she was "deeply saddened" by the former senator’s death "especially since it comes during this festive season."

"Senator Barbers served the country faithfully and will be remembered fondly. His sons in public service will surely see to it his legacy lives on," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"We hope his family will take comfort in knowing that he has now found true peace and rest with the Lord," she said.

Barbers, a former Manila police colonel, served as a member of the Senate in 1998. He ran again in the May 10, 2004 elections but was dislodged from the "Magic 12" by Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, who also ran under the administration K-4 coalition.

Former colleague Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. said, "The senator will be remembered by many for his significant contribution in maintaining peace and order, both as a law enforcer and as a lawmaker."

A colleague from the opposition, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. expressed his condolences to the Barbers family.

Pimentel noted Barbers had been active in law enforcement during his term at the Senate in heading the committee on public order and illegal drugs.

Barbers authored several laws aimed in sustaining the fight against criminality. He was the first to file an anti-terrorism bill in the Senate.

Pimentel said the death of Barbers was "a loss to the political and... law enforcement agencies of the government."

"Bobby was a law and order man who brought his expertise to (the) halls of government," Pimentel said.

Barbers started his political career as representative of the second congressional district of Surigao del Norte in 1992.

While serving as Surigao congressman for his second term in the 10th Congress, Barbers was appointed by then President Fidel Ramos as interior and local government secretary in 1996 before running for the Senate two years later.

Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. recalled that Barbers, one of the stalwarts of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party, was once described as "the most popular and effective member" of the Cabinet during the Ramos administration.

He became a popular congressman and a senator and was considered twice as running mate to De Venecia in 1998 and again in 2004 on the administration slate of President Arroyo.

De Venecia recalled appealing to Barbers on those two occasions to withdraw from contention in the two Lakas presidential tickets.

"Senator Barbers was a man of self-sacrificing humility," De Venecia remarked.

"I appealed to him (Barbers) to give way to GMA (Mrs. Arroyo) as my running mate in 1998 — and he agreed although he had been virtually endorsed by the Lakas convention to be my vice- presidential candidate," De Venecia said.

The Speaker said he and Mrs. Arroyo also convinced Barbers to give way to then Sen. Noli de Castro for the vice-presidential slot in the 2004 ticket.

"Because of his exemplary dedication to public service, his concern for the welfare of the underprivileged and downtrodden, Senator Barbers has been a hero of Christians, Muslims and lumads (tribes) of Mindanao," De Venecia said,

Barbers was the architect of the anti-terror bill in the Senate, proposing the measure in reflecting his experience as a police officer.

Having a master’s degree in criminology and national security administration from the National Defense College, Barbers also served as chief of the Police Special Task Force of the National Bureau of Investigation and inspector of the National Police Commission.

While serving as a Manila police officer, he managed to complete his studies in political science at the Lyceum of the Philippines in 1981 and took up law studies in the same school until 1985.

Barbers, a native of Surigao City, is survived by his wife, Virginia, three sons and one daughter.

The eldest, Robert Lyndon Barbers, is currently among the directors of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Robert Dean now heads the PTA while Robert Ace Barbers followed the political footsteps of his father in representing the second congressional district of Surigao del Norte.

The youngest, Josephine Barbers, is with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). - With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero

AQUILINO PIMENTEL JR. BARBERS DE VENECIA DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM LAKAS MRS. ARROYO PRESIDENT ARROYO SENATOR SENATOR BARBERS SURIGAO
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