(Editors’ note: Young lawyer Joshua Valeflor Pablito, who grew up in the company of older lawyers, who are friends of his father, will pitch in for this space this week.)
As a doe-eyed child, I practically grew up at the Baguio Justice Hall, as the bodyguard of my father, the late Atty. Jimmy Pablito.
While there, I marveled at the court antics and poetic prose delivered by the old guard, foremost members included Prosecutors, Benny Carantes and Elmer Sagsago, along with lawyers Rocky Molintas, Rene Cortes, Jose Molintas, Emiliano Gayo, my father, and their innumerable friends.
They would test the tempers of our notoriously fierce magistrates such as Judges Pamintuan, “Luming”, and Cabato, who would listen to their hours-long cross examinations and manifestations. Who could object? They were pillars of justice and stubborn old men.
During the late afternoons and evenings, even until the morning, while emptying their bottles of Johnny Walker(s), I was astonished by their war stories in court and how they dealt with such gruesome and often heart-breaking cases.
For me, it took courage and bravery to defend and prosecute alleged murderers, rapists, drug lords, thieves, and swindlers. But they did, because they knew that every accused was entitled to his day in court. I also saw that it took its toll on their souls, yet, they soldiered on for the lofty ideals of Lady Justice. Simply put, they inspired that child to become a lawyer.
After his retirement as chief city prosecutor, Sir Benny, still a giant in the legal profession, was my co-counsel in more than 20 criminal cases. He was nearly 80 years old, but still was going to hearings, in the middle of the pandemic.
He still had his undying passion and heart to defend his clients. In our court hearing last week, he was teasing my dad and sharing stories about their friendship. He called me Jimmy, Jr. and the lesser Atty. Pablito. He was known for his sardonic wit and humor.
After the very long and stressful hearing, he said goodbye, patted my back saying “good job”, and slowly went down the stairs. The simple words touched my soul, as if it was my father who said it. As I watched him, I then felt a dark, gloomy feeling. So, I ran after him, and asked the security guard to take a picture of us beside Lady Justice.
He uttered, “Ket wen a,” then asked why. I said for posterity and memory. He said he was honored. I then proceeded to assist him outside Justice Hall. Upon checking our picture, the Justice Hall guard was not able to click the button pala, sayang. I will settle for my name appearing beside yours, and entering our appearances in court together.
Justice Hall, Midland, and Session Road, would never be the same without your cunning wit, booming voice, and mischievous smile, Sir Benny. I will miss meeting you along Session Road and Rose Bowl with your colorful barong.
It was an honor to have met you in this life, sir. Thank you for everything.
You have now entered your appearance in heaven. Our regards to our dearly departed brothers and sisters who went ahead in the great courtroom in the sky. Stop arguing in heaven and enjoy your chess games together, please?
“The old man smiled. ‘I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived.’” — Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop.
Indeed, yours was a life, well-lived and well-loved, sir. In the favorite words of my father, “Adios mi amigo. Hasta la vista.” Goodbye, my friend. See you soon. But in our case, not that soon, sir, please.