MANILA, August 4 , 2004 (STAR) Former senator Arturo Tolentino, who served alongside dictator Ferdinand Marcos as his running mate during the 1986 snap elections, succumbed to heart failure yesterday morning, his family said. He was 94.

President Arroyo led the country’s leaders in paying tribute to the late statesman.

Fondly calling the late senator "Ka Turing," Mrs. Arroyo described Tolentino as a "statesman, scholar, writer and diplomat."

Mrs. Arroyo said Tolentino was an acknowledged constitutionalist and legal luminary.

She issued a statement yesterday expressing the nation’s "sense of deep loss" on the demise of Tolentino.

"Tolentino, also a former congressman, member of the Batasang Pambansa, foreign affairs secretary, and Senate president, was the epitome of a great public servant, having been in government service for most of his adult life," the President said.

"Up to the time of his death, Tolentino has continued to express his erudite views confronting the country," she said.

In a rare show of unity, administration and opposition senators paid their last respects to Tolentino.

"The late senator Tolentino was one of the country’s best lawyers and was a shining star in the Senate," Senate President Franklin Drilon said. "He was a scholar, writer, diplomat, and distinguished author of law books."

The Senate approved yesterday a resolution filed by Sen. Ralph Recto expressing the profound and sincere sympathies of the legislative chamber for their former colleague.

Recto said that as a lawyer, Tolentino practiced the precept that "those who have less in life should have more in law."

Recto said that as a teacher, Tolentino molded generations of lawyers in the highest legal and ethical standards. He said the late statesman wrote books which became landmarks in the legal profession.

"As a senator, he made his mark as an erudite constitutionalist using his deep knowledge of law and social issues in shepherding groundbreaking laws, while blocking those which injure the national interest or those which clothe the state with more powers over the individual," Recto said.

Recto said Tolentino, as foreign affairs secretary, ably represented the country’s interests abroad.

For her part, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago quipped she wanted Tolentino to study law again and become her mentor anew in the afterlife.

"I really love Senator Tolentino for his intellect. I believe that he deserved his rest after so many years of public service and I hope that in the next life, he will continue to study law, so that when I see him there, he will serve as my mentor again," she said.

Santiago said Tolentino was a living hero like his contemporary, former senator Ambrosio Padilla, a noted legal luminary.

"They were both remarkable men," Santiago said. "Both thrive, not only from academic excellence, but also for physical being and fitness since you know while Senator Tolentino concentrated on weight lifting and body building, Senator Padilla concentrated on basketball. So we are seeing an entire generation fading right before our eyes."

Santiago said Tolentino was among those she invited to be one of her sponsors on her 25th wedding anniversary.

Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. said the country "lost an astute and intelligent leader" in the demise of Tolentino.

"Ka Turing was a dedicated public servant and one of the distinguished legal luminaries in the country... he will be truly missed," Villar said.

For his part, Sen. Edgardo Angara described Tolentino as a "grand legislator."

"Probably the most intelligent Filipino of his generation and should have been a president of our country. He was here for three years, post-EDSA and he had the uncanny ability to provide a legislative solution when we all got stuck on a problem," Angara said.

He said Tolentino was the type who seldom talked. "The man was so quiet. He seldom spoke, but when he stood, everyone listened and he provided a solution. That is the kind of person Senator Tolentino was. He was a civilist, probably one of the best civil law experts of the country. He was a great legislator and grand thinker. That is how I remember him," Angara said.

Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said Tolentino will always be remembered by Filipinos "not only as a brilliant mind in Philippine politics and law, but a highly principled man who put premium on his good name."

Never Forgotten

Born of humble parentage in Manila, Tolentino rose to become one of the major figures in Congress before Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

He was later appointed as foreign secretary during the Marcos regime and eventually ran as the dictator’s vice president in the 1986 snap elections.

The elections, however, were marked by fraud leading to the EDSA revolution that ousted Marcos in February 1986, sending him into exile in Hawaii. Marcos died there three years later.

In July 1986, Tolentino tried to usurp power when he declared himself "acting president," claiming he had received a letter from Marcos authorizing him "to be the legitimate head of the country until such time that I return to the Philipines."

With about 3,000 loyalists and 1,000 soldiers, Tolentino took over the plush Manila Hotel and declared it his seat of government. But he abandoned it after two days when then President Corazon Aquino threatened to send troops to storm the building.

Tolentino was not charged and soldiers involved in what was described as the first of seven coup attempts against Aquino were not punished.

Tolentino also served as congressman from 1949 to 1957, before being elected to the Senate until 1972. He was the Senate president for three years until 1966. — With Marichu Villanueva, AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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