A Lawyer is Murdered

Dean Raul Pangalangan, in his regular Friday Inquirer column, writes movingly about the murders of Assistant Solicitor General Nestor Ballocillo and his son, Benedict. The Ballocillos, father and son, were gunned down near their home in the early morning of December 6. It was a cold-blooded hit and the gunmen made sure that Atty. Ballocillo was dead before they fled the crime scene. Tragically, his son Benedict was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was chalked up as, in the words of the police, “collateral damage”.

I never met the elder Ballocillo but, from all accounts, he was a righteous man. And like all righteous men, he is measured and defined by how he lived rather than how he died. Scholarly and focused, he was the valedictorian of his class at the Arellano Law School. At the Office of the Solicitor General, he was known as “Obispo” or “Bishop” as much for his fatherly uprightness as for his strong religious faith. He was the epitome of the ideal public servant: honest, competent, frugal and, not the least, patriotic. He could not be bought, a rare trait in this age of easy compromises. This might have been his undoing, as he was government counsel to a number of high-profile cases involving billions.

My heart goes out to his widow and daughter. The loss of a husband, father, son and brother, all at once, is an unspeakable, heart-wrenching tragedy. Our prayers are with them, specially during this Christmas season.

But what of it, others would say. He was just another lawyer in country overrun by lawyers. True, but he was also that rarest of creatures – an honest lawyer.

And what makes me heartsick is the seeming absence of a sense of outrage, even from among the legal community. We have become so hardened to the killings around us that one or two more deaths, even if they hit close to home, is just a statistic.

Dean Pangalangan mentions a tipping point which, he fears, is fast approaching. I’m not so sure. For many of us in this cynical profession, there is only a sipping point. As we sit around sipping our wine, brandies, flavored coffees and whatnot this holiday season, we may shake our collective heads over our fallen companero. But we may never really know, or even care, why he died. Pour me another drink.

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