Menmen retires

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Sunday, March 2, 2014


JUDGE Meinrado Paredes of the Cebu Regional Trial Court Branch 13 retired from the judiciary last Friday. Now, I can go back to calling him Menmen.

Allow me to bask in the reflection of Menmen’s glory. We were contemporaries in college even if we went to different schools and even if – and I’d like to emphasize this, sorry Men – I am younger than he is. We took and passed the bar examinations together. I still have pictures of us during our oath-taking. I’d like to believe we looked good in our Beatles hairdo and bell bottoms.

Menmen was one of those who were incarcerated during martial law, an honor that I, alas, cannot claim. If his captors thought they could co-opt him, they were terribly wrong. His detention only served to strengthen his resolve to resist the dictatorship and fight for civil liberties.

When he became a lawyer, he naturally gravitated towards human rights advocacy. It was a road less taken (majority in our batch went to “mainstream” practice) and it wasn’t financially rewarding (although I didn’t hear Jane complain) but for Menmen, to whom the practice of law was more an apostleship than an occupation, the choice was easy.

Menmen was one of the first post-Edsa appointees to the bench. It was an honor well-deserved; it was also most applauded by members of the Cebu bar, who had been pining for a return to the glory days when cases were won on the merits, rather than on friendships. He did not disappoint.

The friends who know him knew enough to avoid trying to take advantage of his friendship. There were dire consequences, as one practitioner would sadly know when the judge literally and figuratively shoved him out of his chamber after he told the latter that he had a “budget” for a temporary restraining order.

I remember that incident because a few days after it happened, I went to see him on a matter not related to a case (I never discussed my cases with him) and his clerk told me they had orders not to allow any lawyer into his room. It was then that, for the first time, I invoked my friendship with him and she let me in, albeit grudgingly. Inside, Menmen related to me what happened.

He loathed dishonesty. That is why when a businessman told me many years ago that his lawyer claimed that they lost their case because the judge (who turned out to be Menmen) had been bribed, I immediately told him to zip his lips and fire his lawyer. This judge is not only honest, he is also an aikido master so for your well-being, I told him, please stop repeating your lawyer’s stupid lie.

I haven’t told Menmen or anyone about it. Someone might get the impression that I was trying to curry favor with him. I never did that because not only did I value his friendship, I knew it wouldn’t get me anywhere anyway.

But Menmen does humor his friends in his own unique way. He did it to me in my first big case before him. I represented the accused in a homicide case and I thought I had done my job fairly enough to expect an acquittal. But Menmen convicted him. The cross-examination of the prosecution’s eyewitness was good, even relentless, he said in his decision, but still, he was convinced that the witness was telling the truth.

That single case, I think, typified Menmen’s relationship and standing with the bar. There were cases that we won and those that we lost but always we were certain that they were all decided solely on the merits and nothing else.

You’re a good man, Mr. Paredes. We’re proud of you.

*****

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 02, 2014.

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