Hey Jude, don’t make it bad | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad

“Politician, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.”

Ambrose Bierce’s lexicon was meant to humor, but we see satire become eulogy for the lawyer Jude Sabio.


Sabio was the portrait of the battling crusader signing the communication in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in April 2017, in behalf of primary witnesses Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas for crimes against humanity of Rodrigo Duterte. It was a portrait of sheer bravado. Let us be fair — not all crusaders who stake their personal safety lead austere virtues and blameless lives. But at the modicum, we expect crusaders to have the scruples to fight for what is right. Sabio himself articulates that standard in a February 2018 interview: “The problem with me is when I see something wrong I fight.”

By what standards can we now weigh his about-face? Sabio cites three reasons. First, he says the political opposition used him for propaganda. Yet by abandoning the cause, he chose the path of partisanship. By associating with a partisan zealot like the suspended lawyer Larry Gadon, Sabio has only helped himself gain a distinction of silliness. He fails the first flatly.


Second, he says there have been threats to his life since the filing in the ICC. That is very likely. We do not dispute him for that. But a battling crusader refuses to admit defeat in the face of difficulty. A battling crusader may go on hibernation and that will be fathomable. But to deliver yourself to the hands of your oppressor and then to now say the oppressor is a saint so that he will stop his oppression of you is neither romance nor hardly a game plan of battle. He fails the second in utter naiveté.

Sabio says on television: “The President can never be guilty.” He now doubts the testimonies of henchmen Matobato and Lascañas. The more he retracts, the more he pushes himself into the abyss of unkind speculations: what induced him to change his tune? The million-dollar question he has made literal.

Sabio himself provides the answer. Pittance, he says. And there’s the rub. In one word of his endlessly verbose defense published in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily, he bared the naked in his soul. It was never about justice for the thousands slain by a murderous rampage. On the contrary, by admitting pittance (synonyms: subsistence wage, small change, nickels and dimes, peanuts), he now has to face a life of ridicule as a perceived mercenary. The thirty pieces of silver that was Judas’ subject of contemptuous merriment will always be speculated upon him. Of course he fails the third.

And so the edifice trembled not a tad second. The ICC response was lightning: withdrawal is impossible; the case continues. Gambian chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda startled us with the facts in her Dec. 5, 2019, report: Sabio’s was only one from “a number of communications and reports.” And for such inconsequentiality, Sabio wriggled with Gadon (who himself wriggles a lot) and mistook (like Gadon) the agitation of his tail as the trembling of the edifice.

Instead what trembles like Taal is the unenforceable we must obey more than the verdict of a human court of law as the ICC: the natural defense of human life that transcends all creeds. Sabio’s about-face is a betrayal of the thousands killed whose real statistics have been deliberately pared by the state to hide the truth. By betraying them, Sabio has abandoned the noble ranks of the truth-tellers.

Jude Sabio made a personal delivery of himself to the already burlesque in our transactional politics that has made it a league of fools. He is now in the same league as the undertakers of the “funeraria” who eagerly wait each macabre night of “tokhang” for more bodies to embalm with formaldehyde so that the business of the cadaverous is good. Eulogy becomes him who suffers the fate of being alive.

{On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2, email: [email protected]]

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TAGS: Antonio J. Montalvan II, crimes against humanity, drug war, ICC, Jude Sabio, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, Larry Gadon, Rodrigo Duterte
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