“Even in killing men, observe the rules of propriety.” –Confucius
The group behind the grisly murder of Atty. Edeljulio Romero will likely continue until all remaining appendages attached to the Odicta drug group, which operates throughout the Western Visayas, are wiped out.
Judel (how I referred to him) knew he was a target for murder, which is why he wore a bulletproof vest whenever outside his residence – even when he traveled anywhere in the county. He traveled incognito for security reasons and was always in the company of his partner, Irish Tan.
After serving as a lawyer in several drug cases, he met now-deceased drug lord Melvin ‘Boyet’ Odicta, Sr. (a.k.a. Dragon) in the late 90s. Judel was “tainted” as he was not only identified as Odicta’s attorney, but as an “associate.” Nobody could confirm any other association with Odicta aside from being his lawyer; however, he was said to have been consistently spotted at Odicta’s residence, along with the latter’s restaurant in the Smallville Complex, located in the Iloilo City’s Mandurriao district, where he attended important occasions as Dragon’s “representation.”
I met Judel in the early 90s (before he became Odicta’s attorney). At the time, he was serving as a lawyer for controversial Ajuy businessman Vicente ‘Etik’ Espinosa, who had several firearms confiscated from his farm by the Police Regional Office-6. It was likely through their friendship where Judel met the now-detained Jesus ‘Jing-Jing’ Espinosa, the businessman’s nephew, who lived in Barangay Monica Blumentritt, Iloilo City. He wound up in jail for frustrated murder and was earlier tagged by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as Odicta’s “partner.”
Judel admitted to have used marijuana in high school, but mentioned nothing about shabu.
“I can’t understand why they prohibit marijuana when it is a plant and, therefore, created by God,” he said in jest.
Before his killing, Judel’s name had been eternally attached to Odicta in many ways; there was no mention of the drug lord’s name without authorities questioning if he had taken advice from the attorney.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) National President Abdiel Fajardo, who denounced Judel’s killing, said lawyers should not be identified with the alleged crimes of their clients, citing the United Nations’ “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.”
“Romero’s murder must be denounced by all lawyers who adhere to the rule of law and who continue to uphold the primacy of the Constitution,” he said in a statement.
Despite Judel and Irish transferring residence from Iloilo City to Quezon City last year, he would still travel back to the Western Visayas to attend court hearings. When he was killed on September 28 at a street carinderia in Barangay Culasi, Roxas City, shot in the temple by a lone gunman, with cohorts waiting in a nearby vehicle, he had just left the Roxas City Hall of Justice, where he attended a hearing for Stephen Teves, who was facing illegal drugs charges.
I agree with Fajardo, Romero must be denounced by all those who adhere to the rule of law and not lex taliones (or retaliation).
We call on Capiz Police Provincial Office officer-in-charge, Police Senior Superintendent Canelo Fuentes, and Roxas City police chief, Police Superintendent Dante Tayco, to expedite the arrest of Judel’s murderers and file cases against them soon.
May you rest in peace, Judel./WDJ