Merely two days following Vice President Salvador H. Laurel’s death on January 27, 2004, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo thru then Executive Secretary Alberto G. Romulo issued Proclamation No. 544 which declared the period of mourning for the late VP and ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to ensure that he be given a state funeral at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo had previously sent her condolences to Mrs. Celia Diaz-Laurel in a letter dated January 28, 2004, which saliently read:
Vice President Laurel will forever be remembered for his steadfast struggle against a dictatorship and for being a staunch advocate of democracy. His public life stands as a testimony to the ideals he had strongly and passionately espoused.
The honors bestowed upon the former Vice President did not end here as then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also bequeathed upon him the Order of Lakandula (posthumous) on February 6, 2004. According to the Official Gazette, “the Order of Lakandula which was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 236, s. 2003 (Honors Code of the Philippines) is the order of political and civic merit of the Republic, conferred in commemoration of Datu Lakandula’s dedication to the responsibilities of leadership, prudence, fortitude, courage, and resolve in the service of one’s people. It is one of the senior honors of the Republic together with the Philippine Legion of Honor (conferred for Military and Defense Merit) and the Order of Sikatuna (conferred for Diplomatic Merit).”
Earlier, the Senate, thru Resolution No. 102 signed by its Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, expressed its profound and sincere sympathy for the death of VP Laurel who served the country as Senator, Assemblyman, Vice President, DFA Secretary, and NCC Chairman. In his tribute, Senate President Drilon called on Filipinos by saying:
There is no question that Doy Laurel gave so much of himself. Now the memory of his outstanding lifework and sacrifice must inspire each Filipino to continue to pursue excellence and to treasure the democracy he helped restore.
The same accolade was conferred by the House of Representatives who gave Doy Laurel a posthumous Congressional Medal of Achievement on February 3, 2004. Speaker Jose C. De Venecia, Jr. recalled one defining Batasan moment of Doy Laurel when he said:
And on September 15, 1983, here on the hallowed hall, he did something unprecedented in the history of our republic – he resigned as a Member of the Congress, as a Member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa – the only man to do so since parliamentary democracy began in our land in 1907 to protest what he called the government’s policy of persecution and oppression.
But it was in VP Doy Laurel’s last memorial service where honors poured over as family, colleagues, friends and “foes” paid their last respects at the Sanctuario de San Antonio in Makati on February 6, 2004. Some of the unforgettable eulogies were the following:
Shared officiating Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales:
Doy Laurel was the man, who when evils, the atrocities and the abuses of one-man rule were bared, withdrew his company and friendship with what was evil. For him, there was no friendship with injustice. He must have heard this tenet so often repeated by his parents so often.
Meanwhile, recounted President Fidel V. Ramos who was a living testimony to VP Doy Laurel’s “last measure of full devotion” when he acquiesced to chair the National Centennial Commission without any compensation:
He was a nationalist of the highest order, an exemplar of an illustrious family which had been at the forefront of our country’s struggle for four generations. Beyond all that, his integrity and devotion to duty were beyond question.
It was, however, the speech of widow, Mrs. Celia Diaz-Laurel which left everyone, even the adamant, teary-eyed. It read, above all:
Doy loved his country so much, “Ang Bayan Higit sa Lahat” was not a slogan – it is a blueprint of his life – country above all—even if it hurts. This was the rule he lived by.
But the warrior – having fought so many battles — is tired and now rests.
Former President Corazon C. Aquino on whom VP Doy Laurel had given way, also gave her tribute in this wise: “After Ninoy’s assassination, he was the one who called on the people, not only to mourn, but to work together to restore democracy.” And from a former VP to another, Vice President Teofisto Guingona had nothing but adulation for the late VP. He declared:
Throughout his public life, my dear friend Doy stood and fought to preserve our democratic institutions and strengthen the unity of our nation. Doy never blinked against the dictatorship, and on the eve of People power, he displayed true statesmanship and set aside his own dream to be president. And when the new morning came, Doy became the country’s first true Vice President after the restoration of our democracy.
Contemporaries in the Senate and Congress and the Aquino administration also did not fail to express their extreme admiration for Doy Laurel. Former Senator Helena Z. Benitez professed:
Two acts of Doy eloquently demonstrated his sense of self-abnegation in the interest of the country.
The first, and probably the most difficult sacrifice he has had to make for our country and our people was his decision to forego his own presidential ambition to give way to Madame Cory Aquino in 1985. The tide of history was running in his favor. But give way he did because the good of the country would be better served if he did. He accepted lesser position of Vice President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs but when events made his occupancy of these positions incompatible with his principles and convictions, he gave them up too.
When he was asked to chair the National Centennial Commission, he accepted although these were positions of lower category than what he had occupied. But because he had a sense of history and the National Centennial was an occasion to revive the country’s sense of pride and nationhood, he accepted and served to the best of his ability.
Former Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw shared too the same sentiment on Doy Laurel’s brand of patriotism, in this wise:
He could have easily been President of the Philippines, but the test of his dedication, self-sacrifice, and love of country was proven when he accepted to be Vice President of President Corazon Aquino on the promise that after two years, he would take over the reins of the Presidency. Fate had change the course of history but with a purpose. For some good and unknown reason the promise was not complied with and thus, Doy, the youngest Senator the Nacionalista could produce, was to join and strengthen the opposition.
Likewise, the younger senate generations (not necessarily in age) gave similar impressions on Doy Laurel’s ultimate sacrifice. Senator Ralph G. Recto of Batangas thus opined:
And when he stepped aside, it was not just an obedient citizen of a country crying to be freed but as an obedient son, to his father, who made the same sacrifice in the 1950s.
It is this selfless trait that generations of Laurels have displayed through the years that makes them, in my book, one of the few samurai families in the country.
Meanwhile, Senator Joker P. Arroyo who served as President Aquino’s Executive Secretary, wrote:
Doy was not an ordinary man with an ordinary destiny and an ordinary past. To begin with, he was the son of Dr. Jose P. Laurel, in whose shadow he grew up, was educated and shaped.
Thus to understand Doy, you must understand the Laurel family tradition and its dedication to uphold its core value of commitment to public service.
Senator Teresa Aquino-Oreta, the younger sister of Ninoy who is Doy Laurel’s best friend, on the other hand, said:
To me, Doy will always be remembered as a fearless guardian of our democracy, a sincere soul, a faithful friend. A noble man whose honor will always remain untarnished. A great statesman who had sacrificed his personal ambition so that all of us can go on with our lives in freedom and democracy.
Former Senators Heherson T. Alvarez (founding chair of the Ninoy Aquino Movement) and Santanina Rasul who tagged Doy Laurel as a “staunch supporter of the Muslim cause” also had their own share of heartfelt condolences.
Meanwhile, for former Speaker of the House Manuel B. Villar, Jr., following the footsteps of Doy Laurel as Nacionalista Party Chairman was both a challenge and honor. He avowed, “Isang malaking karangalan ang mag-aral ng diwa ng kabayanihan sa paanan ni Doy,” while also recounting on the last times he saw Doy whom he described as “a dying patriot.” Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. confirmed this and declared “Doy Laurel…to be the ideal standard of a public servant.” On February 11, 2004, Sen. Villar, as chair of the Interim Executive Committee of the Nacionalista Party awarded a posthumous Medal of Achievement to his predecessor.
On the part of the lower house, Rep. Teodoro Locsin, Jr. who served as President Corazon Aquino’s Presidential Spokesperson, reconciled the polar impressions on Doy Laurel by stating:
Indeed, Salvador Laurel was ambitious, but only to be of the highest service to his country. I see no conflict in the man who always believed that it would be his destiny to serve the country as best he could. Indeed, far better than most – either by leading her or stepping aside so as not to impede her progress.
Rep. Raul Gonzalez meanwhile described Doy Laurel’s life as one which “exuded a distinction coveted for its substantivity, for the solidity of its purpose, and for its boundless generosities,” to which Rep. James Gordon affirmed in his words: He belongs to a unique breed of “pragmatic nationalists.” Thus for all that he is and had done, Rep. Satur C. Ocampo, assured him to worry not for “We will carry on the fight!”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic community also expressed their extreme grief for Doy Laurel’s passing. However, notable in the farewell messages of then DFA Secretary Delia Albert, Ambassadors Juan A. Ona, Pablo A. Araque, Eusebio Abaquin, Lauro L. Baja, Jr, Rodolfo A. Arizala; ASEAN Secretary General Rodolfo C. Severino; and Consul General Delia Menez Rosal is the repeated mention of the short but remarkable agenda of Doy Laurel on the country’s foreign policy, one of which is the building of strong RP-China relations. Mrs. Celia Diaz-Laurel also received letters of the same tenor of grief and admiration for the late statesman from His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah (Minister of Foreign Affairs in Brunei, Darrusalam); Vice Minister Cai Wu (International Department, Communist Party of China); and Chen Haosu (President of The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries); Wang Chungui (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipoteniary of the Republic of China to the Philippines); His Excellency H. Yushita (former Ambassador of Japan); Delfin Colome (former Ambassador of Spain to the Philippines); and Robert Collette (former Ambassador of Canada to the Philippines).
Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera for the National Centennial Commission, the last agency that Doy Laurel had served, commended its former chairman as well by stating:
The fact that the Centennial Commission had increased the awareness of our country and especially the youth, about their history, the saga of their epic struggles, is a tribute to his resolute nationalism and vision.
As Doy Laurel left an indelible mark in the law arena too, many from the legal community (including Dean Anthony Kronman of the College of Law of Yale University) did not miss the chance to pay tribute to the man who championed social justice and founded CLASP (Citizen’s Legal Aid of the Philippines) which provided legal services to the indigents. Upsilon brothers Attorneys Bartolome C. Fernandez, Jr., Eddie F. Hernandez and Ramon M. Maronilla, relieved Doy Laurel’s oratorical prowess as part of UP College of Law’s finest debating team. Attorneys Leon L. Asa (of the Laurel Law Offices and who published several articles about Doy Laurel in the Lawyers’ Review); Amado Gat Inciong (Inciong and Associates); Roseller L. Ramos; and Teresita Cruz-Sison, meanwhile, talked nothing less of his “gallantry for the country’s sake.” For Justice Cipriano Del Rosario, however, “Dr. Laurel seemed to be so ‘indestructible’” that the justice believed the VP would not die. Former Governor and Member of the Parliament Atty. Homobono Adaza, meanwhile, remembered his friend along this line:
Of course, Doy was human and he had his faults. But graft and corruption is definitely not one of them.
Last, probably in the insane world of Philippine politics but in the chamber of immortals, in leadership, in heart and mind, Doy stands out as the hero in shining armor.
Local government unit heads like former Manila Mayor Jose L. Atienza, Jr., Makati Mayor Jejomar C. Binay, Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Bai Normalah Alonto Lucmana, Mayor Alfredo Corona of Tanauan, Batangas from where the Laurels hail; military men Col. Reynaldo San Gabriel, General Narciso L. Abaya (AFP Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita; and NDCF Member Luis G. Jalandoni also sent their condolences to the family of the late VP.
With the news of his passing, even Philippine media concertedly reserved space to give their final respects to Doy Laurel. Manila Bulletin had their editorial on February 6, 2004 (the date of the state funeral) to bid farewell to whom they call “a nationalist and patriot.” Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz made his tribute thru an article with a title so befitting of their relationship; thus on February 1, 2004 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, his column read: My Friend Doy. Max V. Soliven, established journalist and newspaper publisher also remembered Doy Laurel through his January 29, 2004 column in The Philippine Star. Similarly, Nina Cacho Olivares (The Daily Tribune on January 21, 2004); Noli Santos (The Philippine Star on February 2, 2004); Emil P. Jurado (Manila Standard on February 3, 2004); Nestor Mata (Malaya on February 5, 2004); Zenaida Amador (Manila Bulletin on February 5, 2004); Ronnie Nathalnielz (Manila Standard on February 5, 2004); historian Ambeth Ocampo (Philippine Daily Inquirer on February 5, 2004) and respected journalist Teodoro C. Benigno (The Philippine Star on February 18, 2004) followed through.
Letters and feelers from friends also flooded the family upon Doy Laurel’s passing. Sandra Burton (one of the first women correspondent of Time Magazine and who became popular for her book on the martial law rule in the Philippines and who stood as one of the witnesses in Ninoy’s assassination as she was on the same plane where the Sen. Benigno S. Aquino was shot while alighting) sent a fax letter a day before Doy Laurel’s passing which his widow had read to him and to which he smiled, reported Mrs. Celia Diaz Laurel. Other heartwarming messages came from Gus Mercado (Dallas, Texas); Enrique Zobel; Monsignor William O’Brien (Daytop, New York City); Peter Wallace; Marsh Thomson; Michael Reisman; Movie and television director Lupita Kashiwara whose husband Ken Kashiwahara of ABC News was also with the assassinated Senator Aquino (Lupita’s brother); Pitoy Moreno (Upsilon brother); and Gloria (Goya) Lasat Navarrete.