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.
Raul Roco was a legend in the student movement. He was not only the youngest president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), he was also one of the young members of the 1971 Constitutional Convention.
But this is not the only reason why Raul Roco’s most loyal supporters were students and the thinking segment of our population. Roco rose to prominence in the trapo-dominated Philippine politics by showing brilliance in his arguments, political will in his programs and integrity in his actions. He endeared himself to the public by championing the welfare of women and poor. In his speeches, he never missed inspiring the youth to serve the country with all idealism and vigor.
In short, Roco was everything we wanted for a politician. Principled, competent and a good man.
University of the Philippines students of our time will remember Roco as the senator who questioned and opposed the budget cuts for UP and other state universities during the term of Estrada. Roco’s crucial role in the impeachment trial prior to EDSA Dos will not be forgotten as well.
Despite objections of student groups and teacher unions to the reforms he introduced in the public school system when he was secretary of Education, no one can question Roco’s sincerity in improving the delivery and quality of our tattering education system. He welcomed his critics in his office, including this author, to find a common cause in making education more accessible and relevant to all.
Today’s youth will remember Roco as the credible and intelligent critic of the Arroyo administration. He will be known as the best candidate during the 2004 elections who fought the mother-of-all trapos in Philippine history despite a ragtag election machinery and failing health.
Roco placed his hopes in the youth. The latter now pays its respect to the best President we never had.