July 9, 2014
With great sadness, the island mourned the passing of Sen. Vicente Cabrera Pangelinan, affectionately known as Ben.
Pangelinan died yesterday at age 58.
Friends, family and colleagues gathered at Guam Memorial Hospital, paying their respects to the late senator.
"Guam has lost probably the greatest leader of this generation," Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said.
Attorney Mike Phillips, who knew Pangelinan since 1985, said the two grew up together politically.
"He was always one step ahead and always fighting," Phillips said. "He was always fighting for the people. He would not give in."
Former Santa Rita Mayor Joseph Wesley considered Pangelinan to be like a brother.
"He's my buddy, he's my friend, he's my che'lu," Wesley said. "I look up to him as a friend and a leader."
Former Gov. Carl Gutierrez remembered Pangelinan as a great and passionate leader.
"All I can say is that man fought for the people of Guam, almost down to his last breath," Gutierrez said.
Tributes also poured in via written statements to honor Pangelinan.
"Ben was a dedicated public servant who worked diligently to improve our island," Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said. "He was a tireless advocate for Chamorro self-determination, and he was a careful steward of our public funds. I was honored to work with him throughout his career and will deeply miss his friendship."
Chief Justice Robert Torres said Pangelinan will be remembered for his expertise in public finance and government operations.
"Through his career in the Legislature, he shaped public policy to favor transparency, openness, and equality," Torres said. "He is counted as an early and steadfast supporter for the independence and unification of the Judiciary of Guam."
Gov. Eddie Calvo declared the island in a state of mourning and ordered all flags to fly at half-staff to remember Pangelinan.
"Chairman Ben loved the people, and he fought for the people," Calvo said. "And with that, all I can say is the island has lost a true Guamanian Chamorro patron."
Born in 1955 on Saipan, Pangelinan and his family moved to Guam in 1962.
"He may have been born in Saipan, but let me tell you, this man truly loved Guam and the people of Guam," said Speaker Judith Won Pat.
Pangelinan started his education at San Vicente Grade School and graduated from Father Duenas Memorial School in 1974.
Former Sen. Simon Sanchez, who graduated from high school alongside Pangelinan, knew him since their freshman year.
"For those of us who've known Ben the longest, Ben has always been the one who stood up for the little guy," Sanchez recalled. "He never was afraid, never backed down if he thought he was right."
Pangelinan attended the University of Guam for a year, transferring to Georgetown University and graduating in 1981.
In 1992, Pangelinan was first elected to public office, serving in the 22nd Guam Legislature.
Since then, Pangelinan served a total of 10 terms as senator and one as speaker in the 27th Legislature.
Pangelinan may be one of the longest-serving senators, Won Pat noted.
She held back tears as she remembered serving in public office beside Pangelinan.
"I remember my first term and we were fighting," she said. "He apologized by sending me a bouquet of flowers to let me know we can fight, but we're OK the next moment."
Candle of remembranceWon Pat called session shortly after noon yesterday and asked the senators to join her in lighting a candle of remembrance at the seat of the late senator.
After Sen. Tina Muña Barnes said a short prayer for Pangelinan, Won Pat asked if senators wanted to share words, prayers and memories of their colleague.
Sen. Chris Duenas and Sen. Dennis Rodriguez expressed their gratitude for how much they learned from Pangelinan.
"At the end of the day, I always knew his interests were for the betterment of the island and the betterment of our people," Rodriguez said. "He was a good friend, and he was my friend."
Sen. Mike Limtiaco said he was honored to work with someone with such a passion for his beliefs.
Limtiaco's voice broke with emotion as he recounted seeing Pangelinan's body during the viewing earlier in the day. He said Pangelinan seemed to be at peace, and Limtiaco was reminded of seeing his father at peace after his death as well.
Sen. Michael San Nicolas said the passing of the late senator took him by surprise.
"I sit here and I need to really reconcile with myself, so what happens now?" San Nicolas said. "Now that Speaker Ben is gone, what happens now? Because he provided so much direction, so much foundation. We'll mourn his loss while we figure out what to do next."
Cruz said he met the late senator before some of his colleagues were born.
"There is no one that will be able to understand the budget the way that he understood the budget," Cruz said. "In what little time that I had in this Legislature I will try as much as I can to continue the work that he has done, though I know his shoes are absolutely impossible to fill, I'll try to stumble along."
Speaker Won Pat said she remembered Pangelinan when he worked for Won Pat's father, Guam Delegate Antonio Borja Won Pat, as an intern in Washington, D.C.
Pangelinan would join Won Pat's family for dinners and events.
The speaker said that Pangelinan would later tease her for telling her mom, "Don't feed that fat boy because he doesn't need any more food."
"He truly is a dear friend," the speaker said.
She remembered being angry with him for being so stubborn at times.
"The man has a memory of an elephant, but I want you to know, he's truly a donkey," she said laughing through her emotion.
"Guam and CNMI have lost a son, and I'm very fortunate to have served with him," she said.
Island community grieves loss of Ben PangelinanPosted: Jul 08, 2014 5:38 PM Updated: Jul 08, 2014 6:06 PM by Ken Quintanilla
Guam - The island is in a state of mourning over the loss of Senator Vicente "Ben" Pangelinan. The Democrat lawmaker served 20 years in the Guam Legislature and passed away this morning. He was a man many considered a great statesman, passionate leader and dedicated public servant.
Attorney Mike Phillips says there are very few people like Ben. "It's an enormous loss for the people of Guam," he told KUAM News. Phillips was one of several island leaders and former colleagues who remembered Pangelinan today after he passed away this morning. Phillips remembers Pangelinan for the time they worked together paying cost of living allowances for retirees, he said, "With COLA, the same thing, Ben was tenacious he wouldn't stop I remember when he was designing the legislation, we were on the phone two or three times a day, he was always in the lead, keeping me on the loop."
Pangelinan was born in Saipan and came to Guam at a very young age. He grew up in Barrigada and graduated from Father Duenas Memorial School in 1974 before attending Georgetown University in Washington, DC with a bachelor's degree in government. At an early age, Ben showed interest in government service having worked as a staff assistant for Guam's first congressman Antonio Won Pat. Speaker Judi Won Pat says as an intern, Senator Ben would attend family dinners in DC and today remembered the softer side of Ben.
"Ben would always pick on me and joke with everybody especially when our colleagues were around him," she recalled.
Lawmakers were supposed to reconvene session today but instead senators paid tribute by sharing their memories of the late senator. Black ribbons were placed at the entrance of the Guam Legislature with a candle and wreath placed on his desk in the Session Hall and his chair draped with black ribbon. Won Pat says Senator Ben wasn't just a dear friend and mentor but a true leader and genuine statesman, saying, "Always reminding me to put the people first and that's what exactly what he did his whole life, as a public servant you look at his office and you see the sign and what does it say? The People's Office - it was never really about Ben."
Pangelinan served in the 22nd to the 27th and 29th through the 32nd Guam Legislatures. He served as the speaker in the 27th Guam Legislature and last served as the chairman on the Committee on Appropriations. Senator Ben served as chair on many committee and championed many issues that others did not. Along with cola, he led the fight on Guam's quest for self-determination, protection of our natural resources and our land.
Acting Land Management director and former Chamorro Land Trust Commission chairman Mike Borja says Pangelinan fought hard until the day he died. "Senator Pangelinan was a very big champion on Chamorro land rights here on Guam and land rights all together and his passing is very hurtful," he shared.
Many island leaders paid their respects to Senator Ben this morning at the Guam Memorial Hospital, including Governor Eddie Calvo. He said Ben, "Has served this island and he served it at 150% and he was working 'till his dying breath. What more can we ask from a public servant?"
Today Governor Calvo declared the island in a state of mourning to honor the life of Senator Ben. "He's a fighter - we may not always agree but one thing you ask for someone elected into office is to fight for your cause, Chairman Ben loved the people and he fought for the people and with that all I can say the island has lost a true Guamanian, a Chamorro patriot," he said solemnly.
For the past few weeks, Senator Ben was in the intensive care unit at GMH. He recently announced he would be retiring after this term to, as he said, "Ensure I spend the remaining good years of my life with my family - enjoying them, living with them, serving them and giving them the same commitment that I have given to the people of Guam these past decades."
Ben Pangelinan was 58 years old.
- Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 03:00am
- BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF
Gov. Eddie Calvo declared Guam to be in a state of mourning to honor the life of the 10-term member and former speaker of the Guam Legislature. The cause of death was not given, but Pangelinan had said he was being treated for cancer in recent months.
The news of Pangelinan’s death evoked an outpouring of emotion from both sides of the political spectrum, as differences were set aside to honor the late senator.
“This is a sad day for Guam. Sen. Pangelinan was a fighter. He devoted his entire life to serving our island as a watchtower for clean government. I respect the man and I will miss him," Calvo said.
The loss was felt at the Guam Legislature, where Pangelinan served for 20 years. His service began in the 22nd Guam Legislature in 1993 and continued – with the exception of the 28th Guam Legislature – until the 32nd Guam Legislature, in which he served as chairman of the committee on appropriations.
He was speaker of the 27th Guam Legislature.
“Speaker Pangelinan was a true leader and genuine statesman who worked hard for the people of Guam,” said Speaker Judith T. Won Pat. “He was a dear friend and mentor and I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing. I send my sincerest condolences to his family. ”
Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo said she is "deeply saddened by the passing of Pangelinan,” noting he was a dedicated public servant who worked diligently to improve the island.
"As a 10-term senator and former speaker of the Guam Legislature, he championed many issues for our families and fought for his convictions. He was a tireless advocate for Chamorro self-determination and he was a careful steward of our public funds. I was honored to work with him throughout his career and will deeply miss his friendship," she said. “Our island has lost a great statesman and leader. I join the people of Guam in honoring Ben's service to our island and remembering his many contributions to our community. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones and friends during this very difficult time.”
Across party lines
Sen. Rory Respicio, chairman of the Democratic Party said: "Speaker Ben was a true Democrat and a great senator. My condolences go out to Speaker Ben's family during this most difficult time. As a colleague, Speaker Ben was always a great example to all of us of what it meant to be a public servant. He was a man of ideals and not ambition. He believed in helping working families and those in need. He always fought for what he felt was right, even if it was not popular at the time. With Speaker Ben's passing, the Democratic Party has lost an outstanding leader, and our island community has lost a noble public servant."
Democratic Party Vice Chairwoman Nerissa Bretania Underwood said the late senator was a fighter for the people all of his life.
"Just as he fought cancer these past few years, he fought for an honest and accountable government. For all Democrats, indeed for all of the people of Guam, Pangelinan represented the power of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. His intellect and his service will be missed," she said. "While there will be thousands of official words of praise in ceremonies for the next few days, there will be many more silent words of praise uttered by the common citizen who felt the power of his service," she added.
Republican Party of Guam chairman Mike Benito issued the following statement on behalf of the Republican Party: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Speaker Ben Pangelinan. He dedicated his life to public service and fought until the very end for what he believed in. Guam is a better place today because of him. On behalf of the Republican Party, we extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers to his family.”
The island's education department and institutions of higher learning also paid tribute to Pangelinan and extended their condolences to the senator's family and loved ones.
Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez said the late senator's commitment to public service and, in particular, to Guam's children and families will be sorely missed.
"On a more personal note, I was lucky enough to work for Sen. Pangelinan 20 years ago, and he has been a mentor and friend to me since then," Fernandez said. "When I was considering coming home to Guam, he was among the first people I called for his advice and perspective, and he was among the very first to offer me his public support. Whether we agreed or disagreed on issues, it was always in the spirit of trying to make Guam a better place. I will miss his leadership and dedication to our island and our children."
The University of Guam also joined the island in mourning, noting that the former speaker worked tirelessly for the island and her people as a senator for more than two decades.
"The well-respected leader and statesman was a strong advocate for higher education and the efforts of the university to fulfill its mission. He was also a dear friend to many in the UOG community who worked closely with him over the years," the statement read.
UOG President Robert Underwood, who is currently traveling, expressed his sadness at the news: "Speaker Pangelinan was more than just a supporter of resources for the university, he was a champion of sound government finances and an intelligent force for positive change. I knew him for several decades and my admiration for his insights, tenacity and sense of service grew decade after decade. The island will miss his voice.”
"The leadership at the University of Guam sends its deepest condolences to the family of Speaker Pangelinan and to his colleagues in the 32nd Guam Legislature. The university community is grateful for the commitment and dedication to Guam that Speaker Pangelinan has demonstrated over the years and will remember his legacy in public service," Underwood added.
Attorney General Leonardo M. Rapadas said the late senator was a man who passionately served the public for more than 20 years, gave a voice to the people, and will be remembered for his dedication and insight.
"From proposing legislation that has positively shaped the legal landscape, to sitting as the oversight chairman and handling the government’s budget in recent years, his stout commitment is evident and the toils of his work have touched the lives of all he encountered," he said.
Chief Justice Robert J. Torres of the Supreme Court of Guam said the late senator will be remembered for his expertise and foresight in public finance and government operations.
"Through his career in the legislature, he shaped public policy to favor transparency, openness, and equality. He is counted as an early and steadfast supporter for the independence and unification of the Judiciary of Guam,” Torres said.
Former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez yesterday issued the following statement: "My wife Geri and I are extremely saddened by the passing of Speaker Pangelinan. Ben was a great and passionate leader, and he loved the people he was honored to serve. He was not afraid to fight for what was right, and he never backed down, even when the odds were against him. For that, he had my deep respect. His death is a great loss to our island community, and I know he will be missed. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family.”
Late last month, Pangelinan announced his retirement from the Guam Legislature, stating: “For 20 years, I have had the honor of serving the public with the love and support of my family and the willingness and courage to do what is in the best interest of the people of Guam. This year, I have put great thought into and consideration for my family and giving them that same love and support they have given me these past years when thinking about my decision for the future.
“In wanting to ensure I spend the remaining good years of my life with my family – enjoying them, living with them, serving them, and giving them the same commitment that I have given to the people of Guam these past decades – I have decided that I will be retiring from the Guam Legislature at the end of this term.”
Pangelinan was born in Saipan in 1956 and came to Guam when he was very young. He was raised and lived in Barrigada and attended San Vicente School and Father Duenas Memorial School. He held a bachelor’s degree in government from Georgetown University.