PRESS Secretary Cerge Remonde died of cardiac arrest second to myocardial infarction or heart attack before noon Tuesday, his attending physician Dr. Eric Nubla of the Makati Medical Center said.
In an interview over radio station dySS, Press Undersecretary Butch Junia said Remonde was found unconscious inside the bathroom of his house at Bel Air, Makati City.
He was rushed to Makati Medical Center, where doctors tried to revive him.
But Remonde was not responding to medications. He has no pulse rate and heartbeat when rushed to the hospital.
“Press Secretary Cerge Remonde was brought to the emergency department of Makati Medical Center at 11:20 a.m. He was unconscious, not breathing and his heart was not beating. Attempts were made to resuscitate him but despite heroic measures, he expired at 11:51,” the official statement of the Makati Medical Center read.
Anthony Leachon, the cardiologist of Remonde, said the press secretary was already dead when he was at home. “Cardiac arrest was the cause of death.”
Leachon added that the Palace official had several medical concerns such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Remonde was scheduled to give a press briefing in Malacanang at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Remonde’s remains would be flown to Cebu on Friday after a two-night interment at the Heritage Memorial Park from Tuesday to Wednesday. His remains would be brought to Malacañang on Thursday until Friday.
The Palace official would be laid to rest on Sunday in his hometown in Argao, Cebu.
Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said Conrado “Dodie” Limcauco, head of the Philippine Information Agency, was named as acting Press Secretary.
All sectors of the government and the media have mourned the sudden death of Remonde.
As Remonde’s death flooded the news, several government officials and media personalities have expressed their sorrow and grief remembering the press secretary who had constantly been described as “a very good man.”
Executive Secretary Ermita, in an interview at the Makati Medical Center, said the press secretary “was a big loss to the government.”
Ermita described Remonde as a “very good confidante” of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as he had joined her in almost all of her trips.
“We are all in grief with the passing away of our beloved friend OPS Secretary Cerge Remonde. We are all shocked with his untimely death,” he said.
Ermita said they will be giving all appropriate arrangements for the remains of the good secretary as discussed with Remonde’s wife Marit.
Mrs. Remonde, a Danish national, arrived at the Aboitiz Hangar of the Manila Domestic Airport in Pasay City before 3 p.m. Tuesday and immediately went to the Makati Medical Center to see her husband's remains. She was flown to Manila via a private plane from Cebu Tuesday.
Ermita added that the late press secretary will be given a special honor by President Arroyo.
The President was already told about the sad news and she will visit Remonde’s wake 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Arroyo has yet to give her official statement regarding the death of her Cabinet member.
The Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) in an official statement prepared by Deputy Presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said the entire OPS was in “profound sorrow” with the passing of Remonde.
Olivar also detailed the facts how Remonde was discovered unconscious in his house, brought to Makati Medical Center, and how the doctors tried to revive him, but to no avail. He was pronounced dead at 11:51 a.m.
“Secretary Cerge Remonde will be sorely missed by his colleagues, his friends, and all who grieve his passing today, even as he will continue to be an inspiration to them and a shining example of a life well-lived in the service of his fellow man and for the greater glory of the Creator above,” Olivar said.
The unexpected news also prompted several government officials such as Cabinet members and congressmen to rush to the hospital to personally check the condition of Remonde.
Cebu City South District Representative Antonio Cuenco was still shocked and teary-eyed when Sun.Star interviewed him.
He said he will remember Remonde as a “very diplomatic” official and the “best Press Secretary the President ever had and we ever had.”
“The sorrow I feel for him right now is almost unbearable. I hope that when he joined our Creator in heaven because he was given a new assignment in heaven, that he will help us pray that we can bear the unbearable sorrow that we feel right now,” he lamented.
Another Visayan, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, said he will miss a colleague who was “very supportive.”
“He always makes us laugh. He always calls us when there are issues and very supportive Cabinet secretary. He has unique brother jokes that I will always remember,” he said.
He also shared that he was with Remonde when the latter joined the Sinulog Festival celebration in Cebu City last weekend.
Other co-workers of Secretary Remonde in the Palace likewise expressed how sad they were now that their boss was gone.
Bubut Velasco, executive assistant of the Remonde for five years, said she still cannot believe that her boss already passed away. She described Remonde as a “very kind and very generous boss.”
“He will scold us when his visitor is not assisted properly. He always wants cheerful environment. He hates it when we are sad,” she related.
She recalled that the last time she saw Remonde was Monday night when the official had ordered dinner for them together with Olivar and Undersecretary Butch Junia.
“He looked very fine last night. He seemed okay and he had not been complaining for anything, so we were very shocked with what happened this morning,” she cried.
Undersecretary Cornelio Baliao echoed Velasco’s statement, saying he did not notice anything unusual about Remonde when he was with him Monday.
“He was his usual good self, setting a friendly atmosphere even in his own office. Then this came and it came too fast we cannot almost react. As I said we are virtually shocked,” he said.
Vice President Noli de Castro also grieved the passing away of Remonde whom he said was both fellow public servant and colleague in media.
“As a public servant, Secretary Remonde performed his job with peerless commitment and dedication, winning goodwill for the government through his unassuming and humble ways. As a journalist, Secretary Remonde remained true to the ethics of his profession, was a tireless leader of the broadcast industry and a friend and mentor to his fellow media practitioner,” de Castro said.
“We shall miss his calm and composed presence and his graciousness even in the face of major odds. He is leaving behind a legacy of outstanding service to the government and to the media industry that shall serve as a lasting inspiration,” he added.
In Sun.Star’s interview with Malacañang Press Corps President Paolo Romero, he said the entire press group will miss the press secretary.
“He was one of the few in this administration who was very accessible and cooperative with the media and maybe that’s why we loved him because he was one of us. He was not an official and maybe because he was really one of us. He was a mediaman,” Romero said.
“We are one tribe, we are like brothers and sisters here so that made the connection and that he made our job literally easy because he was Press Secretary,” he furthered.
Having a President who has been a hard subject to cover, Romero said Remonde made their job easy through setting up regular interviews and briefings.
“I supposed that’s how we appreciated him so much for that. It was a hard thing to protect the President even cabinet officials,” he said.
Among all the Press Secretaries of Arroyo, Romero said he considered Remonde as the best. “At least under the President I think he is the best Press Secretary.”
“I will remember him as a journalist. Not as a press secretary and that’s how I see I remember as you know I am really looking forward to June 30 this year because he wanted to be with the media again. I supposed he is seeing much better company with us,” he ended.
Cebu first district Representative Eddie Gullas said there was no sign that Remonde, his fellow Cebuano and close friend, would meet his sudden death during the many times they were together last week for the Sinulog festivities.
“We were together during the entire route of the procession. No signs. He was very much alive,” he said.
Gullas said Remonde must have been "ultra-tired, supra-tired" in the past few days because he was all over the place during the Sinulog, adding that the pace in Cebu was rough and hectic that time, coupled with his busy schedule in Malacañang.
Last Tuesday, January 12, 2010, Gullas recounted that he was with Remonde in the Alumni homecoming of their Alma Mater University of Visayas (UV), where Remonde delivered the keynote speech as guest of honor and speaker.
Remonde was awarded the most outstanding alumnus for the years 2008-2009 by the UV, according to Gullas, who is also UV President. Remonde was also a scholar throughout his university days.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in the said university.
Last Friday, January 15, 2010, Gullas and Remonde were also together at the 30th anniversary of the Cebu Pop Music Festival at the Cebu Coliseum.
“My entire family -- my wife, my son, my brother Jose and my sister Gleselia and the whole UV community mourn his sudden passing. We pray that the lord accepts him in his loving bosom,” he said.
Remonde was a Cebuano proud of his humble roots, according to Gullas.
Lawmakers on Tuesday were one in recognizing Remonde's achievements as a media man and a staunch ally of the President.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles said he will miss Remonde "officially and personally as a friend in golf" and heralded his loyalty to the President.
“He was the administration's first line of defense and did his utmost best with dedication, hard work and service to the news and the media profession. He died as a true media man till his last breath," he said.
Cebu 6th District Representative Nerissa Soon-Ruiz and Cebu City Representative Cuenco called on fellow Cebuanos to be one in praying for the departed fellowman.
“We all lost a remarkable gentleman. May the Lord in heaven help us to bear the unbearable sorrow in our hearts,” Cuenco said.
“Secretary Cerge Remonde was faced with a gargantuan task to communicate to the Filipino people. Despite his heroic efforts, Malacañang has remained misunderstood. He is a big loss to Malacañang and to the President. As press secretary, he has served the country well. As a Cebuano, he has made us all proud. To Marit, my prayers are with you," he said.
Even the opposition party-list bloc in Congress expressed sympathy to Remonde's family, saying that they have "no ill-feelings against the political protagonist who does not have that big of a sin."
“We had our differences. We understand that he was performing a function and tried his best in performing that function. He has a sense of achievement and we hope that he will be happy that he left at a time that he was at the pinnacle of his ambition,” Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Satur Ocampo said.
Akbayan Party-list Represenatives Walden Bello and Risa Hontiveros echoed the sentiment and recognized that Remonde remained firm of his principle despite harsh criticisms.
“That he stood up for convictions that more often than not clashed with our campaign for progressive reforms, he was a formidable adversary in the court of public opinion,” Bello and Hontiveros said in a joint statement.
The Senate also expressed its condolences over the Remonde’s passing through Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri. In a statement, he said he was “shocked and deeply moved” by Remonde's unexpected death.
“He is not just a personal friend but also a devoted public servant. He was one of the few Cabinet Secretaries who hails from the south, particularly from the province of Cebu. As I used to fondly call him, he was a member of the Cebuano Mafia,” Zubiri said.
“His untimely passing will leave an empty space in the Cabinet of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. His previous performance will be very hard to duplicate by any replacement of the president,” he added.
Prayer in Facebook
Remonde, who was an active user of online networking site Facebook, has left a prayer praising God for the wonderful things he has been receiving.
The shoutout, which was posted at 6:51 p.m., reads as follows: "Lord, thank You for the infinite love that meets our every need and provides all the beautiful and wonderful things we experience in life. Release our hearts and minds from fear and worry. Fill us with Your peace as we learn to fully trust in your providence. Help us to do all that we are capable of and the rest we entrust unto You. Amen."
Another post of Remonde said he was disappointed with the poor ratings of the President and he was blaming himself about it.
As Cabinet member
Remonde was among the few Cebuanos who was given the chance to join the Cabinet.
The first post he held as Cabinet member was press undersecretary. In 2004, he was appointed as director-general of the Presidential Management Staff.
Last February 2009, he was named by the President as press secretary.
Before joining the government, Remonde was a media practitioner. He served as anchor of the highly rated dyLA Interaction, a primetime news and commentary program in Cebu. He also became the national chairman of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). He was the first KBP chairman to be elected to six terms. (Jill Beltran/Angela Casauay/With JMR/Sunnex)