Rene Saguisag, former senator and Erap defense lawyer, dies at 84

RENE AUGUSTO V. SAGUISAG, a former senator and human rights lawyer who was one of the key defense lawyers in the corruption trial of ex-President Joseph E. Estrada (Erap), died on Wednesday. He was 84.

His family did not disclose the cause of his death.

Mr. Saguisag fought the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.’s martial rule in the 1970s and later became spokesman of his successor Corazon C. Aquino after a popular street uprising toppled the strongman’s regime in February 1986.

“Rene Saguisag was a dedicated public servant, and his tireless endeavors as a human rights advocate, senator and writer stand as a testament to his unwavering commitment to justice, truth and democracy,” according to a statement by his family posted on his son Rebo’s Facebook account.

“For him, expertise in law was a means to serve the poor and disenfranchised, and he provided free legal aid to those in need. “

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri described Mr. Saguisag as a true statesman who prioritized helping poor Filipinos who needed legal aid.

“Senator Saguisag leaves behind a legacy of service and excellence that continues to be a benchmark for many young lawyers and public servants,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Saguisag was a senator from 1987 to 1992 and did not run for reelection, as he promised during the campaign.

During his time in the Senate, he co-authored the bill on the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials. He was chairman of the ethics committee and was part of the ad hoc committee on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

He was among the 12 senators in 1991 who voted against the extension of a treaty with the United States that would have given Washington 10 more years of access to military bases in the Philippines.

Senator Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares in a statement said Mr. Saguisag was a “legal luminary” who used his expertise to help the poor. “We condole with the nation for the loss of a staunch advocate for good gov-ernance and justice.”

Mr. Saguisag was part of the Free Legal Assistance Group or FLAG, a lawyer’s group founded in 1974. As a FLAG lawyer, he helped prosecute the Manero brothers for the murder of Italian Catholic priest Tullio Favali in 1985.

“He was steadfast in defending our democratic values and protecting the rights of all,” Senator Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement, calling him a staunch defender of democracy and human rights.

At the House of Representatives, the Makabayan bloc said Mr. Saguisag had an “unwavering commitment to upholding justice and defending the rights of the Filipino People.”

“His legacy as a human rights lawyer and public servant will continue to inspire generations of Filipinos to fight for a more just and equitable society,” it said in a statement. — John Victor D. Ordoñez