The last good news for Herrera; more tributes

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - October 31, 2015 - 10:00am

We of BayanKo were the last friends who were able to see and talk to labor leader Ernesto Herrera. BayanKo adviser Jose Alejandrino and I were in the Manila Doctors’ Hospital after he was wheeled out of the operating room. We talked to him for a while. Despite the excruciating pains from his severe burns, he put on a brave smile and encouraged us to continue the fight for constitutional reform.

At the hospital, we were able to give him two pieces of good news. The first is that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has decided to throw her full support behind Katipunan.

In a letter addressed to Katipunan Secretary-General Ruben Torres, GMA wrote: “Congratulations for your work on the Katipunan, which groups together the marginalized sectors of workers, farmers and fisherfolks in their drive for constitutional reform and a wider representation in the political mainstream. I support the Katipunan and I shall ask my constituents in Pampanga to rally behind it.”

The Katipunan now has the support of two former presidents – the other coming from former President Fidel V Ramos – in its quest for constitutional reform and good governance. God bless them.

The other good news is that secretary-general Jocelyn Magcale of the National Confederation of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (NACTODAP), with its registered members of 3.6 million, has agreed to sign with Katipunan secretary-general Ruben Torres a memorandum of agreement mutually supporting each other in their objectives and activities.

Before Herrera passed away, former House Speaker Jose de Venecia, founding chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, also wrote to him giving his full support and saying he was looking forward to working with him. When I was in Seoul, South Korea I registered the Katipunan as one of Asia’s political parties.

Herrera also laid the groundwork of his social program of benefits for Katipunan members that envisions expanded healthcare coverage, scholarships for meritorious students to study at institutions of higher learning abroad, and affordable housing. 

One of his last meetings was with the CEO of one of the biggest healthcare insurance companies in the world who flew in from Europe just for the meeting. He also instructed the Katipunan to provide the layout of the property where the first housing units of an eco-barrio will be built. Secretary-General Ruben Torres followed this up at a meeting two hours before Herrera unexpectedly passed away.

Undoubtedly Ernesto Herrera will be remembered as a great labor leader who laid the foundation and direction of the Katipunan. It will now be up to his successor to bring his vision and program to fruition.

Tributes to Ernesto Herrera

Steve Lyon, US labor lawyer and activist: “Yesterday, just as I came back from visiting a beautiful, one day old newborn baby boy of friends, I was delivered with the heartbreaking news that I had lost the most wonderful, honorable and inspirational friend, Senator ‘Boy’ Ernesto Herrera. As all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him will attest, he was a true ‘Man of Greatness.’ Having his friendship was nothing less than wearing a badge of honor and I will forever remain grateful for having his blessed influence on my life. My most sincere prayers, respects and condolences go out to Ernest Herrera, Nino Herrera and all of his beautiful and loving family.”

Senate President Franklin Drilon, former Secretary of Labor: “I have known Boy for decades and I witnessed how committed he was in fighting for the cause, rights and welfare of millions of our workers. He was a giant of Philippine labor. Our country’s workers have lost a champion.”

Overseas Filipino workers rights advocate Susan ‘Toots’ Ople, daughter of the late Senator Blas Ople: “A titan of the labor movement passed away today. In the Senate, he was Robin to my dad’s Batman, holding weekly press conferences as labor’s voice and conscience. OFWs need to know and remember that the principal author of the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 was Senator Boy Herrera. As labor leader, senator and congressman, he has made his mark in history. Courage was his middle name. He was the first to expose the drug menace when people didn’t even know what a gram of shabu looks like. He stood up on the Senate floor and exposed the shabu factories hidden in the metropolis. He was very passionate about serving the labor movement.”

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr: “The name of Boy has been synonymous with his staunch advocacies relating to trade unions in the country and has been General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress since 1983. He was a consultant for the International Labor Organization (ILO). We thank Boy Herrera for his valuable service to our nation and its people as we pray for his eternal rest.”

Pia Cayetano: “Former Sen. Boy Herrera, a staunch advocate of the rights of workers, just passed away. My condolences to his family.”

Sonny Angara: “RIP former Sen Boy Herrera, a contemporary of my father from the post-Edsa Senate. Pride of Visayas labor movement.”

Former Senator Rene Saguisag called him a “long-time and valued friend.” The prominent human rights lawyer during martial law remembered Herrera “with respect and admiration.”

“I first heard of Boy as a courageous member of the Agrava Board. He voted to indict the powerful, to the irritation of Marcos. He was a prominent labor leader. He was the prime proponent of the return of the death penalty. I was against and in effect filibustered in the Senate, to his displeasure. He was, as always, full of cheer and optimism when last we met. I’ll remember him that way.”  

Jose Alejandrino, BayanKo adviser:

“A great labor leader passed away. An exceptional man, a true patriot, a good friend. The nation will be poorer because of our loss. It was an honor to know and work with him. He is now with the Lord but his memory remains to inspire us.”

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