Former senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta dies
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Former senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta died on Thursday night, May 14. She was 75.
Her son, Malabon Mayor Lenlen Oreta, announced her death in a Facebook post on Friday, May 15.
"On behalf of my family, it is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my mom at 10:48 pm of May 14," Mayor Oreta said.
"Former Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta was a public servant who devoted her life to the country and her adopted hometown of Malabon. She was a loving grandmother, mother, and wife and a friend to those whose lives she touched," he added.
Oreta was the youngest sibling of the late senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. She entered Philippine politics after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, serving as Malabon-Navotas congresswoman for 3 consecutive terms – from 1987 to 1998 – before she was elected as a senator in 1998.
At the House of Representatives, she became the first woman to hold the position of assistant majority floor leader.
Advocacies and alliances
Oreta was a staunch advocate for education, women's health empowerment, and children's welfare. She chaired the Senate committee on education, arts and culture during the 11th Congress, and focused on the welfare of teachers, among others.
“I want to take care of the teacher so that the teacher in turn will take care of our children, so in turn our children will take care of the future of the country,” she often said, according to her profile on the Senate website.
As senator, she participated in the botched impeachment trial of then-president Joseph Estrada from December 2000 to January 2001, which eventually led to his ouster.
Oreta was branded the "dancing queen" after she sided with Estrada during the trial, voted against the opening of the so-called "second envelope" that contained incriminating evidence against him, and was caught dancing after the pro-Estrada vote on the envelope won.
Prior to this, Oreta succeeded in pushing for the issuance of pay slips for public school teachers in August 2000. Among her bills that were signed into law were Republic Act No. 8980 or the Early Childhood Care and Development Act and RA 8972 or the Solo Parent Act.
Oreta sought a congressional comeback in 2016, but lost by a narrow margin.
Oreta was a lieutenant colonel (Reserved) in the Philippine Air Force, after obtaining her Master’s Degree in National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines.
She is survived by her husband, businessman Antolin Oreta Jr, and their 4 children – Rissa, Lenlen, Karmela, and Lorenzo, a Malabon councilor.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III mourned Oreta’s death and said his wife Helen, in particular, “is devastated by her passing.”
“She has not stopped crying since we were told the news last night,” said Sotto, who shared that Helen and Oreta are related.
Oreta was also known as “TAO” – her initials, which is also the Filipino word for human being. Senator Francis Pangilinan touched on this in his short tribute to Oreta on Facebook.
“Saktong-sakto na TAO ang tawag kay Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta. May malasakit, mababang-loob, at may puso, lalo na sa kanyang adbokasyang edukasyon. Marahil nakuha niya ito, bilang bunsong kapatid, sa kanyang kuyang si Ninoy Aquino,” he said.
(It is fitting to call Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta TAO. She has compassion, humility, and passion, especially in her advocacy for education. Perhaps she got this, as the younger sibling of Ninoy Aquino.)
Senator Richard Gordon said she shared with Oreta the passion to promote the welfare of teachers.
"The country lost a dedicated public servant who was also an advocate of education and employment…. Tessie may have gone ahead of us but she will always be remembered for the great legacy she left behind," Gordon said. – Rappler.com