‘True public servant’: Senators mourn death of Bocaue Mayor Joni Villanueva-Tugna

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 29 2020 10:50 PM | Updated as of May 29 2020 11:07 PM

Senator Joel VIllanueva hugs his younger sister late Bocaue Mayor Joni Villanueva during the wake of their mother in March 2020. Photo from Senator Joel Villanueva's Instagram account

MANILA--Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday mourned the death of Bocaue, Bulacan, town mayor Joni Villanueva-Tugna, saying his sister died after choosing to serve her constituents during the coronavirus crisis despite suffering from vasculitis.

Villanueva-Tugna was rushed to the intensive care unit last week after "infection crept" into her inflamed blood vessels while she was making rounds in Bocaue to ensure that the town was adequately responding to the pandemic, the senator said.

"She got this vasculitis this January. Compromised 'yung immune system niya (Her immune system is compromised)," he told reporters in a text message.

"Unfortunately during lockdown she felt she needed to go out and personally check everything. Infection crept in and cost her life. 

"She literally died because of her passion to serve her people, without fanfare."



Exactly a year ago... To God be the glory🙏🏼🙌🏼! #mayor #tosscoin #history

A post shared by Joni Villanueva (@jonivillanueva) on

In 2016, Villanueva-Tugna described her foray into politics as "God's will" after she won the mayoralty race on a coin toss that settled the 16,694-vote tie result between her and Jim Valerio.

"Sabi ko nga, if it's not God's will, I don't know how you'll call it," Villanueva-Tugna had said in an interview on ANC.

"I think it's really God's intervention."


But the mayor, who was married to former CIBAC Partylist Rep. Sherwin Tugna, did not rely on luck and fate alone as she managed to score a second consecutive term in the 2019 elections.

"She’s more than a public servant. To me, she’s my role model," Villanueva told ABS-CBN News.

"She donated our prime property, almost 2 hectares, so Bocaue would finally have a hospital."

Villanueva-Tugna was also the architect of Bocaue's program that procured P500,000 worth of vegetables from Cordillera farmers who were about to throw away their produce due to slow sales. The 100 tons of vegetables were distributed as part of the Bulacan town's COVID relief packages.

Senator Nancy Binay described Villanueva-Tugna as a "true public servant" for continuing "to serve even while suffering from an underlying condition."

"She was a dedicated wife to Cong. Sherwin, a loving mother to her children, and a blessing to the people of Bocaue," Binay said in a tweet.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said he "lost a dear friend, a partymate in the PDP-LABAN, and a leader in the province of Bulacan."

"The province of Bulacan has lost a daughter who could have done so much more for the province, our country, and our people," Pimentel said in a statement.

"To the people of Bocaue and Bulacan, I share your grief. You have lost a truly honest, dedicated, and loving leader."

Senators Sonny Angara and Sherwin Gatchalian, who are part of the Senate Seatmates bloc along with Villanueva and Binay, also extended their condolences to the late mayor's family.


Aside from being a mayor, Villanueva-Tugna was also a wife, and a mother to 4 young children.

"She left 4 kids. [The] 3-year-old youngest asked me last night, 'What happened to Mommy?' " Villanueva said.

"She's closest to me among my siblings . . . This is worst than the worst feeling," he said, noting that his sister's death came less than 2 months after their mother's passing.

Adoracion "Sister Dory" Villanueva, wife of Jesus is Lord (JIL) church founder Bro. Eddie Villanueva, died in March due to arrhythmia secondary to septic shock.

The senator and his family were still mourning the death of their mother when Villanueva-Tugna underwent "7 to 8 emergency situations" that eventually led to her death.

"I almost lost the appetite of living . . . I never thought na posible pa lang kidlatan ng dalawang beses ang isang puso," Senator Villanueva said.