Court employees remember Vicente Mirabueno, or Vic to his family, as someone who was humble and who bore “no airs.” His daughter remembers him as someone who liked to cook and to play the guitar. Christmas season would find him organizing a round of carolling in the neighborhood, where he was guitarist.
As a lawyer, he was a passionate advocate of human rights and justice. During the time of the Marcos dictatorship, human rights violations were rampant in his home province of South Cotabato. Almost as soon as he started his law practice, he joined the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and was one of its members in the area. He was besieged with human rights cases involving urban poor groups, teachers’ groups, political prisoners, and victims of harassment or illegal arrest. He gained a name locally as a labor lawyer.
Vic ran a half-hour radio program which mostly tackled social issues. In this program, Vic would urge his province mates to stand up for their rights and to demand democratic reforms. Vic inspired many people, especially students, to act against government abuses and abuses perpetrated by people in authority. He himself filed a case of illegal logging against a powerful logging concessionaire. Vic was concerned about deforestation in Cotabato.
At the time of his death, Vic was provincial chair of FLAG and of Bayan. Soon he and his family were constantly under threat, and for a time Vic had to lead a fugitive’s existence as a result of constant military harassment. Two attempts were made against him in 1985 and 1986. Vic filed a protest against local military authorities but the military denied any involvement in attempts to harm Vic or his family.
In January 1986, Vic and four others (including two priests, a nun and a doctor) were slapped with rebellion charges, specifically “giving aid and comfort to enemies of the state.” These were later dismissed for lack of evidence.
After the fall of the dictatorship, Vic was appointed and served as OIC vice-governor for South Cotabato. In May 1987, he ran for Congress as an independent candidate but lost.
One of the last cases he handled was as counsel for 47 members of a local group, arrested by the military in connection with a land dispute. The detainees were members of the KPS, an urban poor group protesting alleged fake land claims being made by big businessmen at the Makar townsite.
Vic was warned by friends of the growing threats to his safety, but Vic laid it all on “God’s will.” On the day he died, he had been standing quietly at the entrance of the city’s public market when two men came close and each put a bullet on Vic’s chest. He died shortly upon arrival in the hospital.
Authorities later arrested two suspects. One was a civilian police asset named Mike Sedic, a former soldier. Sedic escaped after a few weeks in detention. (Implicated in Sedic’s escape were four policemen.) The second suspect, one Mohammed Sedic, was positively identified by witnesses as one of the two gunmen.
Vic’s wake was visited by thousands of mourners. Marbel bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez officiated at the funeral mass, after which a funeral march followed, with over 20,000 participants.