‘She lived simply, didn’t have a fancy car’

Pro Pinoy would like to express our deepest condolences to the family of Dr. Boncodin.

‘She lived simply, didn’t have a fancy car’
By TJ Burgonio, Julie M. Aurelio, Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—She spent most of her life in government but she never craved money or power, lived simply and left public service untouched by any whiff of scandal.

At 2:05 p.m. Monday, former Budget Secretary Emilia T. Boncodin passed away due to cardiac arrest at a Quezon City hospital after her body rejected a kidney donated by her sister. She was 55.

Boncodin died after repeated attempts to revive her failed, according to a medical bulletin issued by Dr. Enrique Ona, executive director of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI).

“We tried to resuscitate her for more than two hours, but unfortunately this had to happen,” Ona told reporters.

The medical bulletin said: “She was admitted on March 10 for difficulty of breathing and anemia and was diagnosed to be at End Stage Renal Disease after her kidney transplant done on Feb. 3, 2005 went into chronic rejection and [the kidney] completely failed to function.”

Boncodin and nine other Cabinet and high government officials—later called the “Hyatt 10”—quit the administration on July 8, 2005, over the “Hello Garci” scandal and called for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The resignations sparked the most dangerous political crisis to confront Ms Arroyo and brought her administration to the precipice.

No fancy stuff for her

Throughout her decades-long stint in government, most of it in the Department of Budget and Management, Boncodin was known for her integrity and for the “integrity of her work,” colleagues said.

“She entered government at the age of 18. She knew the numbers like the back of her hand. She would remain honest. The decades that she served her country were untarnished by scandal or dishonesty,” former presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita “Ging” Deles said by phone.

As a member of the Arroyo Cabinet, a car was made available for her use but Boncodin chose to live in a place nearer Malacañang, rather than go home every day to the family residence in Novaliches, Quezon City, according to Deles.

“She didn’t have a fancy car. And she and her small family lived simply in a house that they built,” Deles said.

“She didn’t like any fancy stuff. She lived within her means. I don’t know anybody else who reached the rank of Cabinet secretary who lived as simply as she did.”

For love of country

Boncodin, who taught at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), lived with her mother, who owns a store on the UP campus, and a sister in a small subdivision in Novaliches, according to Deles.

‘It was never about prestige, about compensation. She loved her work. She did it in the service of the country,” she added.

Boncodin was present when the “Hyatt 10” last year marked the fourth anniversary of their resignation from the Cabinet by hearing Mass near Malacañang. The group issued a statement warning of what they saw as Ms Arroyo’s attempt to perpetuate herself in power.

The others who marked that anniversary were Deles, former Cabinet officials Florencio Abad, Imelda Nicolas, Cesar Purisima, Corazon Soliman and Rene Villa.

After the Mass, they tried marching from the church to Malacañang to deliver their statement to Ms Arroyo, but decided against it after they were stopped at the guards’ post. They left copies with the presidential guards.

Love and passion

After leaving government, some of the resigned Cabinet officials, including Boncodin, founded the NGO International Center on Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance. They also joined the group, called Former Senior Government Officials, which issues commentaries on government policies and programs.

In the past few months, Boncodin had been working on a project designed to build the capacity of civil society “to monitor” the budget, while continuing to teach at NCPAG, according to Deles.

“She was deep in work in governance. And she continued to teach, which was her love and passion,” said Deles, who met with Boncodin two weeks ago to talk about the project deadlines.

She was known as a hardworking technocrat with expertise in public finance, budgeting, financial management, public administration, civil service and economic development.

Ona was one of three doctors who attended to Boncodin in her last moments. The others were Doctors Zenaida Antonio and Michael Jaro.

One effect of the kidney rejection was the inability of the body to flush out toxic products.

A perfect match

Boncodin underwent a kidney transplant taking a kidney from her younger sister, Adelina, on Feb. 3, 2005.

Ona said Boncodin suffered from polycystic kidney, which meant that her kidneys had congenital cysts, leading to their malfunction.

“It is unfortunate that this had to happen. After her term as budget secretary, she took on several consultancy jobs that led her to as far as Afghanistan. On several occasions, she would run out of medicines that would prevent the rejection of the donated kidney,” Ona said.

The medication, called immunosuppressive medicine, would have helped the body accept the donated kidney.

The NKTI executive director said Boncodin and her sister-donor were “a perfect match.”

Last moments

Ona said doctors had been preparing Boncodin for dialysis when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest.

“When she was admitted four days ago, she was already weak and became anemic. We also gave her several units of blood because of her anemia,” he said.

Ona said regular dialysis was one of the options to treat Boncodin, the other being another kidney transplant.

“Only three days ago and Monday, I discussed with her the option of another transplant, either from a non-related donor or a deceased donor,” he said.

Ona described Boncodin as “hopeful” whenever he talked to her. He said Boncodin’s sister and mother Cristeta were with her in her last moments.

The family’s spokesperson, Nieves Osorio, said Boncodin’s remains were to be brought to the Della Strada Parish Church in Quezon City for the wake that was to begin Monday night.

Osorio said the family would announce the details of the interment after consultations among its members.

In lieu of flowers, the Boncodin family requested that donations be made to a bank account to be announced later, Osorio said.

Last talk

Osorio described Boncodin—who was from Iriga City, Camarines Sur, and who never married “because she was engrossed with her work”—as her friend of more than 30 years.

The last time they talked was on Thursday, she said.

“We talked about the things we would do… like she firmly believed in improving public financial management as a member of the private sector,” Osorio said.

She said she was scheduled to see Boncodin Monday afternoon but was told by the doctors that she had died.

Boncodin obtained her business degree from UP and her master’s degree in Public Administration, as an Edward S. Mason Fellow, from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, in 1986.

Malacañang mourned Boncodin’s death.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said Ms Arroyo would pay her last respects to Boncodin “once details of the wake are made known.” With a report from Christine O. Avendaño

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.