MANILA – Former Senator Juan Flavier may be small in stature but senators described him as the giant of public service from small barrios to the Philippine Senate.
”Thank you Johnny for being what you are and what you were. I am positive, as I shall always pray, that the Paradise you are in will not prohibit children. But here on earth, you will always be lovingly remembered as a funny, genial, gentle giant — the giant in the Senate, the giant of the barrios, the giant among Filipinos,” Senator Sergio Osmena III said in his eulogy during Monday’s necrological services held at the Senate session hall for Flavier.
Osmena was one of the six senators who delivered eulogy as the Senate paid tribute to four-foot-eleven Flavier who served the Senate from 10th to 12th Congress. He succumbed to pneumonia last October 30 at age 79.
”His ways were simple. He had no airs. He was always for the common man. And he exuded and laid down the proper values and the principles by which all men must live. Johnny Flavier transformed many lives. He certainly was a big inspiration to me and to so many millions of Filipinos,” Osmena, Flavier’s batchmate from 10th to 12th Congress, said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, another Flavier batchmate, turned emotional as he remembered Flavier as passionate and courageous colleague who never run out of jokes but with sharp mind in giving analysis to the issues.
”Although he was the first one to make a joke of his height, Johnny was a giant of a man. His monumental achievements made him stand out from the rest. But what made him more extraordinary was his strong compassion for those who have less in life, his sense of duty, and commitment to make a difference,” Drilon said in his own eulogy.
”The members of this august chamber and I are privilege to have known him, and have laughed, walked and worked with him. His memory will live forever in the hearts of countless people whose lives he deeply touched,” Drilon added.
Senator Loren Legarda remembered Flavier whom he called ‘Manong Johnny’ as a man who was bigger than life, epitomized what public service really means, and stood for the words of integrity and work ethic.
”Manong Johnny will always be remembered for bringing healthcare to the unempowered and to the marginalized, for being kind, for being generous, for being noble. He has touched us all and his memory shall forever be etched in our minds and in our hearts,” Legarda, a neophyte and Flavier’s seatmate in the 11th Congress, said.
Like Legarda, Senator Pia Cayetano described Flavier as her mentor specifically in public health service not only in the Senate but during Flavier’s stint as health secretary and a barrio doctor for 40 years.
”Back then I was a private citizen, a young lawyer who already idolized this amazingly charismatic health secretary who was taking on health campaigns, that little did I know would be my very campaigns as well,” Cayetano, former chairperson of the committee on health and demography, said.
”He was a father to me. But as a legislator, we complemented each other. We shared a common passion for healthcare. He was the teacher and I was the student. I had dreams and aspirations; he had wisdom and experience. I had a passion for healthcare. He had the medical degree and expertise,” Cayetano added.
Cayetano said Flavier taught her to be patient, resulting for the passage of the Tobacco Graphic Health Warning bill and Reproductive Health two decades after his ‘Yosi Kadiri’ and ‘Let’s DOH it’ campaign.
”He was a strong advocate of family planning when he was President (Fidel) Ramos’ secretary of health. After conducting my first hearing and a series of consultations on RH at the start of my term in the 13th Congress, I asked for his advice on how to proceed,” Cayetano recalled.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago described Flavier as her best friend in the Senate and “the most honest senator I ever knew.”
”When I was sometimes tired or bored or downhearted, I would saunter to Johnny’s desk and engage him in a chat, confident that I was sharing a companionable time with an honest man; a good man; a great man,” Santiago said.
For his part, Senator Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan II said the Senate became the bigger stage for Flavier who drew bipartisan support for his highest standard of statesmanship.
”The highest standard of statesmanship was never a problem for Manong Johnny. I wanted to be like Senator Juan Flavier,” Honasan, who like Flavier also won as senator in 1995, said.
Drilon and acting minority leader Vicente Sotto III presented to Flavier’s family led by his wife Susan the Senate Resolution 1014 expressing the Senate’s profound sympathy and sincere condolence on the death of former senator.
“The hard working legislator registered a perfect attendance during the sessions and was instrumental in the enactment of landmark legislations promoting public health care and improving the quality of life of the people,” according to the resolution.
“The passing away of the illustrious senator is a great loss not only to his bereaved family but to the nation as well,” it added.
Other incumbent senators present include Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Francis Escudero and Grace Poe.
Former senators also paid tribute like Heherson Alvarez, Nikki Coseteng, Santanina Rasul, Rene Espina, Roberto Jaworski, and Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel Jr. along with members of Senate Spouses Foundation Inc., Milgros Drilon, Bettina Osmena and Bing Pimentel.
The urn containing the remains of Flavier was given arrival and departure honor in front of the Senate building’s main entrance.
The senators, together with Flavier’s wife and children, the Senate Secretary, Sergeant-at-Arms, Deputy Secretaries, Senate Legal Counsel, Directors-General escorted the urn, carried by two pallbearers of the Philippine National Police, to the session hall.
Among Flavier’s authored and sponsored bills that passed into law include the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (Republic Act 8423); Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act (R.A. 8425); Philippine Clean Air Act (R.A. 8749); Indigenous People’s Rights Act (R.A.8371); Anti-Money Laundering Act (R.A. 9160); law declaring Eidl Fitr as a National Holiday (R.A. 9177); Barangay Micro-Business Enterprise (R.A. 9178); National Service Training Program for Tertiary Students (R.A. 9163); the Dangeous Drugs Act of 2002 (R.A. 9165); the Plant Variety Protection Act (R.A. 9168); the Philippine Nursing Act (R.A. 9173) and the Tobacco Regulation Act (R.A. 9211).