Frank Chavez: ‘a good man, a truly great man’
Moved he must have been by two articles published by the Inquirer in October 2010 (“Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” and “Wood, with a gift for burning”), former Solicitor General Frank Chavez wrote me and offered “to represent you, free-of-charge, should you need legal assistance, because I believe in the justness of your cause and in the generational goodness it brings.” I wrote to thank him but declined to accept his magnanimous offer of help, explaining why I could not abandon my counsel, lawyer Elizabeth Macaibay, who was by then already defending me pro bono in the criminal and civil complaints filed against me by Phoenix Publishing House, a textbook publisher whose 12 error-riddled textbooks were the subject of my paid ad titled “These Are Not Errors” (Inquirer, 6/22/05).
Chavez’s second letter of Nov. 9 is telling proof of how truly great he was: “Prominence neither creates a pedestal for us nor confers upon us the status of a demigod. We are all equal, despite the obsessive compulsion of many to be more equal than others. It is on the same level of humility that I extended to you my offer of assistance pro bono in your legal problems. But I am glad to note that there is at least one kind soul, in the person of Atty. Macaibay, who has dedicated four years (and counting) of her life crossing swords with a giant textbook publisher in your defense. I pray for her and your success. You may forward to me your ‘Declaration’ and I will find time to read it. My unconditional offer of legal assistance is, of course, subject to your two conditions. The most that I can do is, if you will allow me, to provide answers to some nuances of the law in your two cases. Over and above legal presumption of innocence in your favor, my instinctive assessment tells me you are truly innocent. I believe in your plight and in the code of death before dishonor. There can neither be reprieve, surrender nor retreat in the fight for truth and justice. The fight goes on.”
Chavez passed away last Sept. 11, at the age of 66, another case of a good man dying before he has had time to live to the full measure of his potentials.
When we die, the people we leave behind remember us in either of two ways. Hitler we remember for the terrible atrocities he committed; Gandhi for his saintly deeds. I, for my part, will remember Chavez for what he might have been, for all the other good deeds he could have accomplished, on top of what he already did, had he lived longer.
We honor our dead when we strive to emulate and duplicate their good deeds and achievements. We must, in our lifetime, ensure the passage of the Freedom of Information and the Whistle-blowers bills. We must work for the total and complete abolition of the pork barrel system, political dynasties and private armies, the party-list system, and the Sangguniang Kabataan. Above all, there must be judicial reform.
—ANTONIO CALIPJO GO,
Marian School of Quezon City