Scrutinizing Raul S. Roco, 63

As a politician, Raul S. Roco, 63, has had his share of controversies in the past as he supported anti-people measures like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Revised Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC). But at his wake in Naga City (449 kilometers from Manila) in the Bicol region, he was hailed as larger than life and a true statesman.


NAGA CITY – Immediately after his untimely death last Aug. 5, the mainstream media projected Raul S. Roco as larger than life. Perhaps he is in the eyes of his fellow Bicolanos, but one must never forget that like other politicians, he too supported some controversial – and some would even claim, anti-people – policies.

As a senator in 1994, he staunchly defended the ratification of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which resulted in the country’s membership to the World Trade Organization.

As education secretary in 2002, he implemented the Revised Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC), popularly known as the Millennium Curriculum, which reduced the number of subjects in public elementary and high schools from seven or nine to only five – English, Mathematics, Filipino, Science and Makabayan, the latter being branded a “hodge-podge” of unrelated subjects like Physical Education, Music and Social Studies.

The accession to the WTO and the implementation of the RBEC are said to be anti-people since the first further globalized the Philippine economy while the latter eroded whatever is left of the quality of the country’s basic educational system.

Atmosphere of sorrow

None of these, however, were evident in Roco’s wake as his province mates grieved over his death.

Adorned with flowers and candles and with perpetual mellow instrumental music playing, the Ateneo de Naga University Chapel where Roco’s remains lay was very peaceful. His social stature could be seen by tight security provided by the military, police and barangay tanods (local guards).

People from all walks of life attended his wake. Coming from different places, people wept for the death of the former senator. According to them, Roco was a great man and a great loss to the country especially to the Bicolanos.

A retired public school teacher, Selerina Olivarez, 66, from Sto. Domingo, Nabua, Camarines Sur said “he is honest noble, dignified, trustworthy and sincere.”

“Makulog sa boot na nagadan si Senador Roco (It’s very painful that Senator Roco has passed away). Saro siyang honesto, maboot, mapinadaba asin dai niya pinagmamaliit an mga kasaraditan (He’s honest, nice, loving and he never belittled the poor.),” said Eldefonsa Brioso, 73, of Barangay (village) Sabang, Naga City in Bicolano language.

Model and hero

For the students present at the wake, Roco was a model and a hero.

A student of Ateneo de Naga said “I was shocked when I learned in the reports that he (Roco) was dead. He’s such a very good person and a gentleman. A nice joker too! I will never forget the time when we had a school assignment in one of our subjects that requires interviewing him. We almost did not finish interviewing him because he made us laugh with his clean jokes. We learned a lot from him. For us he is a model and inspiration of the youth.”

“Nalulungkot kami at malaki ang panghihinayang sa kanyang pagkawala (We are sad and we regret his death). He should have lived and served more. Ngayong kinuha na siya ni Lord, buo ang paniniwala ko na ang kanyang mga ideals will remain in the memory of the people. (Now that the Lord has taken him, I firmly believe that his ideals will remain in the memory of the people.),” said Cho Roco, a former member of the House of Representatives and Roco’s brother.

In an online report, youth leader Raymond Palatino lauded the greatness of Roco. He wrote in his report that “Raul Roco may have lost two presidential elections but he will be remembered as the most admired Filipino politician among young Filipinos. And for a country with half of its population below twenty-five years old, that is no small feat… In short, Roco was everything we wanted for a politician. Principled, competent and a good man.”

Thousands of Bicolanos in Naga City took to the streets to show support and their grief when Roco’s remains arrived last Aug. 8. Reports from the assisting barangay tanods said that the number of people who went to the streets is almost the same as the Peñafrancia Festival, a traditional celebration honoring the Our Lady of Peñafrancia as patroness of the Bicol region.

According to the barangay tanods, they were almost unable to control the huge crowd. They spent about three hours from Pili Domestic Airport, Pili, Camarines Sur before the remains of Roco reached Ateneo de Naga University Chapel. With a report by (

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