MANILA (AP) – Teodoro Benigno, a former presidential spokesman and popular political columnist, died Friday, his family said. He was 81.
“He died quietly,” said his wife, Luz Palacios. He was diagnosed with liver cancer a month earlier, she said.
Benigno began his writing career as a police reporter in the 1940s and later became a sportswriter and sports columnist. He joined the French news agency, Agence France Presse, in Manila in 1950 and became bureau chief in 1962. He was briefly detained by the military in the early 1950s on suspicion he belonged to the underground Communist Party.
Benigno earned a master’s degree in political science and studied French at the Institut de Sciences Politiques. He was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1989.
Two years after dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, Benigno and a few other foreign journalists founded the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines to defend press freedom under one-man rule.
After retiring from AFP in 1987, he joined the Cabinet of President Corazon Aquino, who succeeded Marcos, as press secretary and presidential spokesman until 1989.
Benigno then hosted two television talk shows, including the multi-awarded “Firing Line.” He also wrote political commentaries and analyses for The Philippine Star newspaper under his former sports column title “Here’s the Score.”
Aquino’s spokeswoman, Deedee Sytangco, said the former president was “very sad and sorry” over Benigno’s death.
“She will never forget the good things he did for her and for the restoration of democracy,” Sytangco said.
She said Aquino visited Benigno at the hospital late Thursday and lent him a rosary.
“I remember Teddy as a tough, principled journalist during the final, tumultuous years of President Ferdinand Marcos,” said David Briscoe, who was Manila bureau chief of The Associated Press in 1980-86. “He fought battles for government access and ended up playing a key role in government himself. He’ll be missed by colleagues and friends around the world.”
His family said his funeral will be on Tuesday.
My mother has a daily newspaper subscription, and she always “attacks” the Obituaries first. Like my bestfriend Fe’s Mom, she believes that we must herald one’s birth and one’s passing with respect. She tries to make sure we send a family member to a friend’s wake or a relative’s wake.
I was scouring the breaking news at Philippine Star’s Online Edition when I chanced upon the above breaking news.
I have always held Teddy Benigno in high regard, because although he was steadfast about his alliances, he was never afraid to speak against policies or decisions of the leaders he supported when he felt they were wrong. Most notably, I read Teddy Benigno’s defense of the convicted men in the Vizconde Massacre after he himself admitted that for the longest time, he had advocated their being made to answer for the crime — until he felt he uncovered enough inconsistencies which convinced him Hubert Webb was not guilty.
I feel his loss because he was major player of that part of Philippine History that unfolded when I was already an adult. I condole with his family and will include him in my prayers.