AT 78, he should either be a couch potato or a jetsetter, enjoying the fruits of his lifetime of honest labor, but no, Jose Armando R. Melo, endured stressful days and sleepless nights, making possible our country’s first automated election amidst doomsday prophecies.
The 2010 elections was not perfect but it is now largely perceived as credible. Many of Lolo Melo’s critics now say ‘sorry’. Yes, many complain about having to wait for a few hours to be able to cast their vote, but think of what this lolo had to endure. This Comelec chairman had the energy of a teenage skater.
I never thought I’d live to see the day when candidates would concede defeat a few hours after the precincts closed, but I did. And thanks to our hero.
Which makes me believe that the mandatory retirement age of 65 for government employees is cruel. For instance, many state university professors who are still in the pink of mental and physical health are forced to retire and either retreat in oblivion or move to the private sector. If Lolo Melo can run a national election, a historical one at that, why can’t a 65-year old teacher continue to share his wisdom to the young?
Now, let’s get to know pambansang lolo better.
Melo was born in Manila. He is married to Norma Cruz with whom he has 3 children: Olivia Ann, Jaime Alberto and Jorge Alfonso.
He graduated Master of Laws, “Meritissimus”, at UST, 1960. He passed the bar exams, in 1956, the same year he obtained his law degree from the Manuel Luis Quezon University. He began his law practice as staff member, Diokno Law Office, 1957-1962. He was legal adviser, Board of Censors for Motion Picture, 1969-1975.
During the 1970s, he worked for the Office of the Solicitor General. In 1986, he was appointed to the Philippine Court of Appeals by President Corazon Aquino.
His reputation untainted over the years, Melo was appointed by President Fidel Ramos to the Supreme Court on August 10, 1992. He served in the High Court for ten years, retiring after reaching the mandatory retirement of 70 on May 30, 2002.
On August 21, 2006, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo created an investigating body headed by Melo to probe the extrajudicial and political killings which had targeted militant activists and members of the press. The body, popularly known as the Melo Commission, rendered a report which concluded that most of the killings were instigated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Our hero was largely respected both by the accused tormentors and the activists.
The Melo Report “linked state security forces to the murder of militants and recommended that military officials, notably retired major general Jovito Palparan, be held liable under the principle of command responsibility for killings in their areas of assignment.” Unfortunately, no one’s head rolled, and Palparan even had the gall to run for senator.
For all his contributions to the nation, Melo, I opine, deserves a monument built in his honor. I’ll gladly volunteer my services, pro bono, to mix cement when this gets underway.
This is not to say that the old man can own all the credit. Elections 2010 is the people’s victory, our victory, but this does not diminish my contention that Lolo Melo shone brightest in the dark abyss of apathy and disbelief. It is something a Benjamin Abalos would not have done.
The only minus points with the guy came when he sided with Comelec commissioners who denied accreditation to Ang Ladlad—the party-list group seeking to represent lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders—on the basis of religious biases, a decision that would later on be reversed overwhelmingly by the Supreme Court. But hey, no one is perfect. Heroes are humans, too.
Still, no Filipino in recent memory has made the people believe in the impossible more than he did.