Speaker Prospero Nograles
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas () - August 28, 2008 - 12:00am

At a pleasant lunch of rib-eye steak and wine, the Bulong-Pulungan media group had a glimpse into the life and thinking of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Prospero C. Nograles and his wife, Rhodora. Except for those who had been actively involved in the anti-dictatorship movement, most of us were surprised to learn that when he was governor of  the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Southern Mindanao chapter, he risked his life fighting for political activists’ rights and installing lawyers at military checkpoints to prevent nabbed persons from being summarily detained and possibly salvaged. He and his chapter would receive outstanding awards in 1982, and he was presented the 1985 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award for law and human rights. He continued the struggle for freedom as a member of the Cory Aquino for President Movement.

He successfully ran for a congressional seat five times, representing the first  district of Davao City. He served  in the 8th Congress (1989-1992), 10th (1995-1998), 12th (2001-2004), and 13th (2004-2007). During his fifth term (2007 up to the present), he was elected Speaker of the House last February.

When he assumed the speakership, two of the hottest  debates were over the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and the reproductive health bill (staunchly authored and religiously followed through by one of the House’s most progressive members, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman). The House agreed to extend the CARP tenure by another 10 years. But the reproductive health bill continues to be a contentious issue. The Speaker told us that lobbyists for this bill should set their sights on convincing the senators to pass it, as they do not have local constituents to worry about. Those opposed to the bill — mainly Catholic clerics — have gone to great lengths, even up to the present, to get it quashed.

As a Mindanaon and Davaoeno, the Speaker is for peace and development in Mindanao. “I strongly support efforts that would enhance the peace process in Mindanao,” he said. But these efforts must be “transparent,” he has been quoted in media. He described the  attacks by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Lanao del Norte and Sarangani, as “incursions … as a very bad sign that the MILF chain of command is breaking apart.” The attacks, he said, “should be condemned by everyone, including the leaders of the MILF. These acts of criminality and terrorism by a Muslim group should be dealt with quickly and met frontally with the full force of the law.”

In his accomplishment report for six months after the opening of the 14th Congress, eight bills have been passed, and scores are now set for second and third hearing. To speed up work in Congress, he has asked each of the  Deputy Speakers to take care of 10 committees. He has yet to convince his colleagues to reduce absences during the hearings.

He feels good about the anti-foreclosure measure, which he had espoused for ten years, being the first to be enacted into law during the 2nd regular session of the 14th Congress. This law will save almost 400,000 individual delinquent socialized and low-cost home borrowers with total arrears of about P67 billion from losing their homes. Ejecting these home borrowers, he says, is “a violation of one’s basic human right.”

*      *      *

 The  Speaker’s wife, Rhodora, or Bebet, 58, said at the lunch she was first attracted to Boy, who is three years her senior, “because I knew he was very bright.” Boy has two bachelor’s degrees — one for  political science, the other for law, both from the Ateneo de Manila University. He received a doctor of laws, honoris causa, from the University of Mindanao. Bebet has a BS in psychology from the University of Santo Tomas, and a masters in guidance and counseling from the Ateneo de Davao.

Bebet’s father, Amansio Almendras Bendigog, had once been Davao City mayor. Bebet has been engaged in business, running a painting gallery and gift shop. As head of the Congressional Spouses Foundation, she is focusing attention on livelihood projects, and reactivating the day care center for the children of House employees.

The Nograleses have four children. The eldest, Kristine Elizabeth, is a medical doctor. Karlo Alexei is a lawyer. Jericho Jonas, who has a bachelor’s in legal management, is his father’s right-hand man in Congress. The youngest, Margarita Ignacia, has a bachelor’s degree in management economics.

*      *      *

To continue my telling of the Silliman Outstanding Alumni (OSA) awards for 2008, the outstanding alumnus in law is Atty. Alfredo Tadiar. Fred earned three degrees from Silliman: an associate in arts (with high distinction), a bachelor of arts (cum laude) and a bachelor of laws (cum laude). He placed 14th in the bar examinations of 1955. He pursued his master of laws at Harvard University.

When he was a  law professor at the University of the Philippines, he led the select group that amended the Supreme Court Rules of Court to include Supervised Law Student Practice.

He is considered the “father” of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the Philippines. For his advocacy for ADR, he was appointed chairman of the National Amnesty Commission of the Philippines and pioneering chair of the government panel to negotiate peace with the military rebels who sought to topple the Aquino administration with various coup attempts.

As a reproductive health and rights advocate, he sits as a member of the board of trustees of the New York-based International Women’s Health Coalition, and served as the first executive  director of the Pioneering Center for Research, Studies and Training on Reproductive Health, Rights and Ethics, a joint project of the UP Colleges of Law and Medicine. He is also chair of the board of two Philippine NGOs — Women’s Health Care Foundation and the Institute for Social Sciences and Action.

*      *      *

After finishing the bachelor of science course at Silliman in 1967, Romulo Villanueva, OSA for medicine, took up medicine at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center in Manila.

In 1974, at age 26, he took his residency training in general surgery at the St. Joseph Hospital in the US for four years, then did ear, nose and throat residency from 1979 to 1981 at the General Baltimore Medical Center, after which he proceeded to do multi-specialty group practice in Wheeling, West Virginia for three years.  He then established a flourishing private practice in Cumberland, Maryland.

Before leaving  for the US, he offered free medical services in the towns of Zamboanga del Norte, crossing seas and rivers in pump boats and making house calls on his bicycle. He carried on this caring-practice to the US, giving free medical services to people who had no health insurance. For this, he was given an award for community service, and invited to join the Allegany Country Health Program. Together with his family, Dr. Villanueva is part of NAILS, a community-service organization that repairs homes of low-income families. He also takes part in medical missions.

My e-mail: dominimt2000@yahoo.com

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