Ex-Senator Alvarez, 80, succumbs to COVID-19

Published April 20, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hannah Torregoza and Mario Casayuran

Former Senator Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez has succumbed to the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. He was 80 years old.

Former Senator Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Former Senator Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and members of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban) confirmed the demise of the former lawmaker.

Alvarez, a human rights advocate and environmentalist, served as a member of the Senate of the Philippines and the House of Representatives.

He also served as Secretary of Agrarian Reform and Minister of Agrarian Reform.

The former lawmaker earlier underwent an experimental plasma treatment for the coronavirus disease.

His wife, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, 76, is also afflicted with the disease. Her condition reportedly improved last week.

“It grieves me to learn of that news. He was a fighter!” said Sotto in a brief statement.

“It was an honor for me to have served with him in the 9th congress. Marami din akong natutunan sa kanya, (I learned many things from him),” Sotto added.

Sotto said he feels “more pain” as he and the rest of his “colleagues at the Senate and our counterparts at the House of Representatives” cannot Alvarez “the proper recognition and reverence due to a former member of Congress, given that his passing comes during this time when the country is gripped by this infectious, fatal virus and a necrological ceremony cannot possibly be held.”

The remains of most senators who have died are usually taken to the Senate session hall for necrological services.

Sotto said he joins the rest of the nation in mourning the passing of  Alvarez who he described as “a respectable leader and a good friend.”

“I had the great opportunity to learn from this reasonable and hard-working lawmaker as a neophyte senator in 1992 when I first joined the Senate,’’ he stressed.

“To his family, especially to his wife, Cecille, and his two children, may you find solace in the thought that he is now free of any suffering, and is now peacefully watching over you as you continue your life journeys. His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the people, and his name will forever be etched in our country’s rich history,’’ he added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said Alvarez was a patriot and had the skill of a seasoned parliamentarian.

“He (Alvarez) crafted policies, defended these on the floor and interpellated in plenary with the skill of a seasoned parliamentarian and the undiminished passion of a patriot. He had the gift of gab and the wisdom that went with it.’’ Recto said.

“He was a colleague in the House of Representatives during the 11th Congress,’’ he added.

“He always had a soft heart for the common tao (man) and spent a lifetime championing their rights and freedoms, and at one time paying dearly for the courage of his convictions,’’ he pointed out.

“He spent his last years representing one client – Mother Earth – so that our grandchildren will have clean air, safe water, blue skies. He was no longer a politician with the next election in mind, but a statesman concerned about the next generation,’’ he added.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, himself a COVID-19 survivor, said he is deeply saddened by the death of one of the original Environmental advocates of the Philippine Senate.

“Senator Heherson Alvarez was the author of many of the country’s environmental Laws as well as one of our most ardent fighters against Climate Change. Senator Alvarez would always touch base with me to discuss environmental issues during the deliberation of bills and even the budget policies that could affect the environment,” he said.

“He was also known as a Human Rights advocate and has stood on the Senate floor defending our basic Human Rights embodied in our constitution. The Senate has lost another pillar of its rich history,’’ he said.

“The saddest part is that we will not be able to properly Honor him befitting an Honorable Statesman due to the Covid 19 protocols which prevents us from doing so. But on our reopening on May 4 we will sponsor and adopt a Senate Resolution to honor such a Statesman,’’ he added.

“Let us not forget such a great environmentalist and climate change advocate for all of time.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian posted on Twitter, “My deepest condolences to the family of former Senator Heherson Alvarez. Senator Alvarez pushed for environmental protection during his tenure in the Senate. His contributions to the country will never be forgotten.”

For Senator Richard Gordon, he has just lost friend.

“(Former Senator Heherson T.) Sonny Alvarez was practically an elder brother through my career. We were together in the 1971 Constitutional Convention (ConCon) and in the student movement,’’ he said.

 Gordon described Alvarez as ‘’a good speaker and orator, and a cabinet secretary who put a lot of good, thorough, and intelligent work behind his job.’’

House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, for his part,  cited Alvarez as a “fearless leader who championed causes that needed to be fought, regardless of the odds or the popularity of the advocacy.”

“This is a sad day; the country has lost one of the legislators who helped rebuild Philippine democracy after the Edsa Revolution––an outspoken lawmaker who was one of the first Filipino leaders to fight for the protection of the environment,” Abante said.

According to the Senate’s online database, Alvarez obtained his Master’s Degree in Economics and Public Administration from Harvard University, USA. He is also a recipient of the outstanding alumnus award of the University of the Philippines (UP).

He was one of the youngest delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention and became known as being staunchly opposed to the Marcos dictatorship. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Human Rights Award by the Fund for Free Expression in New York, USA.

He became the first Secretary of Agrarian Reform in 1986, after being the principal author of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

He also authored the law creating the Department of Energy (DOE), which was the lead agency mobilized by the Ramos administration to address the severe power supply shortage that lead to widespread brownouts in 1993.

In the Senate, he chaired the Senate blue ribbon committee and the committee on environment.

Alvarez was responsible for the introduction of unleaded gasoline in the country through a voluntary negotiation with the three oil companies. This was named as the Healthy Air Pact signed in Malacanang by then President Fidel V. Ramos.

In the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, he was Vice-Chairman of the Climate Change Commission and Presidential Adviser for Climate Change and Global Warming.

Alvarez was also known for founding the Earth Savers Movement and authored the resolution declaring April 22 as “Earth Day.”

After completing three terms as senator from 1987 to 1998, Sen. Alvarez served as representative of the Fourth District of Isabela. (With a report from Ben Rosario)