MANILA – Five senators on Tuesday bid goodbye to their colleagues and staff in the Senate, as the 17th Congress drew to a close.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV was not around as outgoing senators Bam Aquino, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan II, and Francis Escudero gave their respective valedictory speeches at the Senate’s session hall.
Ejercito, who lost in his reelection bid in the recent midterm polls, said he believes he was able to fulfill his mandate, having co-authored 379 bills, 17 of which were signed into law.
“As a first-termer, I worked hard to become worthy of the trust of our people and the legacy of the men and women who served in this hallowed institution,” Ejercito said.
Ejercito asked his colleagues in the Senate to ensure funding for the Universal Healthcare Law, which he co-authored.
“I would’ve wished to be here in the 18th Congress to continue the struggle with you but God has other plans,” he said.
He also thanked his mother, outgoing San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez, who was at the Senate to join him on his last week in the Senate.
He also gave a message for his father, outgoing Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, with whom he had a souring of ties.
“Kahit hindi mo na ako favorite sa ngayon at hindi na nagtutugma ang ating direksyon lately… I hope you will appreciate in the end na hindi ko kailanman sinira ang iyong pangalan,” Ejercito said in his message to his father.
Aquino, who also lost in his reelection bid, hopes his contribution to policy-making will outlive him.
“Hindi kailangang malibing kasama ng ating mga buto ang mabubuti nating nagawa dito po sa Senado,” he said.
“Bagkus mabubuhay ang mga batas at repormang ating tinrabaho kahit mawala na tayo sa serbisyo publiko, o kahit wala na tayo dito sa mundo.”
Aquino also appealed to his colleagues to “always, always make that collective choice for the benefit of our people, especially the 'last, the least and the lost.’”
Meanwhile, Honasan, who was on his second term, asked his colleagues to “keep faith and stay the course, [and] be the last bastion of our pluralistic democracy.”
The 71-year-old Honasan, who has led a colorful life as one of the military men who attempted but failed to overthrow then president Corazon Aquino, will take a break from politics after serving the upper chamber of Congress for two decades.
“Wherever I find myself, I will look at these 21 years of memories. If fates will decree that I’m to join you again in a few years’ time, then that is already to be decided,” said Honasan.
Escudero, meanwhile, paid tribute to the people working behind the scenes in the upper chamber.
“Kayo po ang hangin sa pakpak naming mambabatas, mga bayaning walang mukha o pangalan sa liwanag ng tagumpay o katanyagan,” Escudero said.
“Ako ay nalulungkot din dahil matapos kong makadaupang palad ang karamihan sa inyo ng halos araw-araw ay hindi ko na po tiyak kung kailan kong muling magagawa iyon.”
But Escudero, who will move on as governor of his home province Sorsogon, said he is glad that he will finally be coming home.
“Mayroong ngiti sa aking mga labi dahil makalipas ang araw na ito, may panahon na ako na makapiling ang aking mga kababayan na kailanman ay di naging mapanghusga, bagkus ay palaging nagtiwala at naniwala sa kabila ng lahat ng unos at pagsubok na aking pinagdaanan,” he said.
In her valedictory speech, Legarda opted to list down her key accomplishments as three-term senator.
The broadcast journalist-turned-lawmaker said her two-decade stint as senator has prepared her for public service in her home province of Antique.
“It will be a coming of age… I feel that I have come full circle,” she said.
“Filled with passion to serve and strengthened by political will to get things done, I surpassed three Senate terms and I am ready to face a bigger battlefield, ready to engage in more debates and forge alliances for the good not only of my constituents in my home province of Antique but of all the Filipino people.”
Legarda also recalled her two failed vice-presidential bids, which she said should encourage Aquino and Ejercito to do a Senate comeback.
“The journey was not without struggle, and heartaches both from personal and political failures. I won thrice, I lost twice, that’s why JV, Bam, remember, I am certain you will be back,” she said.
She almost broke into tears as she paid tribute to Sen. Grace Poe, whose father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., served as running mate in her 2004 vice-presidential bid.
“I really have a special part in my heart for you,” Legarda told Poe.
“We have special bond because I was running mate of your late father and 2004 was one of the most painful times in my life.”