Published: 9 January 2006
My condolences to the bereaved family of the late Judge Henrick Gingoyon. Henrick's fate was similar to those of other human rights champions at the height of the dictatorial regime, which he and his peers had vehemently condemned.
My TV news field days would never be a complete affair without covering their pro-poor activities that also involved Redemptorist Priest Rudy Romano, who remains missing until this writing.
The irony of it is that Henrick died in an environment that was supposed to be the fruit of his struggle against a dictator under whose regime hundreds of human rights advocates and innocent people were slaughtered.
The Tera system of my office computer carried the shocking Inquirer dispatch about Henrick's death which I relayed to Judge Menmen Paredes, through his wife Jane, and former Cebu governor Tingting de la Serna for dissemination to Henrick's other colleagues at FLAG, a group of lawyers who played an important role in defending the rights of the oppressed.
Former Cebu vice governor Democrito Barcenas, and the late lawyers Al Surigao and Vic Balbuena were among other members of the FLAG who were visible during those dark days. Al also met a violent death in the late 8Os; he was shot in Surigao inside his residence.
Like Henrick, Al paid dearly for extending free legal assistance to poor litigants, and his active participation in rallies against the oppressive regime. That made Al among the military's hunted animals.
Al's demise followed the disappearance of Father Rudy, who was believed kidnapped by members of the military intelligence. Father Rudy's case had caught the attention of the international community, which until now has not stopped helping find him.
I was at Henrick's wake at the Sacred Heart Church the other day, which turned into a gathering of martial law journalists and colleagues of Henrick. Among them were lawyer John Cane, then a reporter of the now defunct Republic News, where I started writing Straight Jab; Anol Mongaya of Super Balita, Sun-Star columnist Bong Wenceslao; Junex Doronio (formerly with Bandera), a Cebuano journalist now based in Manila; RPN 9 manager Bong Aznar and James Arias, Henrick's Alpha Sigma Phi and, yes, Henrick's brother, Bebot Gingoyon, who was then writing for the Freeman. James, who also worked as a reporter at the defunct Cebu Daily Times, had been a fellow political detainee in Dumaguete City.
Getting justice for Henrick might just eventually come to naught, amid perception that the authorities have netted the fall guys. It has always been the case - a result of pressure the authorities have been getting from their superiors or those in power who have been hounded by credibility problem.
This was practically the challenge that Ricardo Cardinal Vidal had hurled at authorities who couldn't positively respond to such cases due to their involvement in extra-judicial killings.