Friday, April 27, 2007

Goodbye “Charles”…Goodbye Fiscalizer…

Councilor Jesus Zozobrado may have been one of the loudest voices in the City Council especially when it comes to issues against corruption and yet, his death came like a whisper in the night.

“He died peacefully at 6:20 this morning,” daughter Atty. Rachel Zozobrado said yesterday.

Not too many people knew that he was called Charles by his close friends mainly because Charles Bronson was his idol. And like Bronson who fought evil in his movies, Zozobrado fought hard against corruption in the city council in the same manner that he fought hard against his illness. He did not die without a fight.

It may be coincidental or perhaps, Zozobrado knew he would not live long because he did what only a few politicians would do---risk his political career by sponsoring a law that would affect the “masa”

This, he did, when he authored City Ordinance 0189 regulating the use of single motorcycles by limiting the number of passengers to only two persons including the driver. The ordinance received a lot of flak from habal-habal drivers who were used to ferrying as many as five passengers to their detriment. The law also required motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear the prescribed helmet which was really aimed to prevent death resulting from motorcycle accidents.

But Zozobrado did not waver and instead became steadfast in having his resolution approved by the city council. This despite the danger of voters turning against him come the next elections.

There are a lot of politicians but only a few can really be called honorable---Zozobrado was definitely one of them. Aside of course from unproven black propaganda against him , which were clearly a product of the fertile minds of his political enemies and which was done amateurishly with bogus receipts and all, there was nothing corruptible that can be pinned down on him.

He was not the traditional politician who would call on the members of the 4th estate just to get good exposure. However, he was a sought-after interviewee because his words were fearless and he walked where angels feared to tread. He did not care who he was treading on in the city council, for as long truth and justice be heard.

This may be the reason which endeared him to the good graces of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who vouched for his credibility as a city councilor.

The last time I interviewed him he was lawyering pro bono for hundreds of people who could no longer get their educational investments from CAP.

But looking at his background, his personality as a city councilor may have been formed by his past experiences as a Barrio Captain in Mintal in 1968, acting regional director of the Board of Transportation, City and Regional State Prosecutor for almost 7 years, Regional Trial Court Judge and Undersecretary of the Justice Department.

His employees said he was a no-nonsense guy who expected only the best from them. In fact he did not tolerate mediocrity and did his job well as chair of the council committee on Transportation, Franchising and Public Utilities.

Who can forget his fiery privilege speeches related to the passage of the 2005 Annual Budget of the City Council which earned for him the title Fiscalizer? Or how about his melodramatic speech which started with “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…”He may have stepped on silver toes then but he has survived and would have made another try for the council this May election if not for his malady.

Incidentally, his daughter Rachel who is a lawyer, a former prosecutor and law professor is running for council instead of him. A closer look at his family would give one the impression that he may have been a fulfilled man already considering that all his children are professionals, three of them lawyers in their own right. However, he did not stop there and spent the last years of his life in public service.

The Dabawenyos may have lost a good leader but Zozobrado’s contributions to the city will remain forever etched in the minds of the people. His humanity may not be depicted like the expensive statues in front of the SP building but his advocacy and audacity in fighting for the truth will hopefully serve as a good example to future generations.

Goodbye Charles or should I say, fight on!

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