Senate remembers ex-senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw's courage

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate paid tribute to the late senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw, with colleagues hailing her courage during Martial Law under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Former senator Edgar Ilarde, who was with Estrada-Kalaw during the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971, recalled her courage in fighting for what is right. She was a key opposition figure during the Marcos regime.

"Our country wishes to have more of her kind in government – with courage, with fortitude in manning the ramparts against injustice, corruption, violence, greed, and abuse of power," Ilarde said in his eulogy.

Ilarde and Estrada-Kalaw were also members of the Senate when Marcos shut down the chamber, prompting the former senator to say in jest: "We were together in the last Senate which was abolished upon declaration of Martial Law. We pray that this is not the last Senate when the next martial law is declared."

"I can almost hear the honorable Senate President Koko saying that is not funny," Ilarde added, referring to Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, who was seated in the front row.

Pimentel was among the 17 senators who expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao, following clashes in Marawi City.

The Senate President also opposed the holding of a joint congressional session to publicly debate on Duterte's proclamation.

Former senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta, a self-confessed fan of Estrada-Kalaw since college, talked about the late senator's fearlessness and how she opted to stay in the country to fight the Marcos regime.

"When we talk about courage, the comparison would always be kasing tapang ba ni Ate Eva (are you as brave as Eva)," Aquino-Oreta, sister of the late senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr, said in her eulogy.

"The Marcoses were very much entrenched in power. People were afraid and the press was silenced, and freedom, democracy, and human rights were words used only by the opposition. So-called friends have abandoned, leaving a few brave men who dared to be identified. Among them was this lady, Senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw. She was unafraid," Aquino-Oreta added.

Former senator Rene Saguisag, for his part, said the country needs more "voices" like Estrada-Kalaw. (READ: Saguisag hits Congress for being Duterte's lackey)

In a thinly veiled attack on Congress, some members of which were in front of him, Saguisag said: "All I can say is, we need the likes of Senator Eva today who will be asking the fullest questions of the day – where is the invasion, who are the invaders, where is rebellion, who are the rebels? But unfortunately, what we see now or hear are echoes, not voices. She was a voice in her time."

Among those who attended the necrological service were Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Gregorio Honasan, Cynthia Villar, and Risa Hontiveros.

Former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr, former Senate president Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr, and former senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr, Wigberto Tañada, and Nikki Coseteng also paid their last respects to the late senator.

Estrada-Kalaw died on May 25 at the age of 96. Her children, grandchildren, and other relatives were present during the necrological service at the Senate. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email