Remembering Napoleon Dilag, Esq (March 13th 1932 – Dec 14th 2011)

Judge Napoleon Dilag to the right of future Ombudsman and Rep Raul Gonzales

LOOKING BACK TO THE bad old days of Martial Law in the Philippines, I realized that your bravery, steely courage or just plain blindness to danger could be measured by when you stood up to the authoritarian regime.

Towards the end of the conjugal dictatorship, post-1983, it became fashionable to rise up against the dying Marcos dynasty.  But before that, you just learned to watch your step and hold your tongue everytime you found something to do or say against the government.

Not so during the first few years of Martial Law, when the President and his tight circle of enablers from the military and legal elites held absolute power over the archipelago.  Anyone who dared to express disagreement, legally or otherwise, was considered not in his right mind, and only the hardiest of freedom fighters and libertarians were courageous enough to stick their head out and tell Mr Marcos that the Emperor had no clothes.   At risk to life and limb.

One of these brave few warriors was Mr Napoleon V Dilag, whose name (together with his co-petitioners) appears as petitioner in one of the most famous cases in Philippine constitutional law, Javellana vs Executive Secretary, and should rightfully be considered part of legal history.  Together with his lawyer brethren, they successfully presented arguments to show that the leadership, via political sleight-of-hand, legalized an unratified Philippine Constitution and by virtue of such legalized a then-unheard of third term for the incumbent President.  If not for a slim majority of one or two votes in the Supreme Court, history might’ve been vastly different, but that the case reached the Supreme Court at all we owe to people like Atty Dilag.

After the so-called ratification cases (ratifying Martial Law declaration) were disposed of by the Marcos Supreme Court, Atty Dilag, like many of our country’s citizens, went about their business while keeping a long, vigilant watch over the country.  For most of the next two decades, Atty Dilag was also Barangay Capt Dilag, and was ward leader over one of the most populated barangays in Paco, Manila.  It was also the best time for him to look inward, becoming a hands-on husband, father, grandfather and everything else to his impressively sized family.

Towards the middle 1990s Barangay Captain Dilag was appointed The Honorable Judge N Dilag of the Cavite Regional Trial Court, where he now seized on the chance to apply and interpret his passion, The Law, from the other side of the bench.  Practicing lawyers seem to have the greatest aptitude for a vocation of this sort, and Judge Dilag was no exception.

But the thing that linked the professional and the personal aspects of his life was the passion that he lent to whatever it was that needed his boundless heart or giant intellect.  Whether it was disposing of the myriad aspects of a twenty-year old property case, filing a habeas corpus petition on behalf of a political prisoner, singing a lullaby to his youngest grandson, or remembering to greet happy birthday, in person or by phone, each of his eight children in the Philippines, Australia, USA or Canada, Judge Dilag never held back an ounce of effort or gesture of love.

Judge Napoleon V Dilag passed on to that great courtroom in the sky last December 14th after a lingering illness.  His great legacy of commitment to work, family and country will live on in all of us whose lives he touched.

Thanks for reading !



21 thoughts on “Remembering Napoleon Dilag, Esq (March 13th 1932 – Dec 14th 2011)

  1. Pingback: Polen wir kommen… – „Schluß mit Słubice, Szczecin, Gdańsk und anderem Geschichtsmüll!!! « GFM RIMPLER III, Generalfeldmarschall Preußen

  2. Thank you very much Noel your such a great friend. My father-in-law is so dear to me together with my mother-in-law they both treated me more than a daughter and for that I am so greatful and priviledged. Friends like you who honors my father-in-law in another very special way helps alleviate pain and tremendous thought of lost of a loveone. Again Thank you and may the Lord bless you and your family more. Lyne & Sonny Dilag

    • Just the thought that he’s no longer suffering is a tremendous relief for me Lyne and Sonny 🙂 He was a man for all seasons, and spread himself for as many people and causes as he could. He was truly a special person. 🙂 I am blessed for having known him, and I salute the Dilag family for giving back so much of the love he gave !

  3. Pingback: My Grandfather, the Freedom Fighter | Carmela Antonio

  4. Hi Noel. My name is Zachary, I’m Teddi’s son. I didn’t get to know Tatay as well as I should have, but I learned a lot about him thanks to this article. I cannot thank you enough for writing this, as it has given me a greater insight to the kind of man he was and the kind of life he lead. Thank you. I am very proud to be the grandson of such an amazing human being.

    • Hey Zach ! the pleasure is all mine, and just the opportunity to have known your grandfather was once-in-a-lifetime for me. We are both blessed to have known him, thanks for your kind comment! Regards to your mom and dad and your awesome bros !

    • Hi Angela ! You don’t get many chances to show how much you appreciate greatness in the quiet lives of the people from your own childhood, and I’m happy for the chance. Thanks for the appreciation !

  5. Hi kuya noel! Thank you for doing this for tatay! Thanking you is not enough for this wonderful thing you did! We all appreciate it.

    Judge Napoleon Dilag, our tatay, IS a legacy. For the people who haven’t known him personally, this is a great info.

    Again, maraming salamat! We all miss him and he will remain forever in our hearts!

  6. Thank you so much Noel. I didn’t know you knew tatay that much. I was actually wandering who this “ylbnoel” is. I have my suspicion and I was right. Though you forgot to mention USA where three of his children are currently base, thank you again.

  7. Wow what a brave man,”It is a pity that only after a person has left this earth that we learn so much about the person, It is only then do we learn his true worth. It is only then we long for that last cuddle etc that we will never have. Such is life, this will also be said about us long after we are gone to…………..

  8. Thanks for sharing this…I admire human like him and how I wish I was given a chance to meet and to know him. Well at least I know one of his children (Teddi) who inherited his personal attributes.

  9. Thanks so much, Noel, for the excellent write up of legal history that Tatay had been a part of. It gave me more insight into his career that he had so much passion for. It makes me feel great to have been raised by a father like him.

    • Hi Baby ! The Dilag family has always been close to mine, and it’s my honor to have contributed even a little to his memory. I hope you and your family are doing well, regards and God bless always !

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