(Atty. Jose “Joe” V. Begil, Jr, was former chair of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao. The 49-year old lawyer passed away on 11 May 2022)
Abtik, Alisto Ug Masaligan!
This is Atty. Jose “Joe’ Begil, for many of us – his family, comrades, his colleagues in the legal profession, his community, his friends.
But to his clients who were victims of human rights violations who needed good counsel and yet had nothing monetary to pay for his legal services, Atty. Joe was the light at the end of the tunnel. He understood their plight, planned their fight, both in and out of courts, and led them to victory.
Atty. Joe’s was a product of his generation – a Martial Law baby – who witnessed the ravages and excesses of the hated Marcos Dictatorship and the system that gave birth to tyrants and dictators.
During his college years in 1992-1996 , as a student leader, he also became the president of the Supreme Student Government (SSG) of San Nicolas College (now St. Paul University of Surigao City), where he fought for the democratic rights and interests of the students. Among others, he also became a founding member of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) in Surigao City.
After graduating from college, he decided to take up law at the Xavier University College of Law in Cagayan de Oro City and at the same time becoming a staff of Concerned Citizens for Human Rights- Surigao del Norte. Thus, even as a law student, early on, he was already immersed in human rights work, helping document cases of human rights violations in their region, especially the cases of political prisoners.
He was ranked as 18th among those who topped and passed the Philippine Bar exams in 2001. He then joined the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), where he started helping the legal problems of the marginalized sectors- farmers, workers, fisher folk, etc.
In 2006, he left PAO and became a private law practitioner; he became a full time Human Rights lawyer with the Surigao Norte Human Rights Alliance (SUNHRA), now the Karapatan-Caraga.
There was no stopping Atty. Joe’s pursuit to advance and defend the peoples’ rights and welfare. He also became a pillar of the legal profession by becoming president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Surigao del Norte Chapter.
In 2005, he was a founding member Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), including its chapter in Surigao del Norte. He was later elected as UPLM’s vice president, then later on as president in September 2016 until November 2019.
In 2007, he was also among the founding members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), later becoming its Vice President for Mindanao (2013-2016).
Because of his legal knowledge and grasp of the myriad problems that affect the marginalized sectors, he was chosen as one of the legal consultants in the short-lived 2016-2017 GRP-NDFP Peace Talks.
To further his public service, Atty. Joe also served for two terms member of the Surigao City Council (2010-2016), where he consistently campaigned and advocated for BayanMuna Partylist and its peoples’ agenda and politics for change.
He also served as legal counsel for Bayan Muna Partylist and the Makabayan Coalition – Surigao del Norte He was also the retained counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno -Surigao Norte and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI)-Surigao del Norte Diocese.
In his spare time, he also taught at the San Sebastian College Law School -Surigao City Campus to impart the concept of peoples’ lawyering to law school students.
Due to his human rights work and advocacy, he was the target of relentless vilification, red-tagging and subject of trumped-up charges.
In 2013, he was charged in relation to his participation in an anti-pork barrel rally against the government in Surigao City on September 21, 2013.
Again, in 2018, he was included among the 468 individualts charged in mass with trumped-up charges of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention related to the taking by the NPA rebels as Prisoners of War of the 12 paramilitary and two (2) army regulars on December 19, 2018 in Caraga Region. While he was eventually discharged as among the respondents, he continued to be the lawyer of the other respondents until his untimely demise.
In December 2021, in what probably was one of Atty. Joe’s last humanitarian activities, he helped organize the Bangon Surigaonon to help the thousands of victims of Typhoon Odette in Surigao Norte.
But then death came like a thief in the night, and took him away too early, too soon. He suffered a heart attack while attending to a court case in Surigao City last Mach 22. He was thereafter airlifted to the Philippine Heart Center, where he stayed comatose until his demise last May 11.
Words could not express the deep despair that we – his compañeros and compañeras – in the UPLM and NUPL have at the news of his untimely passing.
We mourn for this loss of a brilliant, yet, humble lawyer, and extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Michelle, children Jochelle Andrea, Home Chelo and Jodi Chelsea and the whole family.
With the dark days of Philippine society on the horizon, Atty. Joe would have been one of those lights that would guide us along the way of righteousness, justice and truth.
Nonetheless, rest assured Atty. Joe that your life and service to our people would continue to inspire us, including the next generations of peoples’ lawyers.
Kaubang Joe, we have been blessed with the chance to have known you in this lifetime, to have worked with you, to have laughed with you, to have grown with you and to have traveled with in the service of our country and people!
Popular for his simplicity, Joe has taught us that in humility, there is strength, and strength is what we need to surpass the challenges that lie ahead of us.
We hold you forever in our hearts and struggles Atty. Joe!
We will carry on!
But for now, Rest In Power Joe: Alisto, Abtik, Masaligan!
Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM)
17 May 2022