NEW YORK CITY — The group behind the grisly murder of our friend, Atty. Edeljulio Romero, 50, probably won’t stop at nothing until all remaining tentacles of the disintegrating Odicta drug group in Western Visayas in the Philippines are wiped out.
Judel (this was how I called Atty. Romero) actually knew he was being targeted for murder the reason why he wore a bulletproof vest outside his residence or when he traveled anywhere in the country.
He wanted to travel incognito for security reasons and was always in the company of his partner, Irish Tan.
Although he was already lawyering for several accused in illegal drug cases even before he met slain suspected drug lord Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. alyas “Dragon” in the late 90’s, Judel’s name was “tainted” when he was identified not only as Odicta’s lawyer but also reportedly as an “associate”.
Nobody has confirmed Judel’s other modes of “association” with Odicta aside from their lawyer-client relationship, but he was always reportedly spotted in Odicta’s residence and restaurant in Smallville frequently and attended in some important occasions “representing” Dragon.
I met the young Atty. Romero sometime in the early 90’s when he wasn’t yet Odicta’s lawyer.
He was then the lawyer of controversial Ajuy, Iloilo businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa, who was having some problem with the several firearms confiscated in his farm by elements of the Regional Police Office-6 (RPO-6).
It was Judel’s friendship with Etik Espinosa where he probably met Jesus “Jing-Jing” Espinosa, Etik’s nephew who lived at Barangay Monica Blumentritt, Iloilo City.
Jing-Jing is now detained at the Iloilo provincial jail in Pototan, Iloilo and was tagged by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as “Odicta’s partner.”
Jing-Jing, whose wife, Keith “Dabing”, is the Barangay Monica Blumentritt village chief, is in jail for frustrated murder.
In one of our light conversations, Judel admitted to me he was using marijuana even when he was in high school but did not mention anything about shabu (crystal meth).
“I can’t understand why they prohibit marijuana when it is a plant and therefore created by God,” Judel, who attended mass at the Santa Teresita Parish in De Leon-Quezon St., Iloilo City every Sunday afternoon before he met Odicta, once said in jest.
Before his killing, Judel’s name had been eternally attached to Odicta in many ways and there was no mention of Odicta’s name without some authorities doubting he was taking advice directly from the bejeweled lawyer from Brgy. San Jose, Molo, Iloilo City.
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 as stated by the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
In a statement, Fajardo said: “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.”
When Judel and Irish decided to transfer residence from Iloilo City to Quezon City last year, the controversial lawyer would travel back in Western Visayas to attend the court hearings.
When he was killed in a street carinderia, shot on the temple by a lone walking gunman with cohorts waiting in a vehicle waiting nearby, in Brgy. Culasi, Roxas City on September 28, Judel just came from the Roxas City Hall of Justice to attend the hearing of client, Stephen Teves, who was facing a case for illegal drugs.
We agree with Atty. Fajardo that Atty. Romero must be denounced by all those who adhere to the rule of law and not lex taliones.
We call on Capiz police provincial director, Senior Superintendent Canilo Fuentes, and Superintendent Dante Tayco, Roxas City police chief, to expedite the arrest of Judel’s murderers and file cases against them soon.
May you rest in peace, Judel.