Saturday, September 15, 2007

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness. . ." (Matthew 3:3)

Jovito R. Salonga, the Best President we never had, Senate President, Senator, Patriot, Nationalist, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, Political Detainee, War Veteran, U.P. Lawyer and Bar Topnotcher--moral force, man of God and Sigma Rhoan no more.

The newspapers today speak of a real man standing for his principles and standing by his word, even when it is unpopular, even when it goes against the grain, even when it is not expedient, for so long as it is the right thing to do: Jovito Salonga resigns from Sigma Rhoa "effective immediately."

I have had the happy honor of not only meeting the man personally many times over but to have worked with and for him. I first met him when he called me over the phone and introduced himself as "Professor Te, si Salonga ito." He asked to meet with me at his home in Valle Verde and there he broached to me the possibility of forming a student monitoring team to look into cases of delay in the courts as well as to be a watchdog for judicial appointments--this was to become Bantay Katarungan. I gave my two cents worth and he listened; he later offered me a job with Bantay Katarungan to be the coordinator; I was flattered no end but had to decline it because my schedule at that time would not allow it--it was still during the reign of the death penalty and my docket was, literally, clogged. I was greatly honored to even be considered and I told him that. And his answer was, "Professor, just continue doing what you are doing; you are doing good work." To this day, he calls me "Professor" or "Attorney", and to this day, it is impossible not to feel greatly honored that this man, Jovito Salonga, would address you with two titles that he, himself, has distinguished and brought great honor to.

Since that time, I have met him many times; I have represented him in two cases before the Supreme Court and have had the benefit of his legal acumen in the formulation of arguments and even the acerbic and dry wit that is rarely seen. Unforgettable for me is his response when we (Senator Bobby Tanada and I) were offering him the "first chair" as it were in arguing before the Supreme Court our petition to declare the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) unconstitutional; he said, with a hint of a smile, "huwag na ako, at baka masigawan ko pa ang Korte. . . (pause). . .alam mo naman ako'y bingi na."

Ka Jovy, as I call him, is a man who knows the right thing to do at the right time. His stand on many things is well-known. Yet, many people were surprised to hear him speak out on the Cris Mendez/Sigma Rho issue; not a few dismissed his "promise" that he would resign if Sigma Rho would be shown to have been involved in Mendez's death. His resignation from Sigma Rho is not surprising, it is simply Salonga.

Today, Jovito R. Salonga has once again shown what it truly means to have honor, to have courage, to have integrity. May he, like John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3) , be a voice crying out to proclaim the good news that is to come but may he, unlike John, not be simply the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" but the first voice in a cacophony and chorus that is to come.

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