“I shot an arrow into the air,
It felt to Earth, I know not where, For so swiftly it flew the sight, Could not follow in its flight.
I breathe a song into the air,
It felt to Earth I know not where
For who has sight so keen and strong That it can follow the flight of song? Long, long afterward in an oak, I found the arrow still unbroken
And the song from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend.”
— The Arrow and the Song by Henry Wadsworth
IT is not easy to lose a friend. It is always heart-rending for me. These past few months have not been kind to me. I have been losing friends to the Great Beyond as though they were chilling showers on a wintry evening. In the famous lines of Peter Ustinov in a very dramatic scene of a movie where he played the role of Emperor Nero, he exclaimed in tears when he was informed that Brutus died, “Brutus, dead without my permission?”
Another friend, Ferdie Pasion, texted me few minutes after Roy breathed his last saying that Congressman Roy Señeres died. I called Ferdie because I thought the text was a bad joke since I just talked with Roy over the phone two or three days before that day and he was very much alive, and I told him that I was saddened by the withdrawal of his candidacy for President in the 2016 elections. He told me, it was not his will but God’s.
Well, each one of us either waits for his season or creates his own season. Roy had it when he ran for President. Though I do not believe in elections for now, I told him that if elections come, I will fly home to my province and cast my vote for him. I have said it before, I am saying it again Roy Señeres was the most deserving to become President of this country at this point in time.
But the ways of Providence are very mysterious and I am not one to be presumptuous to say that I know them.
My first glimpse of Roy
He was a young Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates when I heard of Roy. He was the bright exponent of the cause of Sarah Balabagan, a Filipino overseas worker who killed her employer because he tried to rape her. Roy brilliantly defended her, saved her from death in the country where she worked and brought her safely home. But Sarah was not the only OFW Roy helped, there were others. In his love for the OFWs, he became a scintillating exponent of the OFW leading to his having organized the OFW party-list. In his desire not to make a mockery of the government’s slogan that the OFWs are our modern heroes yet are badly treated when they come home, he ran for a seat in the House of Representatives to represent the OFW so there would be more teeth in his espousal of their cause. While there his defense of the OFW and the contractualized workers became legend.
My first glimpse of Roy personally was when he had a case of inciting to sedition with former Secretary of National Defense Fortunato “Tony” Abat at the Regional Trial Court of San Juan City. The case started when Tony Abat, Roy, and Charlie Serapio held a press conference at Club Filipino asking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign as they believed she was mismanaging the government and they added that in the event of her resignation, Tony Abat should take her place.
Of course, there was no basis to file the case. Nevertheless, the case was filed and Roy, Tony Abat and the others had to file bail bond for their provisional liberty. I represented Tony and Roy represented himself. It was in the course of the hearing of that case that I got to know Roy.
He showed me his intense love of country; he would go great lengths to fight for his country and the people. He was not afraid to express his views that run against the current. He was familiar, unlike many others, with the constitutional provision that it is the duty of the citizen to replace a government that does not do its job for the country and the people.
Thinking of him then and now, I cannot help remembering Longfellow’s poem, The Arrow and the Song because like Roy, I have been shooting arrows of ideas into the air not knowing where they fell. I have been breathing songs into the air and I never knew where they registered. When I met Roy for the first time in that inciting-to-sedition case, I finally realized that the arrows I have been shooting into the air and the songs that I have been breathing into the air found their mark in Roy, especially in his head and in his heart. Kindred souls we are, I’d say!
Then the launching of my books
The first of my six books which I have launched and published these last six years, Leaders From Marcos To Arroyo, gave me another chance to meet with Roy again. He was effervescent and very much alive. He kidded me why there were not so many beautiful women during the launching. I just smiled and chuckled a bit since like him, I am also an admirer of beauty. And Roy had a pretty good taste in his admiration for beauty.
But it is not so much our encounter during the launching that made me wonder about Roy. It was his phone call a few weeks later when he said, “Bono, congratulations for your book, it is well written. But on top of that, it is not so much the subjects of your books, it is you.
You are the best among them.” I laughed and said, “Roy thank you but I hope you aren’t telling me this because we are friends.” His reply was immediate and without hesitation, “You know me better than that, I don’t need to flatter you. You are beyond flattery and flattering anyone is not my habit, more so for a friend,” he replied and we had a very good laugh after that.
If I were a leader of this country, I was telling myself then, one of the leading members of my Cabinet would be Roy Señeres. He would be on top of my list because it is not easy these days to find a man of character, high intelligence and a passion for the country and the people.
Rage over my suspension for not finishing MCLE
I have not been in touch with Roy for quite sometime until one morning he phoned me and asked, “Bono is the news item true that you were suspended by the Supreme Court from the practice of law for not having completed the MCLE?” I answered, “Yes, because they refused to grant my application for exemption and I cannot practice law within six months if I do not finish the MCLE course.”
MCLE, by the way is a creation of former Justice of the Supreme Court Hilario Davide requiring lawyers to take a four day course listening to lectures of experts in law so they could practice law for so many years for every compliance, otherwise they would be barred from exercising their profession. This Davide imposition is an import from the USA.
Roy, in a measured angry tone exclaimed, “By gad, don’t these people know that long before they became justices of the Supreme Court, you rejected President Cory’s offer to you to accept being a justice of the Supreme Court? Don’t they know that another president offered you to become Chairman of the Comelec and Solicitor General, and you rejected both. By gad Bon, you are one of the best trial lawyers in this country and they could do this to you? This is rank injustice. I will deliver a privilege speech in Congress denouncing this!”
Humbled by this accolade from Roy, I replied, “Roy thank you but never mind the privileged speech. I am a man of the law I will finish the five MCLE completions. I am like the Kennedys, Roy. I don’t get mad. I only do what needs to be done.” And I finished the five compliances in January 2016.
This reaction of Roy is a sample of how Roy rages against injustice as he raged for the contractual workers against the oligarchs and economic giants.
The bid for the presidency
Few months ago, I had a talk with Roy at the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City. He asked my help in his bid for the presidency. He said, “You know the field is so narrow. The people have no choice. These candidates for president are all supported by the vested interests and they have no vision and specific programs for the people. I have decided to run for president because I want to give the people a choice.”
“I know, Roy, you are right but you have no visible funding as of today. You know how expensive it is to run for President,” I replied.
“Well, I’ll present my vision to the people and my specific programs, and we’ll take it from there,” he reposted.
“You know Roy, I wish to campaign for you because you are the best of the lot but I can’t because I don’t believe in elections for the moment and I am an exponent for a peaceful constitutional revolution to establish a Constitutional Transition Government. To campaign means I would reverse myself and I cannot do that,” I answered.
“Well, I wish you luck in your plans and if you succeed, you can always call on me to help,” Roy concluded.
“Same here! If God wills you to be the next President, I will be there for you and the country,” I said.
To die at 68 is a lot of waste for a man of Roy’s caliber. But as he said to me so well in our last phone conversation, “It’s all God’s will!” Amen to that. Roy, my friend, let me borrow some lines from one of my favorite poets, William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet, as a tribute to you and to an enduring friendship:
“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”