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17/12/2012: Philippines Mourns Death of Senator Inouye

17 December 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippines today expressed its profound sorrow over the passing this afternoon of Sen. Daniel Inouye—its strongest champion in the United States Congress.

“We would like to express our profound sorrow over the death of Senator Inouye,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said, shortly after he was informed that the 88-year-old lawmaker from Hawaii succumbed to respiratory complications at 5:01 p.m. EST on Monday (6:01 a.m. Tuesday in Manila).

“Senator Inouye was more than just a friend of the Philippines,” said Ambassador Cuisia in a statement released by the Philippine Embassy. “We grieve over his passing because the Filipino people have embraced him as one of their own.”

At the time of his death, Senator Inouye was serving as Senate President Pro-Tempore and Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. The most senior member of the Senate, he was third in line of presidential succession after Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.

Ambassador Cuisia said Senator Inouye will be remembered for championing the cause of the Philippines in the US Senate where he was the longest serving living member. He said that in the almost five decades that he served, Senator Inouye sponsored and supported numerous bills that strengthened Philippine-American relations.

A World War II veteran and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Senator Inouye was the staunchest supporter of Filipino veterans and was instrumental in the enactment of the Filipino Veterans Bill under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Senator Inouye believed that the US has shortchanged the Philippines with its unfulfilled promise to Filipinos who were drafted in 1941 to serve alongside US soldiers in World War II and he wanted to make up for that,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

Senator Inouye was also the main sponsor of the Save Our Industries Act, a bill that will allow the export to the US of Philippine apparel made of American fabrics. This legislation aims to increase jobs and exports income for both countries.

He was also strong advocate of strengthening Philippine military capabilities and enhancing Philippines-US defense relations by the provision of increased military financing for the Philippines. Mindanao development was also a priority for the late senator.

“Many people may not be aware of it but Senator Inouye was actually always proud to say that he was an honorary citizen of Bulacan and Pangasinan,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “Senator Inouye’s affinity with the Philippines is also evident in the fact that that majority of his constituents in Hawaii come from Ilocos.”

Ambassador Cuisia also said that Senator Inouye had three Filipinos in his staff, including Chief of Staff Marie Blanco.  He said the Hawaii solon also always made sure he mentioned his close friendship with former Defense Secretary Alejo Santos and former Ambassador Alejandro Melchor in his conversations with Philippine officials.

During Senator Inouye’s visit to the Philippines in 2011, President Aquino conferred on him one of the country’s highest awards—the Order of Sikatuna—for fostering, developing and strengthening relations between the Philippines and the United States.  He was also previously awarded the Order of Lakandula and was presented with a Presidential Citation.

Ambassador Cuisia said no visit of ranking Philippine officials will be complete without a meeting with Senator Inouye. In June, Senator Inouye organized a Senate reception for President Benigno S. Aquino III during his official working visit to Washington. His last meeting with Filipino officials was with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, in September.

Ambassador Cuisia said Senator Inouye was planning to visit the Philippines again next year. ###