Rep. Erico B. Aumentado of Bohol’s 2nd District succumbed to complications of pneumonia at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City at 8:37 p.m. on Christmas night – the gloomiest and saddest for the family – which shocked Boholanos who are living witnesses of his sterling performance as a public servant.
He was 72. He served as board member, vice governor, governor and congressman during a dynamic 45-year service in government.
He died with his boots on – still insisting on reading communications even in his hospital bed – and even pestering his doctors for permission to attend the sessions of the 15th Congress that was already tackling, among others, the Reproductive Health bill which he was consistently against said controversial bill.
He had pulled the caper before and got away with it – wangling a pass from the hospital to attend a session, or “escaping” as his aides call it, to spend his birthday at home.
This was not to be one of those capers, however. Death overcame him before he could. But he did go to the plenary hall one last time as his colleagues, wearing black arm bands, with the Batasang Pambansa flag flown at half-mast, honored him with necrological services last Thursday.
The news of Aumentado’s demise which was flashed over dyRD early morning after Christmas Day came counter with the celebration of Christmas as sadness and grief occupied the minds and hearts of Boholanos who in various voices echoed their conviction that the late solon can stand as the greatest Boholano public servant, next to the late Pres. Carlos Polestico Garcia, in terms of performance and dedication of serving his constituents.
He is survived by his wife, the former Peregrina Adlaon Cabagnot, eight children, 19 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Gov. Edgar Chatto who led the Boholanos’ expression of condolences to the bereaved family immediately ordered all tri-color in the province to be flown on half-mast until after the burial of the late congressman. In a press statement, the governor said he considers Aumentado a role model as a public servant.
Words of admiration and exaltation were also aired by the two other Boholano solons, Rene Relampagos (1st dist) and Arthur Yap (3rd dist).
His remains arrived yesterday afternoon on board a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila.
Planeside honors were accorded to the late solon by the 2nd Armed Forces and the Philippine National police while Msgr. Jeffrey Malanog, vicar general officiated the blessing of his remains at the tarmac upon arrival yesterday
Gov. Chatto, Vice Gov. Concepcion Lim and other provincial and city officials welcomed the remains at the Tagbilaran City Airport together with lawyer Jun Amora, who served as his provincial administrator when he was then governor and Boy Pernia, his spokesman.
His casket which was placed in an open van filled with fresh flowers was brought to Ubay, his hometown yesterday with brief stop over in some towns passing through the eastern coastal road (part of the Bohol Circumferential Road). His town mates paid their last respect to the solon at the Ubay Cultural Center. His remains will be brought to the city by 8 o’clock this morning passing the northern towns. Friends and supporters will await the arrival of his remains at his residence along Calceta st. at noontime today.
His remains will stay at the Aumentado residence up to Friday evening.
On Saturday, 8 o’clock in the morning, the remains will be transferred to the Provincial Capitol for necrological services. Government officials and employees can pay their last respects at the Capitol until 1:00pm when it will be transferred to the St. Joseph Cathedral for the requiem mass starting at 2:00pm . Interment will follow at the Victoria Memorial Park.
People from various walks of life paid glowing tribute to the late solon during a two-day marathon calls of radio listeners who wanted to share their experiences with the late governor.
Former Bohol OIC Gov. Victor de la Serna who sometimes would be a vocal critic of the late solon said the “passing of Aumentado marks the end of an era, the golden era in our political history when our public servants once served with utmost honesty, humility, and dedication to the public welfare, devoid of a any desire for personal profit, and the penchant for the accouterments of power in the best tradition of past governors like Gallares, Pajo, Bernido, Lino Chatto and others. This era is now gone”.
While he admitted that the lawmaker had his faults and shortcomings for sure, de la Serna said that in the five decades that he has served the people, he has accomplished several milestone projects which made the greatest impact in “our lives today and to the coming generations of Boholanos”.
DYRD’s top-rated “Inyong Alagad” program and the weekly radio pulse “Radyo Merkado” recorded the various comments, commendations and appreciation heartily expressed by his constituents in the various walks in life.
The comments summarized the major accomplishments of Aumentado, among others, the concreting of the Bohol Circumferential Road , the Bohol-Leyte geothermal power connection, irrigation projects for the farm lands and his prime accomplishment as the number one “salesman” for Bohol whose efforts brought the province as a top destination in the country
Well meaning radio listeners likewise praised Aumentado for not even attempting to set up his own family dynasty in government service.
His son, Aris, was the designated “caretaker” of his district. However, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, who is a family friend of the Aumentados will sign pertinent documents on projects and other official functions in his district.
45 LONG YEARS
AS PUBLIC SERVANT
The late Aumentado served the province for 45 years starting as a provincial board member in 1967.
His political career started in 1967 when then governor and later, President Carlos P. Garcia “pushed” the newly married young lawyer into running for Provincial Board member. At 27, he was the youngest to be elected as such, and was senior board member to boot for two terms, with extension until 1980.
There was no turning back since then. He was a Sangguniang Panlalawigan member from 1980-1986, vice governor from 1988-1992, congressman for three terms from 1992-2001, governor of Bohol from 2001 to 2010 and congressman from 2010 until his passing.
He was Deputy Speaker of the House from 2000 to 2001, and was president both of the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (Ulap) during his first two terms as governor. He declined the position in his last term in order to devote more time to his home province and his family. He used to jest that he received a memorandum from his grandchildren reminding him that Sunday was “family day”.
Aumentado was orphaned by his father when he was only eight. He joined a fishing crew at night to help his mother support his studies by day – and those of his siblings. He graduated valedictorian from the Ubay Central Elementary School.
He broke his piggy bank and his life’s savings then of P50 launched his buy-and-sell career of broken bottles and other recyclables that he sold in Cebu. In turn, he bought basins, pails, kettles and other utensils for his mother to sell during Mondays – Ubay’s market day.
Business was quite good, and soon, he and his siblings had to help their mother sell the items. But helping out during market days took a toll on his school attendance.
Thinking that he had been plain playing hooky, his school director called his attention. To his credit and his surprise, Msgr. Margarito Gonzaga, then school director, understood his predicament, took pity on him, his siblings and other students in the same situation, and moved school days to Tuesdays to Saturdays instead. He graduated valedictorian from the Holy Child Academy.
He pursued higher education at the Rafael Palma College, now University of Bohol, on full scholarship. He earned stipends by writing for the school paper, and working for a local newspaper and later, as correspondent for a national paper. He graduated with highest honors in Pre-Law, magna cum laude in Bachelor of Arts in 1960, and cum laude in Bachelor of Laws in 1964.
The late solon was a journalist by heart.
He joined The Bohol Chronicle as a writer when he was the editor of The Varsitarian, the school publication of then Rafael Palma College (now University of Bohol).
He was Bohol correspondent of The Manila Times during his stint with the Chronicle.
With his journalistic ability, the late Chronicle publisher-editor Jun Dejaresco gave Aumentado a break through his column “Between Extremes,” one of the longest running and well read columns in this paper.
In her eulogy, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Amelita Villarosa, fellow House minority member, said Aumentado distinguished himself in the four terms he served in the legislature on top of bringing progress to Bohol.
She said Aumentado once stood on the floor for 12 hours to defend the 1999 budget bill – the longest budget defense in the history of the House of Representatives.
She also said he had stood alone on the floor in 1999 to foil a House resolution that had asked the Supreme Court to allow a solon convicted of statutory rape to serve in congress.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the lawmaker served as ethics committee chairman “with distinction.” He had picked Aumentado to head that committee with no qualms even if the latter belonged to the minority.
Committee chairmanships are usually awarded to members of the majority but Belmonte justified his choice: “He’s the proper man for that position,” he said, adding that “Aumentado had not come from a political family or a wealthy clan and earned respect in public office through hard work.”
“Public service was to him not only a calling but a passion,” he said. “To him, public service was almost a religion.”
Belmonte recalled that whenever Aumentado was given a reward, he would instead refer the persons giving it to him to the church.
Parishioners of the Santo Niño Church in Poblacion and in Barangay San Pascual both in his hometown of Ubay, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Sevilla, the hometown of his wife Grenie, and even inmates of the Bohol District Jail, among others, can attest to that. And the list is still long.
Aumentado, a lawyer, also provided pro bono legal services to the poor, Belmonte had said Among his cherished awards is the one given by the Citizens’ Legal Aid Society of the Philippines (Clasp) – in recognition of his brilliant and courageous performance in bringing justice within the reach of the poor and for his continuing devotion to the cause of legal aid in the Philippines. Aumentado founded the Clasp Bohol chapter.
Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said that in all the positions Aumentado occupied, he served with great skill and distinction. He also never lost any of his bids for a public position.
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez praised Aumentado’s infrastructure projects for Bohol, and further hailed him for being a man of humble beginnings who rose to become a leader of men.
The Bohol solon did his homework, pushed thru gestation (resolutions, fund sourcing for feasibility studies, detailed engineering design, civil works, etc.) and birth pains (trouble shooting) and implemented the Bohol Circumferential Road Improvement Project Phases I and II, the Bohol Irrigation Project Stages I (Malinao Dam) and II (Bayongan Dam), Leyte-Bohol Interconnection Project Phases I and II, National Transmission Corp. (Transco)-Bohol Backbone Transmission Project, Improvement of the Tagbilaran, Tubigon, Ubay and Jagna ports and the Ubay and Tagbilaran airports, improvement of bridges, public markets and the Zamora Dam.
Ongoing are the Rural Electrification Project, barangay master planning, concrete bridge along the Danao–Getafe road, P106M San Vicente–La Esperanza (Dagohoy)–Concepcion (Danao) road, P139M Sagbayan-Danao road concreting, waterworks systems, medical and surgical missions, P14M Getafe-Jandayan Interconnection Project, school buildings, flood control projects in Sagbayan, P14 million, and Inabanga, P10 million, Hello Bohol (livestock dispersal) Project, livelihood projects with the Department of Labor and Employment, distribution of computers and internet accessing, tractors for hybrid rice and corn projects, rice ratooning project, Extreme Adventure Tourism in Danao, barangay health centers, solar dryers, Botica ng Barangay, multi-purpose buildings with stages, Land Administration and Management Project (LAMP), and others.
He had worked for and had received the grant from the Korean Government for the recently inaugurated Rice Processing Complex in Pilar town.
Aumentado is dedicated to his work. He often emphasized that he did not work just for show, or to harvest awards; he worked because that was his job. But in the process, he did reap recognition.
He treasured most his Golden Heart Award for Humanitarian Service, his Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence as Outstanding Governor, Local Government Leadership Academy award as Most Outstanding Governor and a host of others for protecting the environment, pushing nutrition, promoting Bohol as a tourist destination, Gawad Galing Pook for eco-tourism, coastal law enforcement, local peace building initiatives and the Award of Excellence (ACE) for maintaining the above initiatives for at least three years, among others.
For the environmental management system (EMS) initiatives the province pursued during his watch, Bohol was issued an ISO 14001 Certification. And the list of awards is still long.
Also under his stewardship, the Bohol Branches of the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, National Bureau of Investigation, the Region 7 office of the National Irrigation Administration in Tagbilaran City, the Philippine Carabao Center at the Ubay Stock Farm, the Don Emilio del Valle Memorial Hospital in Ubay and the Bohol Medical Care Institute were established – to give his consitutents accessibility to the services of these offices at minimal cost compared to having to go to Cebu or Manila.
At the House, on top of his chairmanship of the Ethics and Privileges Committee, he was a member for the minority of the committees on agriculture and food, appropriations, basic education and culture, Constitutional amendments, good government and public accountability, local government, public works and highways, suffrage and electoral reforms, tourism, transportation, as well as ways and means. (with reports from June Blanco)