Villanueva weeps during session as Senate mourns death of his sibling

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FILE PHOTO: Sen. Joel Villanueva weeps during the wake of his mother who died 2 months before his sister Bocaue Mayor Joni Villanueva-Tugna passed away. Photo from Sen. Joel Villanueva's official Instagram page

MANILA – Sen. Joel Villanueva on Monday wept during a Senate session as his fellow lawmakers condoled with his family over the passing of his sister, Bocaue Mayor Joni Villanueva-Tugna, last week.

The chamber adopted Senate Resolution No. 433 expressing the legislative body's "profound sympathy and sincerest condolences" to the Villanueva family.

"She was admired for her hands-on approach to managing the day-to-day operations of the municipal government during the COVID-19 pandemic despite being diagnosed with vasculitis January of this year," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in his sponsorship speech.

"She is a true hero to the people of Bocaue and a blessing to the people whose lives she has touched," he said.

"She even waded through flood waters with our colleague Sen. Nancy Binay when flash floods hit the province," added Sen. Sonny Angara, who previously worked with the late mayor's husband, former CIBAC Party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna.

Other senators extended their sympathies to Sen. Villanueva, who also lost his mother about 2 months ago.

"She was such a young and promising public servant [but] indeed, God has His own ways, Joel," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.

"Let us accept that and I am sure the Mayor will be happy to see us perform our jobs as public servants because during her lifetime that was how she dedicated herself," he said.

"We take comfort in knowing that Mayor Joni is know with the Lord Almighty, our Father, and I can imagine the Lord saying to her, 'Well done, good and faithful servant," Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Villanueva-Tugna's PDP-Laban partymate said.

"It takes an awful lot of courage to face the reality that we are going to lose someone… Sometimes, they come one after the other. I've experienced that… but as the Bible saying goes, 'This, too, shall pass,'" Sen. Richard Gordon said.

Senators Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, and Cynthia Villar also gave comforting words as Sen. Villanueva was heard weeping in the background.

"Ang hirap na makita ka ngayon na umiiyak at para sa aming lahat na hindi ka namin mapuntahan ngayon physically at mayakap," Hontiveros said.

"During this very difficult moment, our prayers are with you and your family… Narito lang kami, nakikiramay sa inyo at sa buong pamilya ninyo," Pangilinan said.

"I know how difficult it is because you lost you mom months ago, and now you lost your sister… Our deepest condolences from me and my family," Villar said.

Villanueva, who spoke in between sobs, thanked his colleagues.

"Devastated is an understatement… To be honest, my heart has been shattered into a million pieces," he said.

"[But] Our mom would always tell us, 'The clay cannot and can never question the potter.'"

The 42-year-old Bocaue mayor died on May 28, 2020 due to sepsis secondary to bacterial pneumonia as she continued to serve in communities during the coronavirus pandemic despite suffering from vasculitis.

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