The Nation’s Conscience has Risen to Heaven:
A Tribute to Haydee Yorac

Haydee Yorac, 2004 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service, recently passed away at the age of 64 while being treated for ovarian cancer. With her passing, the country has lost yet another honest and true servant of the people.

Miss Yorac’s contributions go as far back as the 1960s, opposing the United States’ war on Vietnam and Ferdinand Marcos’ regime. With a seemingly inhuman endurance, she has galloped–Galahad-like–through four administrations as an activist, human rights commissioner, national election commissioner, teacher, chair of the National Unification Commission and–more recently–of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Just like the knight Galahad, Miss Yorac appears to have discovered the Holy Grail and transformed herself into a paladin of unearthly dimensions, striving at her utmost for righteousness and the punishment of the unjust.

As chairperson of the PCGG, Yorac disproved dissidents and strived to raise the standards of the commission (one must note in passing that there have been arguments among certain congressmen concerning the continued existence and usefulness of the commission prior to Yorac’s ascension as chair). She brought order to its barely catalogued files, awakened long slumbering cases, and pushed with all her strength at the barely living pace of various long-running legal battles. Under her watchful eye, the commission prevailed beyond all expectations and recovered over $600 million from the Swiss accounts of Ferdinand Marcos, and dealt a major blow in the dispute over the coco levy funds. What was perhaps even more amazing was the fact that she never lost any of her vigor even in sickbed, continuing to face challenges that would have fazed and confounded a normal person.

Though many more cases remain unsolved, Yorac’s involvement would have ensured that the PCGG would arrive at the eventual conclusion of its goal. However, this was not the case.

With Yorac’s resignation from the PCGG, one wonders if her replacement will have the capability to retain the commission’s force.

Many years before PCGG, Yorac was also Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner. For seven years, she patiently crafted for the commission an integrity it so greatly required. (Unfortunately, it only took less than a month and all the incompetence of the commission’s current head to erase the remnants of Miss Yorac’s loving touch.)

Outside government appointments, Miss Yorac was also a professor of law at the University of the Philippines. With the same patience, vigor, and sharp-eyed distinction, she molded the younger generations on what is just. She gave her all to impress on the young the importance of making a difference.

On her more personal side, it has been said by certain people that Miss Yorac also possessed a rather peculiar sense of humor. She has been described by fellow workers as being generous and kind; many have come to know her more as a loving mother than just any other boss who gives them their salary at the end of every month. She detested cynics, who believed that no good can come from any given person’s involvement with others.

The fact that very little–if any–airtime is used by the mainstream media for Miss Yorac’s death (as opposed to the millions of worthlessly disgusting drivel that is showbiz) is an affront to her memory. With all her contributions to fighting graft and progression of people’s rights, among other things, no sensible person would consider this a just treatment from an entity that–supposedly–also advocates service to the people.

And so the incorruptible Miss Yorac has passed away, and with her passes over twenty years of unfaltering service for the sake of the people. Would her legacy remain as nothing more than a faint echo in the memories of the coming generations? Let us all pray and believe as Haydee Yorac did: That no one person is merely indispensable; that everyone can make a difference–even with the tiniest seeming gesture.

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