Heherson Alvarez, Fierce Opponent of Marcos Dictatorship, Dies at 80


This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

MANILA — Heherson Alvarez, a leading campaigner against the brutal regime of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos who went on to serve in the national legislature after returning from exile in the United States, died on Monday in Manila. He was 80.

The cause was complications of the coronavirus, said Joey Lina, a former colleague in Congress.

Mr. Alvarez’s wife, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, an artist who was also active in the anti-Marcos movement, had contracted the virus as well. She was reported to have responded better to treatment after the couple were taken to a Manila hospital last month.

Heherson Turingan Alvarez, known as Sonny, was born on Oct. 26, 1939, in Santiago, the Philippines. As a young activist, he participated in a 1971 constitutional convention at which he refused to sign the Marcos-dictated Constitution.

He and his wife later escaped the dictatorship by fleeing to the United States, where he helped organize the opposition Movement for a Free Philippines. He was close to Benigno S. Aquino Jr., Mr. Marcos’s archrival, who was assassinated on an airport tarmac in 1983 upon returning from exile in the United States.

Public anger over Mr. Aquino’s death snowballed into a popular revolt three years later that ousted Mr. Marcos. He was replaced by Mr. Aquino’s widow, Corazon, who was also close to the Alvarez family.

From 1987 to 1998, Mr. Alvarez was a member of the Philippine Senate, where he promoted environmental causes.

He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1998 to 2001. During that time, he was the principal complainant in an impeachment case against President Joseph Estrada, who was eventually removed in a military-backed popular revolt over corruption charges.

Salvador Panelo, the chief spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said his friendship with Mr. Alvarez had deepened during their time in the streets opposing the Marcos regime.

Mr. Panelo said that Mr. Alvarez’s activism had “brought positive changes in public administration, most specially in the field of human rights,” adding that he was “a passionate advocate of the environment.”

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