A deserved tribute to our Dr. Bobby
THE APRIL 27 issue of the Inquirer carried a deserved tribute by columnist Michael Tan to Dr. Bobby de la Paz, who was shot to death by the military in Samar in April 1982. We in Mabini (a group of human rights lawyers) went to his wake in the Malate Church, and the memory of seeing fragments of Don McLean’s “Vincent” on his coffin has stayed with me. “Starry, starry night … The world was never meant for someone as beautiful as you.” Widow Doctor Sylvia today goes by the same fixed star Doctor Bobby did, in the service of our people. The couple proved to me that UP, despite Marcos and company, did not stand for “Useless People,” but “Useful Ones” (my late ever-loving Dulce also attended UP).
Our Mabini Occasional Issue No. 25, dated June 26, 1982, carried the following: “[The late Mabini Chair] Bobbit [Sanchez] co-chairs the Philippine Council on Human Rights (PCHR) which actively helped push along the Bobby de la Paz case. One night last April, Jojo Binay, Ed Araullo and RAVS went to Bobby’s wake at the Malate Church. It was about midnight. There were but a few mourners then; we talked with an aunt of Bobby’s who narrated his poignant, heartrending end, a story that clearly deserved to be told, and re-told and re-told. It was a simple coffin he was in, almost makeshift, with a message—was it from his UP class?—about this world not being meant for someone as beautiful as he.
That week Bobbit went on TV to denounce the murder, and, presciently (?), he fingered the military, which (announced) that they just caught a soldier who could be: (1) acquitted (it is conceivable that the killer is now also six feet under, like Bobby); or (2) convicted—and then live the life akin to that of the convicted bodyguard of a prominent high official. Meantime, we are supposed to relax, maybe, and stop telling the story of Bobby, which may or may not be the idea. Never, never relax in the moment of “triumph,” as any chess buff soon learns. Creating a diversion is classic military tactic.
Ironically, the “usual suspect colonel” proved helpful to me in the last decade or so, as an expert witness on salvaging, whose sworn statement I would send to the United States to help some lawyer representing asylum applicants. He had insights into how people would disappear forever. We have lost contact. I have no idea whether he is now in the Promised Land he may have dispatched some patriots to.
Michael, keep going.
—RENE A.V. SAGUISAG,
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