.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Friday, August 05, 2005

Raul S. Roco: In Memoriam

In 1989, a month after taking the September bar exams, I applied as an underbar at the law firm of Roco Buñag Kapunan & Migallos Law Offices which was then located at the former Anscor Bldg. in Ayala Avenue. At that time, the law firm was fairly young since the founders were former partners and associates of the ACCRA Law Office where they broke away.

For whatever reasons, I got a call the next day and I was scheduled for an interview. So, off I went to their office the day after the call, and a few minutes after sitting on the couch, I was called in by the secretary of then Congressman Raul S. Roco. He was the first partner who interviewed me. It was the first time I met a politician and although he would not be the last, he was the first one to impress upon me that politics is a public trust and a sacred duty. If politics was a religion, he was the high priest in the Holy of Holies.

The interview was short. He merely asked about my grades, my background, the languages I spoke and my undergraduate degree. In little less than 20 minutes, he told me I was hired but had to meet the other partners. Maybe, he hired me because my mom was from Bohol as was his wife, Sonia. So, he introduced me to Atty. Jose Mario Buñag (the present BIR Commissioner) who was no stranger since he was my Taxation I professor at the Ateneo, and to Attys. Lorna Kapunan and Babsy Migallos. I was to work at the law firm and not his Congressional office where his chief of staff that time was Joey S. Salceda, now congressman from the 3rd District of Albay. I was told to report for work on the first day of December 1989.

But this was not to be. On 1 December 1989, Col. Gringo Honasan launched his most deadly coup against the Aquino administration and nearly toppled her were it not for the US F-15 jets buzzing over Malacañang airspace. I finally went to work on December 9 which I distinctly remembered was a Friday. When RSR (as the lawyers called him) came to the office, he gathered all 11 lawyers and three underbars to a conference.

It was the day after the cessation of hostilities and RSR wanted to confer emergency powers on President Aquino. And so, he ordered us all to research available Supreme Court jurisprudence on rebellion, sedition, murder, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, martial law as well the constitutionality of granting the president emergency powers. The reason why I knew December 9 was a Friday was because we were told to work over the weekend, to submit a memorandum of law to him by Sunday. The entire law firm finished the work and came Monday, he delivered a rousing sponsorship speech granting President Aquino emergency powers.

Despite numerous queries from the Floor on its constitutionality, RSR fielded all the questions with supreme confidence and aplomb. It was as though he literally threw his whole weight on the bill itself. The solons could hardly put up a decent opposition. The bill passed the House and eventually, it became known as the Emergency Powers Act.

As a congressman, RSR left the day to day law office work to his other equally competent partners but whenever he was in the office, he would needle us with what little law we, young practitioners, knew then and proceeded to gently lecture me.

One time, while having lunch with us, I asked him how was he able to persuade the Supreme Court that the case of San Miguel Corporation versus John Gokongwei which dealt with a director's conflict-of-interest in a corporation could possibly be a matter of public interest. He convinced the justices that San Miguel Corporation contributed 6% to the Gross National Product and to allow Mr. John Gokongwei, the owner of a competing firm, to become a director of San Miguel would be inimical and detrimental to national interest. That day, I learned the importance of adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to a legal problem.

But all was not about law. In another instance, RSR once barged into my room wanting to know the name of the main protagonist in the play "Waiting for Godot". Like him, I was stumped but promised to get back to him. Eventually, the answer was given and I realized that despite his hectic legislative workload, his appetite for knowledge went beyond the law. He always had time to drown himself in arts and literature. I supposed that is because he was an English major in college.

Some say RSR had a bad temperament. I do no think so. While I never experienced tongue-lashing from him, his fits of anger were neither arbitrary nor whimsical. He just did not suffer fools gladly. When you worked for him, you naturally rose to the level of his excellence. The atmosphere in the law firm just reeked with utmost competence and excellence. And so, in a sense, it was unforgivable to be left behind. But like any sermon, there was purpose and the lesson would not be lost on the reprimanded.

I lost track of him after I left his firm. But through the years, I followed his successes and accomplishments. And when RSR heard excellent things about his former junior associates, he would boast to his friends that he trained them. And that was not an empty boast. What we have become in the practice of law is in large measure a product of our training under his tutelage. And I am quite confident that all the lawyers who passed through his portals would affirm the same bragging rights.

The last time I saw him was after the 2004 presidential elections in Enchanted Kingdom where he kept pace with his grandchildren at play in the fields. I greeted him and even if he was already gravely afflicted with cancer, he kept a gentle and happy composure, proud of what I have done with my life. Though much thinner, he was no less the great man I knew 15 years earlier.

But the most lasting statement that I shall forever remember was when he told us young lawyers then "to dazzle me with your brilliance or baffle me with your bullshit". Well, I am sure that he is in the halls of Asgard right now dazzling the angels and saints with the breadth and depth of his intellectual brilliance. I wager he can even debate Thomas Aquinas on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Raul S. Roco will forever be remembered for his greatness in the halls of the House of Representatives and the Senate floor and for his incorruptible accomplishments in the Department of Education. But I will always cherish him as my first teacher in the law profession who took time to train the humble and the lowly, to emphasize that right is might, the primacy of country over one's own, public service over private greed and faith in man's goodness over pessimism and hopelessness.

Fare thee well, RSR. Enter heaven, good and faithful servant, your earthly task is done!


Blogger Punzi said...

A fitting tribute...he will be missed especially during these times...

BTW, wish you attended iBlog Mini...MLQ3 is planning a roundtable podcast somewhere in the Morato area...

6:16 PM  
Blogger Paeng said...

Man, if ever there's a Raul Roco tribute book, your piece should be in it.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Sef said...

I envy you for having personally met such a man. I wonder, will I ever meet someone of RSR's caliber in my lifetime?

7:47 AM  
Blogger Glenn OMANIO said...

You said it all. RSR is the best president the Philippines never had.

1:37 PM  
Blogger watson said...

Hello Mr. Lacierda. It is always good to hear about stories of people from other angles. And yours is indeed a fitting tribute to a great man. He is a great loss to the country.

Thanks for visiting my blog, by the way. Admittedly, I have little knowledge of politics but it may not yet be late for me. I will periodically drop by your blog. Thanks for sharing!

5:37 PM  
Blogger MommyBa said...

1989 barrister ka rin pala. My Dad was part of your batch (and he became a lawyer at 57 :D already).

I love how you shared your experience working for RSR. I'm pretty sure you'll treasure and share that to your kids when they get older. I had the chance of being with him and his lovely wife inside the elevator of Strata 2000 a couple of months ago. I was elated when he said "Hi!" to me even if he didn't know me. What surprised me was the fact that they didn't have any bodyguards or escorts following them. I was really stunned but I admired them for that. It just shows that he didn't have anything to be afraid of - be it assassins or whatever. Brave man indeed.

I placed him in my personal list of admirable people in the Philippines and he will be remembered very dearly by me.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Arbet said...

You are lucky, sir, to have been a part of history, of knowing a man for what he was.

Thanks for sharing your memories with all of us.

8:47 AM  
Blogger gari said...

thanks for sharing the tribute.
working with/for roco is indeed an honor.
thanks for visiting my blog for the tribute to RSR.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous darkwing said...

i hope your words someday will be added to RSR's bio...it is a fitting tribute to a great man

3:22 AM  
Anonymous Jek Remitio said...

Good article. Too bad the majority of the Philippine voting public never appreciated Sen. Roco. He will surely be missed.

7:55 AM  
Blogger ken said...

RSR is a great man! he was one of our columnists. sadly, he has to stop writing bcoz of the 2004 elections.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous DEX VILLANUEVA said...




On the morning of August 5, 2005, around 9:40 am, I was typing furiously on my computer keyboards as I was rushing some paper works when I received a text message from my father in law. The message goes like this: PATAY NA RAW ROCO.
I couldn’t believe what I’ve read. Maybe a nasty joke aimed at those people calling for GMA’s resignation. I thought that he was already recovering from cancer and he’s in the US for continuous rehabilitation. Only weeks ago, I entertained the thought of seeing him as a senatorial candidate for 2007. I even admired his current stand on the Gloriagate scandal where he called on GMA’s resignation, “por la patria.”
The next thing I did was texting some people who could verify the news. First, I texted some fellow student council officers from UE who’ve formed part of the UE Student Leaders for Roco. I got no confirmation from them. Then I texted my wife to see if the news has spread the Makati business district (where she works). “No, net yet” she texted back. I texted the former UE President (Baltzar Endriga) who was my wedding sponsor and a friend of Sen. Roco. He texted back and told me to verify it. Finally, I called the Roco Kapunan Law office at Strata building, the very same office which was transformed into a head quarters of the Roco campaign for 2004. I asked for the dreaded question: “is it true that RSR (Sen.Roco’s initial’s that was sometimes used as his reference) is gone?” The female voice on the other line answered yes, “it’s true.” “The senator died at past 9:00 am at St. Lukes hospital,” continued the female voice. I thanked her for the information. The female voice on the other line advised me to call the office if I needed further information. That’s so nice of her. After confirming RSR’s death, I proceeded to text those people whom I asked for verification earlier. “Too bad,” replied one. “Mukhang nauubos ang kalaban ni GMA, pareho pang sa St. Luke’s namayapa (referring to FPJ’s last days)” replied another one.
With Senator Roco gone permanently in this mortal and wounded world, I just can’t help but remember the elections of 1998 and 2004. For casual observers and non-believers, both elections will remind them of his defeats as Presidential candidate. For me, and many others, I will remember it as a gallant struggle to correct the many wrongs and to maintain what is left of the good. Others would think that he was not a team player and a coalition builder which is a must to muster the needed votes to clinch the Presidency. I think it’s okey for Senator Roco to be branded as a loser. That’s perfectly all right, because his loss is an honorable one and he fought a great fight, unlike the others who manages to win an election or two, but their mandate is suspect because of the circumstances surrounding of their electoral victories. It’s better to win fair and square than to win using resources not allowed by election laws. I also believe that the observation made by some which states that he was not a coalition builder may sound true enough. After all, you may not want to coalesce with some brusque, loud, and corrupt people. If that’s the meaning of it, I’d rather take it willingly, just like what Sen. Roco did. In our political culture, idealism and politics doesn’t mix well. The time it mixes well, believe me we will move forward.
Senator Roco deserves the accolades due to statesman of high moral and spiritual foundation. He was a lone moral fighter in the echelon of cheats, greedy, and monsters. Some of them are now heaping praises, eulogies, and tributes for him. Shame, shame, shame.
I met Senator Roco in the flesh twice in his lifetime. The first one was at the height of EDSA DOS. If I am not mistaken, it was on the third night when he announced at the EDSA shrine some updates on the negotiations between the opposition and some emissaries of Ex-President Erap Estrada regarding his graceful exit from power. It was the first time I shook hands with him among throngs of admirers. I told him of his great job as a Senator-Judge. He smiled and said that it’s in the people’s hand to make the crucial decision (on the fate of Erap). I felt that what he meant was that he could no longer discharge his duty as a Senator-Judge because the impeachment proceeding has lost its credibility and moral ascendancy when it refused to open the second envelope. When Ex-Laguna Governor Joey Lina went to the microphone, he led the crowd in chanting “Bise, Bise, Bise!” which meant that Senator Roco should be appointed as Vice President of the Philippines once GMA assumes the presidency on the basis of constitutional succession. Senator Roco just smiled and thanked the crowd for the trust and confidence the crowd had bestowed on him. Needless to say, the VP post went to Senator Tito Guingona.
The second time I saw the man was at a youth rally where I had a chat with him up close which lasted for a minute. That was on February 2004 when he visited the Eulogio Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (Earist) Gym at Nagtahan. Days earlier, the office of the UE Student Council received an invitation from the Aksyon Kabataan – San Beda chapter regarding a kick – off rally for Raul Roco and his Alyansa slate. I failed to attend the said rally because I had a prior commitment and unfortunately, no one from my council officers were available at that time. When the invitation for the Earist rally came which was sponsored by the youth party list group ANAK NG BAYAN, I unhesitantly went there to finally express my support for Anak ng Bayan and the whole Alyansa ng Pag-asa slate. I brought along some officers of the student council, some officers and members of the UE Political Science Society, and a number of UE students supportive of the Roco presidential candidacy. All of them later formed part of the UE Student Leaders for Roco. With Senator Roco then was the entire Alyansa slate.
When he was about to leave the Earist Gym for another engagement, I approached him, introduced myself as a student council president and asked for an autograph on a magazine with him on the cover. He took a glanced on it, then he smiled and said “parang hindi ko pa nababasa ito ha?!” I don’t know if he’s just kidding or not, but he signed the copy anyway and thanked me for the gesture. My mind was going like “No. I should thank you for giving your best shot for us.” He thanked me again and said “see you soon!”
In my own humble way, I was involved in the Roco campaign. I was busy campaigning in school, in my community (Angono, Rizal), in my office where I worked at night (I was a working student), joined a coalition named Luzviminda Forum which was supportive of the Roco candidacy, and even produced stickers and posters. My girlfriend (now my wife) was very helpful because she was campaigning at her workplace for Sen. Roco. At UE, we were then planning for a school-wide mock elections and a presidential debate as part of our electoral education campaign but we were running out of time then because the final exams were just around the corner, so the student council settled for a school-wide survey and a mock elections scheduled in April in time for the annual UE Student Leaders Training seminar where the incoming and outgoing student council officers converge for a formal turn over of the reigns of the student government. In the UE-student council survey, Roco led by a slim margin (33 %), followed by GMA with (32 %), Lacson (18 %), FPJ (6 %), and Bro. Eddie Villanueva (6 %), with 4% as undecided. The mock election results show that Senator Roco at the top with 48 %, GMA with 32 %, Lacson (16 %), Bro Eddie Villanueva (4 %), and FPJ getting no votes at all. In another survey undertaken by the UE school paper “The DAWN”, Roco was a close second to GMA. At third place was Lacson and was followed by FPJ and Bro. Eddie.
In reality and after some analysis based on our empirical view, Roco could have gotten more votes than the rest of the candidates at UE, if not for the sudden implementation of the Student fund (S4R) of GMA where the students can make a loan for their tuition expenses and can be paid after graduation, shades of the “Study now, Pay later of Ninoy Aquino which Senator Roco drafted decades ago. We called that deliberate move “Sophisticated Vote Buying.” Some fellow student leaders from other schools couldn’t agree more. Because of the S4R, many UE students switched sides to GMA, in our calculation, about 10 – 15 percent. In fact, they have its launching (of S4R) at the Araneta Coliseum. We at UE were invited, but we in the student council as well as with the other student organizations collectively boycotted it because we knew it was a trick. Look at it now, you can’t even borrow a single cent from it! Lack of Funds? We knew they would say that after the elections. Let us remember that this happened prior to Sen. Roco’s announcement of his chronic back pains in April 2004.
I even proposed a mock elections in the office where I worked and was fortunately given the permission to proceed. Roco led in that mock elections with 35 %, Bro. Eddie with 21%, Lacson with 19%, FPJ and GMA tied with 11%
Trust and Confidence. That’s what I have for Senator Roco. Although admittedly, I was against his support of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1995. For me, just like any other person who has supported him all throughout, he is one person who could give decency and morality to national governance and was not afraid to say his piece. He has shown that in all his years as a public servant. He abhorred the politics of machismo and the politics of arrogance. He puts premium on the politics of fair play, the politics of hope, the politics of nationalism, and the politics of transparency, hard work and scholarship, thus his reliance on his principle called “the sunshine principle” – a principle he firmly believed that will make the Filipino proud, progressive, and respectable.
I can still vividly recall a group discussion I had with some friends way back. That was in November of 1997. In the huddle, we were talking about the then upcoming 1998 presidential elections. One of my friends remarked that the said election is a lackluster one because he can’t see anyone as qualified as Salonga or Laurel (who both had their presidential juggernaut but both lost to FVR in 1992). Someone in the group observed that Erap is a phenomenal candidate but someone countered that he’s no Intellectual giant. Joe de Venecia was as dry as desert, and Renato de Villa quite uncharismatic. When it was my time to speak, I exactly said that “If Roco runs as President, I’m for him all the way, he may not be as charismatic as Erap, but he can match up to anyone in terms of governance, track record, genuine love for the people, and by bringing hope to where hope is extremely needed.” Some of my friends felt the same. They felt Roco is the one needed to restore our country’s positive image and the one who could give the needed inspiration to rally the nation on its moral obligation in securing a better future for the next generation of Filipinos by way of giving equal access to education, from elementary to college. For him, education is the one great equalizer in this country full of unequal opportunity. Unfortunately, many people did not heed that call in 1998. Roco was best prepared for the presidency, but the people were not prepared for him.
That last encounter I had with him at the Earist gym was the one that immediately flashed in my mind when news of his death was confirmed. At that moment, I just can’t help but recall it once again and spread it in the office as if I was known by him personally. One of officemates who was a UP graduate remarked “He is a Great Man, we just lost a great man.” Another officemate who came from San Beda high school and La Salle said that “I am a proud Bedan because Roco represented us well.” I told him to be “proud as a La Sallalite” not only for its basketball team but because another great intellectual and nationalist, Lorenzo Tanada, was educated there. With Roco’s death, he is now enshrined in a collective monument and memory with the likes of Recto, Diokno, Tanada et al. What came to my mind while my officemates were making their valedictory for Roco was the phrase “the great President that never was,” a great one indeed. Just like Claro M. Recto and Jovito Salonga earlier, Roco was one statesman who could have been our President if not for the politics and the electoral system we have. I cannot blame – I don’t have any right of whatsoever to blame the electorate, they are mere victims of our vicious cycle of dirty, feudal, and immoral politics which greatly affected the lives and the aspirations of the masses, as well as the economy of this society. With Roco’s crusade for the betterment of his country and people, his was not a quixotic job for there are still many people out there, especially the youth to whom Roco can depend on. He invested his energetic zest, vast experience, and admirable intelligence in sowing the seeds of goodness and spreading and delegating the work for a better Philippines. We, the youth of this land, must continue what Roco and the other distinguished people, as well as the unheralded ones, have started to work for: a great country with a great people. It may sound like a clique but we have no choice but to continue fighting, to continue dreaming, to continue praying, and to continue aspiring simply because discontinuance is susceptible to defeat. This, I firmly and honestly believe, is the marching order given by Senator Roco minutes before he retire permanently. His influence must transcend and must not only be felt at San Beda or at any other schools he visited, and not only in Bicol or any communities he visited. His influence, his legacy, and his memory must be propagated now and must be felt everywhere because we needed it now more than ever as this nation seeks a new contemporary inspiration.
We’ve just lost a harbinger of hope, a human bastion of greatness. But it’s only his physical body that went away, to rephrase a quote from his brother Ding. His dream, his aspiration, his seed of devotion to good governance shall continue with his family in the forefront, with his wife Sonia as the protector of the flame, and with the rest of those who unconditionally supported him until the last votes were canvassed and those who refused to be bought, both known and unknown to Sen. Roco. There is a marching order coming from him: Let the seed spread. Your will be done sir. We will spread the seeds and we shall pay it forward. Goodbye, Mr. President.

(Dexter Villanueva, 29, studied Political Science at University of the East – Manila, and was a former president of the UE Political Science Society, former president of the UE Student Council, and a former Vice Chairperson of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) – NCR Rizal Chapter. He now works as a Technical Writer for Systems and Plan Integrator and Development Corp. (SPIDC), an IT – based company and works part-time as a speechwriter. He organized and headed the UE Student Leaders for ROCO. He lives at Angono, Rizal).

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Margarita Roco said...

Such a wonderful tribute. I will post a link to our family email group. My father is collecting all tributes so you can be sure yours will be included.

2:44 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home