Evelio Javier, Filipino patriot
Thirty-five years ago, on Feb. 11, 1986, Evelio Javier was chased by masked gunmen across the plaza and alleyways of San Jose, Antique, and gunned down in broad daylight. His death was a catalyst that would help fuel the Edsa People Power Revolution a few days later, on Feb. 22, 1986, which culminated in the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship and years of turbulence and darkness. He was only 43 years old.
The son of a prosecutor and a teacher, Evelio attended high school, college (majoring in History and Government), and law school at the Ateneo de Manila University. After passing the bar examination, he practiced law and taught at the Ateneo as a college professor before entering politics at age 28, when he ran for and was elected governor of Antique province, thus becoming the nation’s youngest governor then. He held the office for eight years and did not seek reelection, choosing instead to accept a scholarship for a master’s degree at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. But while at Harvard, his thoughts were never far from his homeland.
When he returned to the Philippines in 1984, he ran for the position of Antique assemblyman in the Philippine National Assembly. Although he was declared to have lost that election to a known Marcos ally, he was posthumously declared the winner by the Philippine Supreme Court seven months after his death.
When a snap presidential election was announced in 1986, Evelio Javier supported the candidacy of Corazon Aquino against then President Ferdinand Marcos, and was director of her campaign in Antique. He was talking with Aquino supporters on the grounds of the provincial Capitol that February morning when three or four masked men appeared and chased and gunned him down. His body had 24 bullet wounds.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Isagani Cruz, at the end of the Court’s decision in September 1986 to posthumously declare Evelio Javier the winner in the 1984 National Assembly election, wrote: “Let us first say these meager words in tribute to a fallen hero who was struck down in the vigor of his youth because he dared to speak against tyranny. Where many kept a meekly silence for fear of retaliation, and still others feigned and fawned in hopes of safety and even reward, he chose to fight. He was not afraid. Money did not tempt him. Threats did not daunt him. Power did not awe him. His was a singular and all-exacting obsession: the return of freedom to his country. And though he fought not in the barricades of war amid the sound and smoke of shot and shell, he was a soldier nonetheless, fighting valiantly for the liberties of his people against the enemies of his race, unfortunately, of his race too, who would impose upon the land a perpetual night of dark enslavement. He did not see the breaking of dawn, sad to say, but in the very real sense Evelio B. Javier made that dawn draw nearer…”
And so today, we remember Evelio Javier. We remember his courage, integrity, and compassion. We remember a good man, cut down in his prime. We remember his unassuming manner and infectious smile. With his unwavering optimism, he made us hopeful. With his vision of a nation free of tyranny and corruption, where officials of government serve for the common good, he made us proud.
By his life’s example, he continues to honor us and to inspire us. We are reminded that the Filipino people are inheritors of a great nation built upon the love and sacrifice of countrymen like him.
May Evelio Javier’s vision and memory remain always in the hearts and minds of a grateful nation.
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JD Ribaya-Mercado is a retired research scientist and professor.
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