THE NATION MOURNS THE DEATH OF A GREAT FILIPINO - GMA

MALACANANG, December 14, 2003 (Office of the Press Secretary) "The nation mourns the death of a great Filipino." Thus were the words of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the death of Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople in Taiwan this morning. "We were awed by the vision and indomitable wit of Secretary Blas F. Ople," the President said in a statement released by Malacanang.

President Macapagal-Arroyo described him as "an architect of Philippine foreign policy in the finest tradition of enlightened and pragmatic diplomacy, a champion of peace, human rights, collective security and the rule of law."

"We will miss him and the world will miss him," she added.

Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Franklin Ebdalin said Ople was "very intelligent." "I would even classify him as genius," Ebdalin said. "I do not hear him saying bad things against anyone. He was very kind to people."

Born on Feb. 3, 1927 to working class parents in the fishing town of Hagonoy in Bulacan, Ople was a man of numerous talents and a long chain of achievements. He was a statesman, constitutionalist, legislator, civil servant, book author, publicist, university lecturer, journalist and freedom fighter. The President appointed then Sen. Ople as foreign affairs secretary on July 23, 2002.

Ople was first elected senator for a six-year term in 1992, and was reelected in May 1998 for a second term. He was chairman of the Senate Committees on Foreign Affairs, on Civil Service and Reorganization and on Education, Culture and the Arts. He was also elected Senate President Pro Tempore in 1998, and President of the Senate in mid-1999.

Ople successfully steered the Senate passage of some 110 international and bilateral treaties that gave the Philippines wider access to international trade, investments, employment, cultural exchanges, worker protection and environment preservation. He also sponsored, together with then Sen. Macapagal-Arroyo, the ratification of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Uruguay Round creating the World Trade. He authored one version of the Overseas Voting Bill which has since been enacted into law.

Then President Ferdinand E. Marcos appointed Ople as Secretary of Labor in 1967—later renamed Minister of Labor during the martial law regime. He held the post until early 1986 following the downfall of the Marcos in the historic EDSA Revolt of 1986. The following year, he was named a member of the 1987 Constitutional Commission. As labor secretary, Ople was chief architect of the Labor Code of the Philippines which Marcos signed into law as Presidential Decree 442. He also launched a national manpower development program through the National Manpower and Youth Council which has since been renamed Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

As a statesman, Ople lectured at seven high-level symposiums on politics, economics and finance sponsored by the Financial Times of London in different world capitals. In 1975, he was elected president of the 60th International Labor Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, becoming the first Filipino to hold that post. From 1983 to 1986, he was recognized doyen and spokesman of the world’s labor ministers.

He was elected assemblyman for Central Luzon, topping the winning slate of 16 candidates. He was voted Member of the Parliament for Bulacan in the regular Batasang Pambansa, and sponsored sectoral representation, the progenitor of the present party list representation in the House of Representatives.

At age 16, during World War II, he became a first lieutenant in the Del Pilar Regiment, Bulacan Military Area. A product of public schools from elementary to college, Ople considered himself as largely self-taught. Nonetheless, he received numerous honorary degrees, both locally and internationally.

In recognition of his sterling achievements, he was conferred the Order of Sikatuna Award, rank of Datu, by President Macapagal-Arroyo on Aug. 13, 2003.

Ople was married to the former Susana Vasquez and has seven children, all of them successful professionals. The family statement said Ople was on a flight to Bahrain for the President’s state visit when he suffered difficulty in breathing, and lost consciousness. The plane’s captain declared a medical emergency and diverted to Taiwan, but efforts to revive him proved futile. The family immediately flew to Taiwan to arrange the return of Ople’s remains to Manila.

"We would like to express our profound appreciation to the crew of the flight of the Secretary, the officials of Taiwan, the airport and airline officials in Taiwan, the medical staff of the Min-Sheng General Hospital in Taiwan and most especially the officers and staff of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office led by Chairman Antonio Basilio in Manila and MECO representative Espinosa in Taipei for their efforts on behalf of the Secretary," the family said.

Statement of the Family of Secretary Blas F. Ople

We are deeply saddened and regret to announce that Secretary Blas F. Ople passed away today of natural causes.

The Secretary was on a flight to the Kingdom of Bahrain for the State Visit of H.E. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo coming from the recently concluded ASEAN-Japan Summit in Tokyo, Japan, when the Secretary experienced difficulty of breathing, and subsequently lost consciousness. The Captain of the flight declared a medical emergency and diverted to Taiwan. Efforts by medical personnel to revive him, on the flight and in hospital proved unsuccessful. The Secretary died in the service for his country.

Our family members, led by Mrs. Susana V. Ople, are in Taiwan to arrange the return of the remains of the Secretary to the Philippines.

We would like to express our profound appreciation to the crew of the flight of the Secretary, the officials of Taiwan, the airport and airline officials in Taiwan, the medical staff of the Min Sheng General Hospital in Taiwan and most especially the officers and staff of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) led by Chairman Antonio Basilio in Manila and MECO Representative Espinosa in Taipeh, for their efforts on behalf of the Secretary. We would also like to express our deep appreciation for the prayers and kind thoughts for the Secretary and our family at this most difficult time.

Details on further arrangements will be announced shortly.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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