Boy Herrera: One of the greatest sons of southern Cebu

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 3, 2015 - 9:00am

Senator Ernesto Falar Herrera, the globally-recognized president of the TUCP (Trade Union Congress of the Philippines), the main author of the Herrera-Veloso Act of 1989, Republic Act 6715, amending the Labor Code, and a leading member of the Agrava Commission that found enough evidence to implicate the top echelon of the military in the assassination of the late Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino succumbed to heart attack last week. He was 73, and what a life indeed worthy of praise and emulation. He was a poor boy who was born in Samboan, Cebu. He was recognized not just as a Cebuano but as a Boholano as well.

I know Boy Herrera from way back in the seventies. He was a graduate of our beloved UV College of Law the Gullas Law School. He was much ahead of the late Serge Remonde, also from the South (Argao), who was my student in law sometime in 1978, together with now Mayor Michael L Rama who admits having learned the intricacies and philosophies of the old Roman Law under this columnist. But anyway, Boy Herrera was ahead of us but he was our inspiration, our leadership model and our icon. Despite his physical condition, Boy Herrera was a top campus leader even before Martial Law. Atty Democrito T Mendoza who is also a UV graduate took Boy into ALU and made him famous.

Boy Herrera was a very effective propagandist and trainor of budding union leaders and union organizers. When he was head of ALU's workers education arm, he used to invite me as speaker and lecturer in Labor Standards and Labor Relations under the sponsorship of the German Foundation, Frederick Ebert Stiftung. The seminars were held in the old Magellan Hotel and sometimes in the defunct Bascon Hotel. I was then a labor arbiter assigned by Secretary Blas F Ople in Region 7. Boy and I used to see each other in the corridors of ILO (International Labor Organization) when I used to represent the government and he was a part of the labor sector contingent in the annual conventions of ILO.

Boy Herrera was a passionate and fiery speaker. He could articulate on principles of international law in any forum. I used to work with him in Jakarta, Bangkok, in Kuala Lumpur, in Australia, Netherlands, and in Washington DC. I learned to respect him as I also started to learn the intricacies of deeper and higher labor law philosophies. When he was endorsed by Atty Kito Mendoza to the Agrava Commission, I warned him of the risks that lurked behind the assignments. But he went ahead and contradicted the chairperson and led the other members to come up with the majority report that found guilt in the higher levels of the military as part of the assassination conspiracy.

When President Cory Aquino took over the presidency, and when she was looking for senatorial candidates, Boy Herrera was immediately the top of mind to represent the labor sector. And indeed, Boy represented the working class with great competence, dignity and honor. He authored the most important amendments to the labor code that assures illegally dismissed employees of reinstatement pending appeal. He made sure that when the employer companies become bankrupt, the workers' salaries and benefits should be paid first even before taxes to the government and other debts are paid. Boy Herrera has done more than any other labor leaders in the country.

It was unfortunate that Boy and Atty Kito had a falling out a few years before his demise. It is because of principles, nothing personal. Boy loved and respected Noy Kito, his mentor, his idol, and his patron. And the old man has special fondness and love for Boy. They were never gone or diminished. Boy's respect for Atty Mendoza was intact until his last breath. He was forever grateful to his boss. And Atty Democrito Mendoza has always been proud of his mentee and trainee, Boy Herrera. Well, I am sure that the two have reconciled in their hearts and spirit. The TUCP is in good hands. And we honor and pay our respects to both its founder and one of its leading stalwarts, the great Cebuano and Boholano, Boy Herrera. May the Lord accept his soul and welcome him to His eternal kingdom in heaven.


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