STURYA ILONGGO Evelio Javier: His life, assassination, and legacy

WHILE members of Generations Z (born between 1995 and 2009) and Alpha (2010 to 2024) may only associate the name Evelio Javier with a holiday in the provinces of Antique, Aklan, Capiz, and Iloilo, there is undoubtedly much inspiration to be derived from this man who dared to dream ‘The Impossible Dream’ and in so doing sacrifice his very life upholding the integrity of the electoral process in the country and defending the very freedom we enjoy to this day.

Here we present a timeline of his life from birth to death and the tragedy in between that led to a political upheaval that would define his legacy we celebrate.

14 October 1942 – Evelio Javier is born in Hamtic, Antique, to parents Everardo Autajay Javier (Moscoso) and Feliza Bellaflor

1968 – Earns his Bachelor of Laws at Ateneo Law School and passes the Bar

29 December 1968 – Marries Precious Bello Lotilla of Sibalom, Antique

1971 – Runs for governor of Antique and wins, becoming the country’s youngest governor at 28

(23 September 1972 – President Ferdinand Marcos declares Martial Law)

1981 – Attends the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and eventually earns a Master’s in Public Administration

(21 August 1983 – Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino is assassinated at the Manila International Airport)

1984 – Runs for Assemblyman in the Batasang Pambansa, loses*

13 May 1984 – His supporters are found dead, believed to be murdered on orders from his political rival, known Marcos-crony Arturo Pacificador

7 February 1986 – The Presidential and Vice-Presidential ‘snap elections’ are held

11 February 1986 – Masked gunmen open fire at Evelio Javier at the steps of the New Capitol building in San Jose, Antique, killing him

TIME (magazine) described the scene:

“Evelio Javier, director of Corazon Aquino’s campaign in the remote province of Antique, was sitting on the lawn in front of the capitol building, taking a break from a debate over contested votes in his region, when a white vehicle pulled into the driveway. Without warning, a man in a black knit ski mask leaped out and started shooting. Javier jumped up and ran. Zigzagging across the building’s broad concrete plaza, he tried to escape the relentless barrage of bullets. At least one hit its mark. Javier stumbled and fell into a small fishpond. Somehow, though, the fleeing man struggled to his feet and staggered across the street. By this time, other gunmen had begun to close in. Two approached from the left. Another, brandishing a .45 pistol, appeared in front of a warehouse. Javier ducked into an alley and tried to hide behind an outhouse door. But the masked killer found his prey and finished him off with a burst of gunfire.” (via Wikipedia)

In his blog Mejorada’s Point of View, Ilonggo journalist Manuel Mejorada recalls,

“That fateful morning, Javier came down from the Capitol building in San Jose, Antique where the canvassing was being conducted to take a break. He went over to a big tree in the park to rest.

Just then, two or three armed men approached him and opened fire with M-16 armalite rifles. Javier was wounded but managed to run across the plaza in zigzag fashion to elude the bullets fired at him. He entered a store and hid inside the toilet.

His assassins, however, simply followed him. Once they got inside the store and learned where Javier had hidden, they fired their weapons at point-blank range. Javier was killed in an instant, his body peppered with bullets.

The gunmen then casually fled aboard a waiting vehicle.”

In a blog entry by Brian Scott Mackenzie entitled Evelio Javier’s Impossible Dream via Medium,

“Meanwhile, as popular unrest mounted, Marcos called a snap election in 1986 in a desperate bid to legitimize his rule. His challenger was Corazon Aquino, the widow of his slain rival. Widespread fraud and violence marred the election. Both candidates claimed victory.

As a supporter of Aquino, Javier took part in the certification of ballots in his province. He was standing on the courthouse steps of the provincial capital when a carload of masked gunmen drove up and opened fire on him.

Shot in the shoulder and leg, Javier fled across the courtyard. Guns blazing, the assassins followed on foot, tracking him into a shop. They cornered him in a restroom. The coroner found two dozen bullets in his corpse.”

(22-25 February 1986 – The People Power Revolution topples Marcos and installs Cory Aquino as 11th President of the Philippines)

*September 1986 – The Supreme Court decides in his favor in Javier vs. COMELEC, posthumously declaring him the rightful winner of the elections for Assemblyman, with Justice Isagani Cruz writing in his decision,

“Let us first say these meager words in tribute to a fallen hero who was struck down in the vigor of his youth because he dared to speak against tyranny. Where many kept a meekly silence for fear of retaliation and still others feigned and fawned in hopes of safety and even reward, he chose to fight. He was not afraid. Money did not tempt him. Threats did not daunt him. Power did not awe him. His was a singular and all-exacting obsession: the return of freedom to his country. And though he fought not in the barricades of war amid the sound and smoke of shot and shell, he was a soldier nonetheless, fighting valiantly for the liberties of his people against the enemies of his race, unfortunately, of his race too, who would impose upon the land a perpetual night of dark enslavement. He did not see the breaking of dawn, sad to say, but in the very real sense Evelio B. Javier made that dawn draw nearer because he was, like Saul and Jonathan, ‘swifter than eagles and stronger than lions’.” (via Wikipedia)

3 June 1992 – Republic Act No. 7601 entitled “An Act Declaring February 11 of each year Governor Evelio B. Javier Day, a special non-working public holiday in the provinces of Antique, Capiz, Aklan, and Iloilo” is approved

Indeed, a revisit of the past is so often needed to understand the present and, more importantly, to learn from our mistakes. Our heroes should not have died for nothing. But if we forget them, it would be as if they did./INews

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