Sometime in July 2018, I was interviewing three of the four suspects in the killing of Atty. Salvador Solima (the alleged fourth suspect had not been arrested or even at least identified until now). This was inside the BBRC* compound. A man came up to our group, overhearing the name “Atty. Solima”, and introduced himself as Atty. Solima’s former client. And that the Notice of Appeal for his conviction on drug charges was perfected, per Atty. Solima according to him, but that he did not know what happened to that case of his since Atty. Solima died. I laid out to him my professional fees, which he accepted to be reasonable, and I agreed to be engaged by him as his lawyer. The next time I went to the BBRC, I brought with him my contract for legal engagement and updated him with what I found out about his case: the appellant’s brief was due on 4 July 2018, but his former lawyer was killed on 2 July 2018; there is an order for the Court of Appeals for the late lawyer to show cause why he should not be sanctioned and the appeal dismissed for failure to submit the appellant’s brief, which of course cannot be answered by the dead lawyer; that the reason why he did not receive his copies of the notices is because they were addressed to the warden of the national penitentiary in Leyte, the court unaware that he was still incarcerated at the BBRC; and that I had filed a motion for leave of court to submit belatedly the appellant’s brief and would do so once it is granted. This client had a different worldview, and always sees events, even setbacks, as manifestations of God’s plans in our lives. Instead of questioning why his address on record was care of the warden of Abuyog, Leyte when he was at BBRC, he viewed it as God’s way of manifesting something which he did not understand as yet at that time. Every time I visit the jail, I always include him as one of the four or five clients to visit.
I met Juril during my law partnership days with Atty. Habeas Corpuz, who was his classmate in law school. Habeas Corpuz and Vincent Isles Law Offices (HCVILO) did not survive long, closing its doors by 31 January 2015, after just about nine months of operations. I stayed with the Children’s Legal Bureau, while Habeas joined Atty. Valeriano Loon’s firm. When Juril was also already a lawyer, he also joined Atty. Loon’s firm. There were talks of me joining as well, but I ultimately declined, not only because I would be the least handsome among the four of us, but also because I thought the executive judge would find it odd that I changed my notarial commission address three times in a single notarial term (2 years). Later Habeas and Juril left Atty. Loon and joined the Piramide Law Firm. Habeas is now with the environmental division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Juril is still with the Piramide Law Firm.
Sometime in 2016, I was scheduled an interview with Mr. Raul Del Prado, station manager of Brigada News FM Cebu, as possible replacement for one of the anchors of Tira Brigada, who resigned because of the 2016 elections. I turned down the offer, because I thought at that time that the popularity of Brigada FM and specifically the Tira Brigada program was due to their suggestions of numbers to bet in the Suertres game, not because the listeners genuinely liked the program format. Mr. Del Prado asked me if I could recommend someone else. I recommended Juril.
Yesterday morning, when I stepped out of our building’s main door to head off to RTC Br. 18 where I would meet the three accused in the killing of Atty. Solima for a hearing, my phone rang. Apparently I forgot to change it to silent mode, which is my habit upon leaving the office for a hearing.
I picked up the phone and it was Juril. (He was allowed to use a phone while in the custody of the NBI.) He asked me come visit him at the NBI holding cell so that he could fill in the details of the case – although we talked at some length in the past regarding the details of the case, I had never read the case files because I am not one of his defense lawyers. I told him I would be coming to him if I could be back early after my Liloan hearing which is after my Qimonda hearing. (Two hearings on the same morning in locations about 15 km away – matinding pangangailangan.)
As it turned out, the Qimonda case was done early, and the Liloan hearing was totally cancelled. I was back at the office by 10:15 A.M. and was at the NBI office by 10:30 A.M. (The NBI office is about two blocks away from my office and is within walking distance.) While I was talking with Juril, personnel from Brigada News FM and some media friends such as Joel Acedo arrived. Then a medical examination was conducted upon Juril and it was clear that there was to be a return of the warrant to the court. As my next appointment at the office was still at 1:00 P.M., and seriously underestimating the time it will take to commit an arrested person to the BBRC, I joined Juril’s family in going to the court and later to the BBRC itself. At the BBRC I had an advantage to them, including his very own wife, as as a lawyer I had the right to demand that I see Juril. When I entered the prison gate, I had a plan.
I went to the administrative office and asked to see the client who sees every event as manifestation of God’s plan in our lives. I told him I need a favor – someone who knows how to defend those accused of crimes but who is not a criminal himself needs some assistance in defending himself inside the walls of the prison.
Of all coincidences, it turned out he was Juril’s classmate in law school, from first year until the first semester of their fourth year – my client was arrested during the second semester. What’s more, Juril would be grouped in my client’s brigada – a brigada is an internal grouping of the inmates inside a jail, designed to prevent fights from breaking out. That means that in a very competitive – and literally they are competing for everything, from sleeping areas to food, what with our overcrowded, underfunded prisons – environment inside the jail, Juril would have someone he knew who could guide his way around. That does not mean that Juril would be 100% safe inside the jail – with the kind of cases he had handled in the past, it would be in the best interest of all concerned, from the BJMP who has actual physical custody over the body of Juril to the court which has jurisdiction over his person, that he be placed somewhere else. But at least he would have some guide to help him out.
Were they all just coincidences
– that somehow, even though a habit, I forgot to turn my phone to silent mode before leaving the office, allowing me notice and take the call from Juril?
– that my court time was cut short, allowing me to visit Juril at the NBI holding cell?
– that during my visit, he was due to be brought to court and committed to BBRC?
– that I met that client in July 2018?
– that it turned out that he was a classmate of Juril in law school?
– that Juril gets to be in that client’s brigada?
I am not a religious person, but I do recognize that little miracles happen each day. Sometimes, a series of coincidences reveals God’s design in our lives. Now I see that the reason I felt I should entertain that would-be client in July 2018 is because in July 2019, I would be asking his assistance in helping inside the jail someone who turned out to be a mutual friend.
* Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center, the old name of the Cebu City Jail – Male Dormitory.(CCJ-MD).