Evelio Javier was a bright young lawyer who at the age of 29 defeated an entrenched incumbent and became the youngest provincial governor in the Philippines. Throughout martial law he steadfastly maintained his political independence from the Marcos regime. This independence cost him his life.
Javier studied at the Ateneo, where he finished high school and college. He became president of the student council and while in law school, editor-in-chief of the Guidon.
Imbued with the idea that “politics is the concern of good and decent people,” he returned to Antique after having taught at the Ateneo for five years. He ran for governor, and won, serving for the next eight years despite his personal opposition to martial law.
“His first instinct was to resign,” recounted a friend, “but he was prevailed upon by his family, friends and supporters because everybody thought that martial law, being a temporary measure, was not going to last long. As it turned out, the temporary measure became a permanent way of life,” and he realized that “it was preferable for the Antiqueños to have a leader in such times than none at all.”
After that he declined to serve another term, and instead went to Harvard University to take up a master’s course in public administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Shortly after Benigno Aquino’s assassination in 1983, Javier returned to the Philippines and ran for a seat in the Batasan (martial law parliament) as representative of Antique. Shortly before the elections, seven of his supporters were killed in an ambush. In what was seen as a sham election, the Marcos-aligned warlord Arturo Pacificador was proclaimed the winner. (At the Batasan, Pacificador would be chosen majority floorleader for the Marcos party, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.)
Undeterred by this defeat, and despite threats to his life, Javier next focused his energies on campaigning for Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel who were facing President Marcos in the snap presidential elections set for the first week of February 1986. He played a key role in uniting the opposition behind Mrs. Aquino. He served as provincial chair of the Unido-Laban party.
Five days after the snap presidential elections, Javier was shot dead by hooded men in broad daylight and less than 100 meters away from the provincial capitol where election returns were being canvassed and tallied. The first volley wounded Javier but the assassins were able to corner and finish him off some distance away.
Seventeen persons, including Arturo Pacificador and his son Rodolfo, and a notorious ex-PC soldier, were indicted with the Ministry of Justice. The ex-assemblyman was arrested only in 1995, to be acquitted by the regional trial court in Antique for the prosecution’s failure (the court said) to establish Pacificador’s involvement in the murder.
Evelio Javier, 44, was killed at a time when public outrage was at its height against the Marcos dictatorship. In fact, just days later, Marcos with his family and close friends would be flown out of Malacanang to exile in Hawaii. Months later, in September 1986, the Supreme Court nullified the proclamation of Arturo Pacificador as congressman of Antique.
Javier’s body was flown to Manila where it lay in state at the Ateneo de Manila and served as rallying point for the forces which coalesced to become the EDSA people power. It was then flown back to Antique for burial. Provincemates mourned their young leader’s death in an epic funeral procession that ran the 160-kilometer length of the island of Panay.