An article by Graeco Paul Antipasado

I have always believed that writing a piece about a person whom one deeply admires carries with it the risk as well as the fear that the finished product may not serve the subject any justice. But looking back at the life and times of this extraordinary woman, there probably isn�t a single piece of work that would give her any justice. But then again, to let the story of her career and crusades go untold would ironically be an unacceptable injustice.

The many battles of Haydee Yorac have been exactly just that, an often lonesome war against government inefficiency, dishonesty and corruption, and she has waged it on many fronts. Feisty, formidable, uncompromising, tough are only some of the words attached to her larger than life persona, but if we use the English dictionary I could only come up with two words that would serve Atty. Yorac right: public servant.

Service has been something I’ve never come to associate with government, self-service perhaps. For me the ultimate instrument for good had transformed into this monster on the verge to eat our country whole. Up until I knew she existed, the fight against the evils of government has always been for me, a battle being waged in vain. But Atty. Yorac, whose dogged resolve coupled with nerves of steel, has demonstrated that she’s not only fighting in battle, she’s actually winning it. In 2004, the Sandiganbayan gave the PCGG an astounding victory by awarding to the government billions of pesos worth of shares in United Coconut Planters Bank and San Miguel Corporation bought using the Coco levy funds. Previous to that, the PCGG had recovered some $684 million worth of Marcos’ Swiss bank deposits under her watch.

It’s safe to say once more that Filipinos have finally found a very likely defender in Haydee Yorac. On a more personal level, I’ve once again come across someone whom I could place all my hopes and optimism, the difference this time, is that I know she won’t let me down. I don’t even think she is capable. In all her years Haydee Yorac has always demanded honesty from everybody inasmuch as she demanded it on herself. Whether in public service or in private practice, Atty. Yorac always brought with her, as her Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service citation reads, an “exceptional integrity and rigor and her unwavering pursuit of the rule of law in the Philippines.”

Haydee’s mother had once said that she “always taught her children to do the right thing.” There is elegance in simplicity, and by those few words, Mrs. Yorac had, whether wittingly or unwittingly set the path for Atty. Yorac’s implacable crusade against deceit in any form. Whether training our future lawyers at the University of the Philippines or reforming our electoral system as Head of the Commission of Elections or recovering ill-gotten wealth as Chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Governance, the woman who once understatedly called herself “a good enough lawyer”, has unflinchingly and without fail, always done “the right thing.”

I’d give a million dollars in exchange for a memory of a time when I was genuinely proud of my leaders. I’ve come to a point where the repeated disappointments and disillusionment have become such a way of life that I am, simply put, jaded and numb. Yet Haydee Yorac has always sought to remind me that government is inherently noble and that those who run it recklessly should not be left alone to wreak their havoc but fought with unbridled obsession and steadfast commitment. Even from her sickbed, Atty. Yorac’s dedication to the cause of justice never wavered; on the contrary, cancer has only doubled her resolve. When this president appointed questionable individuals to the Board of the San Miguel Corporation, the perilously ailing Atty. Yorac was the first who rushed to condemn it.

Her decision to retire from the public sphere has once again put my confidence in government in serious jeopardy. In fact, the entire nation felt as if they had lost a best friend in government. And I cannot say with certainty if there will even be another Haydee Yorac. For now, I can only hold out hope and optimism, because that is what Atty. Yorac reignited in me. I owe it to her and every single public servant out there, who in spite of the temptations and lures of dishonesty and personal gain, continue in the noble and daunting task of trying to earn the public trust our government desperately seeks and providing for us Filipinos devoted service we legitimately deserve.

It would be presumptuous of me to assume that this piece has eloquently given Haydee Yorac her due. I am not even close. But here I am choosing to write this piece anyway. I never meant nor have I ever thought of this work as a masterpiece destined and built for longevity. No. Atty. Yorac would not want me to write about her because of the prize and the promise of prestige that comes with it but because, like her, I see that there is something truly monumental and valuable, needlessly to say an exhilarating sensation in not only expressing my convictions but more importantly in living them out.

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