Philippine government officials have paid tribute to US Senator John McCain, saying the country had “lost a true friend and champion with his passing”.
In a statement today (Sunday, August 26), Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said: “We deeply mourn the death of Senator John McCain, a true friend of the Philippines and one of our champions in the United States Congress.
“The Filipino people extend their deepest condolences to Senator McCain’s family and to the people of the United States of America.”
He also said that Filipinos will remember the Arizona senator for playing a vital role in keeping the Philippines-US alliance “strong and capable to address current strategic challenges”.
“Senator McCain’s support for the Mindanao peace process also exemplified his humanitarian spirit and his lifelong dedication to the cause of peace and justice.”
In January 2012, McCain, along with four other senators, visited the Philippines and met with then President Benigno Aquino and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to discuss a wide-range of issues, in particular freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Last September, Cayetano met with McCain on the Capitol Hill where they discussed the challenges confronting Manila and Washington, and how the partnership could be further strengthened to address security concerns including drug trafficking and violent extremism.
It was during this meeting that McCain described his family’s long history and affinity with the Philippines.
Cayetano said: “Senator McCain told us his grandfather served in the Philippines during the American Occupation and the Second World War while his father, who became a Navy admiral, also saw action in the Philippines and was a recipient of our Legion of Honor.
“Senator McCain also told us about the time he spent in Subic as a young Navy aviator serving in Vietnam and his arrival at Clark Air Base after his release as a prisoner of war.”
McCain, an 81-year-old Republican legislator, died in Arizona last night after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.
McCain’s passing unites lawmakers
Back in the States, politicians of all persuasions have offered condolences on the senator’s passing.
Writing on Twitter, President Trump — who once criticised the senator for being taken prisoner during the Vietnam War — offered his “deepest sympathies and respect” to McCain’s family.
First lady Melania Trump thanked him for his service to the nation, which included more than five years as a prisoner of war and six terms in the Senate.
President Obama, who triumphed over McCain in the 2008 election, said that despite their differences they shared a “fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed”.
Obama also said they both “saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world.”
Former President George W Bush, who defeated McCain for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, described him as a “man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order” and a “friend whom I’ll deeply miss”.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who developed a close cross-party friendship with the senator, said he would “cast a long shadow”.
“The spirit that drove him was never extinguished: we are here to commit ourselves to something bigger than ourselves,” he said.
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