Manong Ernie Maceda, 81
posted 3-Jul-2016  ·  
5,051 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

It was a fitting recognition the Senate gave the late Senator Ernesto M. Maceda, or Manong Ernie as he was fondly known, last June 23 at the chamber’s session hall where a well-attended necrological program was held in his honor. Senate leaders-- incumbents and former ones-- turned back the time to recount  Sen. Maceda’s sterling performance as a senator and a national servant as well, he having had the record of being the only Filipino functionary ever to hold five cabinet positions in the government, and amazingly under several presidents. Former Sen. Rene Saguisag labeled Manong Ernie a “first class parliamentarian”; a grateful Orly Mercado called him “the mentor”; Juan Ponce Enrile, described Manong as “a voice of the voiceless”; Gringo Honasan called him a game changer in Senate leadership intramurals; Franklin Drilon noted him as a feared presence in Senate hearings; Victor Ziga, speaking for former President Gloria Arroyo, called him as a Senate “legend”; while Kit Tatad called him a true Filipino patriot. Tatad, in his graceful eulogy, added: “He (Maceda) left a permanent mark upon this institution not only as some kind of Inspector Javert determined to hound wrongdoers beyond the water’s edge, but above all as a patriot prepared to sacrifice honor and every political comfort or convenience for the motherland, whenever necessary or possible.”


Indeed, Maceda was all of that. The descriptives may not even be enough for a politician who served the country for 43 long years and whose career as a legislator was marked by his outspokenness against cases of corruption and improprieties in government. He was tagged as Mr. Expose for his courage in revealing in graphic manner in the Senate floor or elsewhere many financial scams and irregularities perpetrated at high levels of the bureaucracy. To us reporters who covered Manong Ernie in the Senate, his absence caused a vacuum in the area of fiscalization and anti-corruption efforts, a role now being borne at a great risk by a motley group of low-level and terrified whistleblowers.


But despite his reputation as a crusader par excellence, he was fair and considerate. In one occasion, before exposing on the Senate floor a major scam involving the loss to a Manila port syndicate of a P500 million plus customs payment from the National Steel Corporation, he alerted me through an aide, Jimmy Policarpio, to inform me that there were indications a congressman from Catanduanes could be involved. He was referring to then Congressman Moises Tapia who used to operate a brokerage firm at the Manila Port. The alert fell on me as Manong Ernie knew of my political and personal affiliation with Rep. Tapia. Yet despite the overwhelming presentation of the money trail, Manong Ernie never mentioned Rep. Tapia by name, only the latter’s company, perhaps out of respect to a co-legislator who had died in a tragic plane crash in Virac in l987. That brief tip from Manong Ernie left me some food for thoughts about how Congressman Tapia had acquired his true wealth, contrary to stories circulating for long in the province and up to now that the Catanduanes solon had managed to spirit out a truckload of cash hoard owned by a Marcos relative during the tumultuous hours of the February l986 EDSA revolution. With Manong Ernie gone, so goes perhaps that myth about Tapia’s wealth. 


Last week’s Senate tribute was in retrospect, more of a recall of how the so-called Magnificent 12 in the Senate, Maceda among them, voted in September 16, l991 to reject the treaty extending the presence of American military bases in the Philippines, amid the forceful lobbying of then President Cory Aquino. As each of the 12 senators cast their “NO” vote against extending the l947 US-RP Military Bases Agreement  beyond 1991, it was Maceda’s voice that reverberated in and outside of the Senate halls when at exactly 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon he ended his anti-treaty speech titled “Set Us Free” with the finale: “In this summer of disaster and discontent, I vote NO to a DOCUMENT OF EMNITY, DIVISION AND DISADVANTAGE and another INSTRUMENT OF SURRENDER. … at three o’clock in the afternoon, for God and country, consummatum est.” It was not Jesus Christ nor Jose Rizal muttering the words but the fiery Maceda. Fortunately for the Americans, an act of God occurred a few months earlier when Mt. Pinatubo erupted causing heavy damage to their Clark and Subic military installations which gave the excuse all the way for a permanent pull-out of the US bases.   


Many of us in our small island, in one way the other, have a soft spot for Manong Ernie. He was by affiliation one of us, having for a wife Pandananon Marichu Vera Perez or Manay Ichu, granddaughter of the illustrious Jose O. Vera, the first Catandunganon to become senator of the republic, followed by Kit Tatad. The late Senator Vera may have been in a different generation but his legacies remain fresh, kept alive by the progenies who have never forgotten the province. The late Dr. Jose Perez, son of the Senator and Manay Ichu’s father, had been a benefactor to many Catandunganons whom the family employed in Sampaguita Pictures and the Vera Perez Productions, the pioneering movie outfits in the country. Manay Ichu has been an occasional visitor and donor to Pandan town, so with sister congresswoman Gina who is married to an equally prominent national politician in the person of Jose de Venecia, former congressman and House speaker. So that at one time in our island’s history, we owned the distinction of having a Senate President and a House speaker as “sons-in-law.”  But perhaps it is of our peculiar political habits we have not fully capitalized on such political investments and opportunities.


The Maceda family led by Many Ichu, all came to the Senate tribute. The affable widow was composed throughout and very grateful especially to the Bicolano senators who dominated the eulogies. Though politics is not in her grain, obviously she still lugs the political baggage for the clan. Son Edward won last month as congressman in Manila while nephew Christopher De Venecia succeeded her mother Gina as congressman in Pangasinan. The Vera-Perezes are our own and Manong Ernie deserved prayers from all Catandunganons.   


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