The late senator Heherson Alvarez (third from left) with President Rodrigo Duterte and other high ranking officers of PDP Laban, Duterte’s political party (Photo courtesy of Sen. Heherson Alvarez’s Facebook account)


Former Senator Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez died from complications due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).  He was 80.

His children, Xilca Alvarez-Protacio and Hexilon, confirmed their father’s passing.  He died 12:56 p.m. Monday.

Former Senator Joey Lina, a colleague of Alvarez in the Senate, said in an interview with ABS-CBN that Alvarez died even after showing “encouraging signs” after receiving blood plasma convalescent therapy.

Alvarez’s children said their father underwent an experimental plasma treatment last week as a treatment for the disease.

His wife, Cecille Guidote Alvarez, also tested positive for the disease but her condition is improving according to her children.

His children are working for the immediate cremation of their father’s remains as per COVID-19 protocols.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque paid tribute to Alvarez saying the late senator “had a distinguished record as a public servant.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he feels “more pain” with the death of Alvarez as the entire Senate cannot honor him with a necrological service as a former senator since such an event is not permitted under the Luzon-wide lockdown.

Sotto cites Alvarez as an influence to him when he first joined the Senate in 1992.

“His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the people, and his name will forever be etched in our country’s rich history,” he said.

Senator Ralph Recto said Alvares always had a soft heart for the common tao and spent a lifetime championing their rights and freedoms, and at one time paying dearly for the courage of his convictions.

“He spent his last years representing one client – Mother Earth – so that our grandchildren will have clean air, safe water, blue skies. He was no longer a politician with the next election in mind, but a statesman concerned about the next generation,” he said.

Senator Richard Gordon said he lost “a friend today”.

“Sonny Alvarez was practically an elder brother through my career. We were together in the 1971 Constitutional Convention and in the student movement,” he said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the late senator’s  contributions to the country, especially his advocacy for environmental protection during his tenure in the Senate “will never be forgotten”.

Sen. Migz Zubiri said that even if the Senate will not be able to give Alvarez the honor he deserves through a necrological service at the Senate, he promised that he will sponsor a Senate resolution to honor Alvarez once the Senate resumes its session on May 4.

Alvarez studied Liberal Arts and Law at the University of the Philippines and held a Masters in Economics and Public Administration degree from Harvard University, USA. He also had a Doctorate of Environmental Science (Ph. D., Honoris Causa) from the Mindanao State University.

Alvarez was one of the youngest delegates to the Marcos-formed 1971 Constitutional Convention,.  He immediately rose to become of the leaders of the anti-Marcos movement after martial law.

After the EDSA Revolution, he was immediately appointed by then-President Cory Aquino to her cabinet, naming him as Minister and then Secretary of Agrarian Reform.

Alvarez served in the Senate from 1987 to 1998, where he served as chair of the senate committee on environment for 10 years. Most of his legislation focused on environmental laws legislation. Most notable of laws he authored were The Clean Air Act and the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.

Barred under the Constitution to run for another Senate term, he ran and won as the representative of the 4th district of his home province, Isabela, from 1998 to 2001.

He was the principal complainant in the impeachment case against then-President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in the House of Representatives in 2000.

Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources after Estrada’s ouster in January 2001.  He serves the DENR from 2001 to 2002.  He would still serve in different capacities under the Arroyo administration.  In 2009, he became the first secretary of the Climate Change Commission.

Even if he was identified with Arroyo, then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s political nemesis, Aquino appointed him as a commissioner of the Climate Change Commission.

Alvarez ran to reclaim his congressional seat in the 4th district of Isabela in 2019  under President Rodrigo Duterte’s PDP-Laban  Party.  He, however, withdrew from the race two days before election day, citing massive vote-buying in the province saying this makes the election “a sham”.

Alvarez was survived by his wife and two children.  (Rommel F. Lopez)