PARTY-LIST Rep. Roy V. Señeres of OFW Family Club’s sudden departure caught many by surprise, not realizing the boyish-looking 68-year-old is a diabetic who would soon withdraw his presidential bid for health reasons.
Señeres did not show up at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to officially end his quest for the highest post in the land, sending instead his son, Roy Señeres Jr., to deliver his letter of withdrawal.
The elder Señeres would have run under the Partido ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka Party-list before withdrawing, three days before his death.
Roy Villareal Señeres was a Filipino businessman and diplomat.
His son, RJ, said his father had been suffering from diabetes and was confined at a hospital in January.
RJ said his father was confined in a hospital’s intensive care unit on Sunday night after he had difficulty in breathing.
He added that his father suffered two cardiac arrests early Monday morning, before he passed away after his third cardiac arrest at around 8 a.m. the same day.
Former Ambassador Roy Señeres gained prominence representing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), when he was able to save Sarah Balabagan from the gallows.
Balabagan was an OFW who was imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 1994 to 1996 for murder. She was initially sentenced to death, but was later extradited through Señeres intervention, having gained the trust and confidence of the UAE Sheik.
Señeres served as Philippine ambassador and attaché to the UAE from 1994 to 1998; chairman of the National Labor Commission from 2002 to 2005; and member of the House representing the OFW Family Club.
Statements of condolences poured in following the announcement of Señeres demise.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said: “We are saddened by the untimely passing of our colleague Roy V. Señeres at the age of 68. He is a great loss to our overseas Filipino workers’ community, having spent most of his life to champion their concerns, as well as those of the labor sector.”
“In behalf of my colleagues at the House of Representatives and of my family, I extend my sympathy and prayers to Roy’s loved ones and offer our great respect and gratitude for his unwavering dedication and sincere service to our nation onto the very end,” Nationalist People’s Coalition Rep. Rodolfo Albano of Isabela said.
A senatorial candidate, Rep. Martin Romualdez of Leyte, said Señeres would be remembered for his compassion for the plight of workers.
“He is a man of strength and exemplary deeds. His passing is a great loss to Congress and to all the people who know him,” Romualdez said.
Malacañang also extended its condolences to the family of Señeres.
“Nakikiramay kami sa kanyang pamilya. Siya ay nagtaguyod sa kapakanan ng mga manggagawa bilang tagapangulo ng NLRC [National Labor Relations Commission] at nang itinalaga siya sa Gitnang Silangan bilang ambassador. [We condole with his family. He promoted workers’ welfare as head of NLRC and when he was appointed as ambassador to the Middle East],” Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said.
Señeres, who spent his first term in Congress advocating the welfare of OFW announced his candidacy in October last year.
His platform centered on labor and migrant rights, along with inclusive growth for all Filipinos.
“He wanted to call attention to the fact that the Philippines has one of the biggest income disparities between the rich and the poor. He wanted to do something about our workers who are exploited,” Hans Christian Señeres, one of his sons, said.
In the past few months, Christian said the elder Señeres seemed “happy” to listen as his rivals talk increasingly about labor issues on the campaign trail.
His lifetime advocacy for labor rights began when he served as officer in various capacities at the Department of Labor and Employment from 1972 to 1975.
Later, he was appointed labor attaché in the UAE under the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos, until he was transferred to Washington D.C. with the same post in the early 1990s. Then he returned to the UAE as ambassador, serving there until 1998.
Señeres headed the NLRC in 2000 under then President Joseph Estrada, until he quit in 2005, in the mass protests against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
As representative, he authored at least 30 bills, many of which pushed for reforms to provide legal and health-care assistance to migrant workers, including a proposal to establish an “OFW family help desks” in all local government units.
Señeres, born in Capiz on July 6, 1947, was a lawyer by profession. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1967 and law degree at San Beda College in 1971.