Senator Pia Cayetano with Senator Joker Arroyo, her "seatmate" in the Senate for three years, on the last day of session of the 15th Congress, June 6, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Office of Senator Pia Cayetano
MANILA - To these people, Senator Joker Arroyo was not just a government official. He was a respected colleague, an unforgettable seatmate, an amazing mentor.
Senator Pia Cayetano, who was always a subject of Arroyo's teasing, said she was deeply saddened by the lawmaker's passing.
"I looked up to him for his wisdom as a seasoned lawyer and legislator, who always spoke with eloquence and humor. On the side, he would share his observations and political analysis of events with me, reminding me to always observe people and events closely to get a better understanding of a political issue," she said.
Cayetano said Arroyo lived up to his name, making jokes about his colleagues and getting away with his catty, on-the-spot remarks.
"When I entered the session hall today, I could almost feel his presence. His contributions to the richness of Philippine legislation will be carried in the journals and records of Congress, and will influence policies for future generations," Cayetano said.
"I was privileged to know him and to learn from one of the best. I will treasure his friendship and memory forever," she added.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, likewise, said she felt honored having served alongside Arroyo. "May he find well-deserved rest," she said.
Sen. Joker Arroyo and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago
Arroyo also earned even the respect of those who are not his allies.
Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said he, too, is mourning Arroyo's passing. Arroyo was a human rights lawyer during the martial law regime.
"Considering where we came from, we often found ourselves in agreement over political questions. I think because of this, I dare say that we eventually became friends. My prayers and thoughts are with his family as they suffer through this great loss," Marcos said.
Sen. Bong Bong Marcos and Sen. Joker Arroyo
'ONE OF THE GREATS'
Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo and her son, Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Arroyo, also separately paid tribute to the late senator.
"My family and I extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of former Senator Joker Arroyo. Although we were not really related, it was always a source of immense pride for us to share the name of this gallant human rights lawyer, overseer of the restoration of Phil democracy, and exemplary legislator and public figure. In today's world of smaller and meaner leaders, this giant of a man will be deeply missed," the former chief executive said in a statement.
Dato Arroyo, for his part, said that the nation has "lost one of the greats." He posted on Facebook a picture of himself with the senator in a light moment.
Sen. Joker Arroyo and Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Arroyo
House Speaker Sonny Belmonte also extended his deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the late senator.
"Joker will leave a lasting imprint on Philippine politics not only because of the life he dedicated in service of this nation, but because his colorful personality, wit and deep analyses of issues were uniquely his own, and his words never failed to capture the attention of media and of the general public."
Arroyo was the Executive Secretary to President Cory Aquino soon after the EDSA Revolution, following his long stint as a human rights lawyer and freedom fighter -- taking to the streets and setting up free legal assistance. He was also Makati's representative for 9 years and a senator for 12.
"We both served in the 9th, 10th and 11th Congresses and he was a diligent member of the House with a perfect attendance record, a bold prosecutor in the historic Estrada impeachment trial, and a skilled fiscalizer. As a Senator, he chaired the Senate Blue Ribbon, Justice, and Human Rights Committees, and never traveled abroad using public funds. In his many years in public service, Joker led a life of courage and humility that inspired many," Belmonte said.
"We thank Joker for his deep dedication to the Philippines and our people. He has left a legacy of staunchness and bravery which we know shall be emulated by our young lawyers and public servants.We condole and pray with Fely his wife, daughters Maoi, Baba and Joker and wish him eternal rest and peace with the Almighty."
ABAKADA Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz offered a moment of silent prayer at the Lower House before he began his interpellation of the 2016 budget at today's plenary session. -- With a report by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News