RURAL VIEWS: Requiem for Dean Iñigo

Atty. Roger Largo, my partner in the law firm, was in first year law school when he started encouraging me, vigorously, to also study law.  

That was sometime in 1996. However, I had some apprehensions on my capability to survive law school.  My job then entailed a lot of travel and I did not have enough time and resources for the course. 

But there was another reason, maybe a flimsy one, but it was one of the factors why it took me several years before I enrolled at the Ateneo de Davao University College of Law. 

“The Dean,” Hildegardo F. Iñigo had been at the helm of the Ateneo Law when he led the three-lawyer team for the accused in a celebrated case in Davao City.  

The dean’s name had always been and will always be associated with that case, where I happened to be one of those presented as rebuttal witnesses for the prosecution. 

From lawyers and students, I heard stories of how law school classes were being conducted.  To put it in a subtle way, they said, the atmosphere in a law school class is far from being friendly.  

Later, I learned that a few of those stories on ‘terror professors’ were exaggerated.  But most approximated reality. 

With those stories as backdrop, I had fears that the dean would be more ‘terror’ to me because I was at the other side of the fence in that celebrated case.  He might be biased against me.  He might flunk me in his subjects, no matter how hard I would try! It was like the misconception of any layman, who often misunderstood lawyers for simply doing their job. 

Atty. Largo said my fears were unfounded because knew the dean as a very professional person. The same reactions came from Atty. Charina Sanz-Zarate. Knowing the dean, she doubted if my being a prosecution witness for the other party in the case where the dean was a counsel for the accused would affect his objectivity and professionalism as a mentor. 

However Atty. Largo quickly added:  “Your fears are definitely baseless, but of course it would be better to study the difficult subjects of law without any mental baggage, even if that baggage is without basis.” 

For my peace of mind I waited, patiently, planning to enroll in law school only after the case would be decided.   

But the controversial case dragged on for years.  It had various incidents which went to and from the appellate courts.  It even went through the sala of three other judges before the sala of the presiding judge who rendered the decision.  

When circumstances with my job turned conducive to start my law study, I did not delay it any further.  I enrolled in law school while that case was still pending. 

It was in my second year in law school when my day in court came.  The day I feared most. 

In a meeting with the private prosecutor the night before I was called to the witness stand, she asked me casually, “Have you been in Dean Iñigo’s class in law school?” 

I had a nice and honest answer, so I practically begged the private prosecutor to please ask me that question in court.  I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, that would at least “neutralize” any partiality of Dean Iñigo towards me in class.  I would be under the dean in Civil Procedure in the following semester. 

Near the end of my direct examination, the counsel asked me the question which I most looked forward to. “Have you been in Dean Iñigo’s class in law school?” I took a deep breath before saying my lines with confidence.  But before I could say a word, the three defense lawyers chorused, “Irrelevant, Your Honor!” 

Despite the private prosecutor’s motion for reconsideration so that I could say what I really wanted to say, the presiding judge ruled that the question was irrelevant. 

Obviously, it really was.  It was only my personal request to be asked that question. Had that question been allowed, I could have said this to the Honorable Court: “No.  But I look forward to being a student of one of the best remedial law professors in the country!”

All throughout my memorable years in law school, I saw for myself  that my fears, which contributed to the delay in taking up law, were baseless and even childish.  

Dean Iñigo was for the accused in that case, but it did not affect the way I look at him as a mentor. 

The sad thing is, I did not have a chance to say those little praises for the dean in court or in any other occasion.  That reminds me of the warning the dean said in every law school orientation.  He always warned the freshmen: “Look at the person to your left.  Look at the person to your right.  Remember their faces, because soon, they will no longer be here in law school.” 

I never had a chance to tell “The Dean” that I looked forward to be student of one of the best remedial law professors in the country.   

So let me paraphrase his warning. Look at the person to your left.  Look at the person to your right.  Any good words you want to say to any or both of them, say it now.  Because sooner or later, they or you will no longer be around. 

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Danilo Balucos, the first business manager of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center. He left to pursue Law school, passed the 2006 bar exams and is now a partner in a law firm in Davao City).