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Atty Abelardo Estrada

It has been a year since Atty. Abelardo Estrada passed away on Feb. 28. This piece is by Atty. Francisca Claver.

He has always been “boss” to all his associates. One cannot even count how many lawyers passed under his wings. Those who did will attest that he sincerely mentored his budding associates. Unselfishly, he shared the tricks of the trade of private law practice. One lawyer asked his help one time on how to go about conducting cross examination in a homicide case. He not only gave tips verbally. He requested to read copies of affidavits and sworn statements and after that, he took hold of a piece of paper and pen and started writing out possible cross examination questions. It was not uncommon for other lawyers to visit the office and ask for his advice on trial techniques especially from the defense side. And he would always oblige.

He is the quintessential trial lawyer – tenacious, zealous for a client’s cause to a fault, and always armed with a “never say die” attitude. Stories abound as to the wealthy clients he had and as to how much he charged as professional fees. Most of that is true, but I hasten to say there was always space in his heart for indigent clients who come to him with interesting cases worth fighting for. He clearly had a bias for criminal over civil cases. More often, he farmed out civil cases to his younger partners. Not perhaps because he simply shunned handling civil cases, but more so because he continuously sought to perfect his craft in Criminal Law.

There is a saying that when one becomes a lawyer, he or she has doomed himself to a lifetime of continuous study. Atty. Estrada lived this to the hilt. He would visit the local bookstore to buy the latest volume of Supreme Court Reports Annotated (SCRA) and go over the latest decisions in Criminal Law. He had a never-ending effort to impart the latest in Criminal Law jurisprudence to his students. This is proven by the reviewers in Criminal Law which he authored. Passion for excellence and the continuous desire to impart knowledge are what motivated one like Atty. Estrada to burn the midnight candle to keep abreast with the latest laws and decisions. For this, he will be sorely missed.

Atty. Estrada was not perfect. He had his fair share of indiscretions. Many did not quite agree with how he gave in to the material whims of his children. But then, this only made him a more interesting human being. He was admittedly a lady’s man and stories are aplenty about his exploits as such. I, however, would like to remember that side of him who was a hardworker, a perfectionist, and a generous mentor.

In May 2012, he gave a two-hour lecture during the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education which was sponsored by the local chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. I recall distinctly how he spent almost half of the time allotted to him in reading the transcript of stenographic notes of a cross examination he conducted in a dangerous drugs case. It looked like he won this case. He was giving very specific tips on how to punch holes in an arresting officer’s testimony. And I thought to myself, my, if all accused in dangerous drugs cases are represented by Atty. Estrada then we certainly have a problem. His exploits as defense lawyer are legendary. Not very few accused charged of heinous offenses have been acquitted owing largely to his skill and diligence. And I have asked him how he did it. His advice still ring loudly: “Remember, all you have to do is to create a doubt.”

He worked his butt off. His review lectures brought him to Visayas, Mindanao, and other parts of Luzon. He lectured among members of the Philippine National Police. His cases made him travel to Cavite, Manila, and other parts of Luzon and the Visayas. These are over and above his dean-ship at the University of Baguio College of Law and his local cases. And one wonders, how could he have handled all of these? You have to be Atty. Estrada to do it.

He not only lectured, he lectured well. One can never be bored in his lectures, which he started, punctuated, and ended with Ilocano love poems, love quotes, and anecdotes. And he did it with ease not only because he was a born speaker but because of his expertise in the field.

He definitely basked in the adulation and the praises he received from his students and clients. He did not find embarrassment in relating his exploits in the courtroom. He welcomed the attention. Unlike several of us, he was a natural for interviews aired on TV and radio. But I guess, this was what kept him going. The adulation was the adrenalin which fueled him to accomplish all of these. It had to be this way because while boss knew he had a heart condition, he feared going to a doctor for consultation. He feared injections and needles. He self-medicated. The “high” he got from the satisfaction of lawyering, mentoring, and lecturing served as his medication to go on. One wished he heeded manang Laura’s insistent demands to submit himself to a medical checkup.

Atty. Estrada deserves this tribute. He is not any lawyer. He has served the profession well as defense lawyer, professor, lecturer, and scholar of Criminal Law. He authored two books on Criminal Law under the auspices of Rex Book store. He served as president of the IBP chapter for two terms and holds the distinction of being the only Baguio lawyer who became IBP governor for Northern Luzon. We will feel the void. There will be no more Atty. Estrada walking the corridors of Justice Hall.

Goodbye boss, you left us so soon. You could have authored more books, defended more clients, and posted more love quotes on Facebook. You loved life and seeing how you lived it made us forget that you, like any human being, can be snatched away by death.



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