Remembering Senator Richard Lugar, friend to Philippine Democracy

When it is time to come up with a weekly opinion piece, I typically scramble to find a topic that fits perfectly with this circular. I usually write about something American or something about the Philippines, but Senator Richard Lugar’s passing on April 28, 2019 is an event for both communities and lies squarely in the domain of this paper.


Sadly enough, among the obituaries coming out about the six-term Republican Senator from Indiana, very little can be found about the role he played in Philippine Democracy. That is because it is the American press that is gathering headlines and so his special place for us gets lost in the search results.


Senator Richard Lugar first became a US Senator in 1977 (winning a 1976 election) after two successful terms as mayor of Indianapolis. Importantly, he chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1985 to 1987 then again from 2003 to 2007. This first tenure on the committee coincided with a sensitive period in Philippine history. Most admirably, he did not rubber stamp the pro-Marcos policies of the Reagan Administration but instead added to the forces of foreign pressure that led to the snap elections of 1986 in the Philippines. Senator Lugar, among others, flew to the Philippines to observe the elections.


In his role on the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Lugar often took the historically “right” stands in foreign affairs (he also stood against apartheid in South Africa) and did so in contradiction to the policies of the Reagan Administration. He believed in bipartisan cooperation. He was not afraid to lead.


Though, in the long list of accomplishments attached to the name of the good senator, his moment in Philippine history may not rank highest among the headlines, it does for me. He was a Republican who supported the regime of Cory Aquino, advocated for US aid as the new democratic government was trying to gain footing. Most of all, he saw the EDSA Revolution in the best light a foreigner could see it—a million souls on the streets of a third world country, before the cameras that fed the world, chanting for democracy. Isn’t that a symbol for the ages!


Cheers for the late Senator Richard Lugar. May he rest in peace. May the largeness of his heart live on forever.