Ex-Senate leader Ernesto Maceda’s sons: ‘He died a happy man’

Mara Cepeda
Ex-Senate leader Ernesto Maceda’s sons: ‘He died a happy man’
Maceda's sons also reveal how their last conversation with him showed that he was 'a public servant all the way'

MANILA, Philippines – Two of former Senate President Ernesto Maceda’s sons believe their father lived a fulfilled life when he took his last breath.

“I can say this: he died a happy man,” Maceda’s 3rd son Erwin said on Tuesday, June 21. 

Maceda passed away at 8:58 pm on Monday, June 20, due to multiple organ failure. He had been experiencing chest pains for the past weeks and was rushed to St Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City on Saturday, June 18, for gall bladder surgery. 

“He was a public servant for more than 50 years and at the back of his mind, one of his dreams all this time was for one of his children to follow in his footsteps in the national, political arena. Just a month ago, in May, the last full month he was alive, he saw his youngest son elected congressman of the Republic of the Philippines,” Erwin added.

Erwin was referring to his youngest brother Edward, who won as representative of the 4th District of Manila during the May polls.  

Apart from Edward, Maceda’s second son, lawyer Ernesto Jr, was also involved in politics. He was a former Manila vice mayor and councilor. 

Erwin, meanwhile, was former advance coordinator, candidates’ liaison, and emcee of all sorties of the United Nationalist Alliance, under which Maceda ran for senator for the last time in 2013. (READ: Ernesto Maceda: ‘Voters miss brilliant senators’

Edward, however, believes all 5 Maceda brothers, including their eldest Emmanuel and 4th brother Edmond, made their father proud. Their mother is Marichu Vera-Perez of Sampaguita Pictures fame.

“I’d like to think he died a happy man because he saw all of us 5 were taken care of and we have our own careers,” said Edward.

The public may visit Maceda’s wake at the Our Lady of Mt Carmel Shrine in New Manila, Quezon City. His interment will be at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina on Saturday, June 25. The Senate is also set to hold a necrological service for him on Thursday, June 23. (READ: Palace, Binay lead tributes for ex-Senate leader Maceda

Inspiration, fan, mentor 

Maceda, a product of the Ateneo de Manila University and Harvard, first became Manila councilor in 1959. 

He was known as “Mr Exposé” after leading a series of high-profile inquiries in the Senate for 3 terms. He ran a column in The Philippine Star under the same title. 

Maceda also held 5 Cabinet positions and was the Philippines’ ambassador to the United States under the administration of former president Joseph Estrada, who visited his wake on Tuesday evening.

Other personalities paid their respects as well, including Vice President Jejomar Binay, former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, senators Nancy Binay and Vicente Sotto III, Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco, Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, and lawyers Rico Quicho, Lorna Kapunan, and Salvador Panelo, incoming chief legal counsel of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. 

On the first evening of his father’s wake, Edward said Maceda was a “great dad.”

Edward described his father as a “perfectionist” and a “tireless worker,” whose dedication to public service sometimes got in the way of him spending more time with his family. 

MACEDA'S YOUNGEST. Edward describes to the media his relationship with his late father. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

“But he always made it a point to take care of us, and when we needed him most, during the times we needed somebody to lean on, he was always there,” said Edward.

“And even in my case, all the 7 elections I ran, he was always my backbone. He was always my greatest inspiration and he was always my greatest fan, and he was always my greatest mentor,” he added.  

‘Public servant’ until the end  

Erwin also shared the last conversation the family had with Maceda on Sunday evening.

The former senator could no longer speak and was only able to communicate with his family by pointing at letters of the alphabet printed on a slate.

Erwin said his father pointed to the letters R, F, I, and L. They tried asking Maceda if he meant getting a refill of water.

FOR THE LAST TIME. Erwin talks about the last conversation they had with their father. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

Tingin siya nang tingin dun sa nurse sa tabi niya. Kilala ko tatay ko. Nurse? RFIL? [We asked], ‘Refile the nursing bill na vineto?‘” narrated Erwin, who then said Maceda nodded his head in agreement.  

(He kept on looking at the nurse beside him. I know my father. Nurse? The letters RFIL? We asked him, “The vetoed nursing bill should be refiled?”) 

President Benigno Aquino III recently thumbed down the bill seeking to increase the pay of nurses. 

According to Erwin and Edward, their father had previously spoken to them about the need to increase nurses’ compensation after seeing the hard work of those who attended to him while he was in and out of the hospital. 

Mamamatay na nga ‘yung tatay ko, ang nasa isip niya ay i-refile ‘yung nursing bill na vineto ni PNoy (My dad was about to die, and yet refiling the nursing bill vetoed by PNoy was on his mind)! That’s why he’s a public servant all the way,” said Erwin.

Would Edward fulfill his father’s wish and file a new bill increasing the pay for nurses in the 17th Congress?

“I think it’s one thing he wanted me to do because he mentioned it even a month before,” said the neophyte lawmaker. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.