As our beloved friend and lawyer Noel Archival is laid to rest today (Feb.28, 2014), we in the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA)-Cebu fear that our hopes for justice will be buried with him.
Days after the military-style ammbush of Atty. Noel, there remains no glimmer of hope in the offing in the absence of a breakthrough in the investigation.
Instead, what abound are various hypotheses on the possible motive for the murder. The common thread sewing these up is that it is ‘work-related’ or a result of his lawyering practice.
With all probability, that could be close to the truth. However, going by what the media chose to highlight, his practice would seem to be limited to a few controversial and high profile cases.
That, however, is far from the truth. For at the time of his execution, Atty. Noel continued to fight for the cause of the marginalized and defended the innocent victims of state persecution. He has not wavered in his principle that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Thus, he defended us with the same vigor he has defended victims of human rights violations when he was still starting out as a lawyer in the early 1990’s. In fact, it was his early exposure to human rights violations as paralegal volunteer of SELDA that would inspire him to take up law studies and create a career as criminal defense lawyer. His exposure to wanton corruption and horse-trading in the reactionary justice system would lead him to devise unorthodox legal strategies that he would be more known and missed for.
Yet, Atty. Noel’s involvement in our struggle for justice goes beyond the confines of the court. He has not only consistently supported our campaigns and mobilizations for justice, but also the individual well-being and safety of the victims.
He shared our ideals that true justice could never be achieved in our country as long as the basic problems besetting us are not resolved. He believed that resolving this problem requires confronting the coercive might of the State.
In the end, Atty. Noel’s murder underscores the state of impunity reigning in our land where assassins and torturers roam freely under the protection of the State.