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A Farewell to a Vanishing Breed

by: J. Jose L. Sabio, Jr.

A friend once texted me, “OUR LIFE'S GOAL SHOULD BE CHARACTER, NOT ACHIEVEMENT; VIRTUE NOT FORTUNE; FAITH NOT FAME; THE GLORY OF GOD, NOT THE PRAISE OF MEN.”

Such words of wisdom undoubtedly personify our departed colleague, Justice Roberto A. Barrios. Though a man of many achievements, he remained humble, modest and unpretentious to the end.

First appointed as Regional Trial Court Judge of Branch 14, Roxas City in 1987, he went on to become RTC Judge of Branch 11, Manila. Due to his outstanding performance, he was a judicial excellence awardee in 1997, thrice an awardee as outstanding RTC Judge of Manila in 1993, 1995 and 1997. He was finally elevated to the Court of Appeals in September 1997.

Proof of his outstanding performance lie in the fact that while Manila RTC Judge from 1994 to 1997, he had no case remaining undecided at the end of a given month. For that reason, he was first in number of cases disposed of in 1994, 1995 and 1996, an improvement to his being second only in 1992 and 1993.

Even while still a student at Ateneo de Manila University School of Law, Bobby, as fondly called by relatives and friends, was already an achiever. He was a consistent scholar and Dean's lister from 1963 to 1967. It is no surprise then that he was once Dean and Professor of Law at the COLEGIO DE LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION Roxas City in 1993, and twice a bar examiner in Political Law in 2000 and 2005.

A philosopher once said that the best index to a man's character is how he treats people who cannot do him any good, and how he treats people who cannot fight back. Ask all the former staff of Bobby, from the lowliest utility to his lawyers, and get the opinion of those who really knew him, and in unison they will surely confirm that he was a man of substance.

He was a man who was always willing and even would go out of his way to help, especially friends and relatives. Yet he was a very private person who would not want to bother others with his personal problems. Bobby was so private that apart from his immediate family, nobody really knew of his very serious condition.

True to his character, that of being a man for others, Bobby whom this writer knew even in law school not only as a classmate but also seat mate and a fraternity brother in the Aquila Legis was frantically trying to touch base for the purpose of helping a friend with his academic problem. It never occurred to the writer that one week later he would die. Here was a man, suffering in great pain, not wanting his condition to be known, yet would still think of helping others. He was a truism to a saying “circumstances do not make a man; they reveal him.”

Those who truly know Bobby cannot fail to admire his goodness, uprightness, decency, respectability, trustworthiness, and most especially, his unsullied reputation and integrity. No breath of scandal has been attributed to him.

In his quest for a place in the Highest Tribunal, he relied in his achievements, but most of all in his great faith, in God and the goodness of man. He was never for succeeding at the expense of decency, propriety and most especially, of others. Indeed, he was a rare breed and the writer would venture to say, a great loss to the judiciary, which sorely lacks Bobby's virtues and character.

May Bobby be the reminder of Horace Greely's words: “fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings and fly, those who cheer may curse tomorrow; only one thing endures -character.”




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