I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chief State Counsel RICARDO V. PARAS III yesterday.
CSC Paras is the epitome of a career government official, one who has devoted decades of his life to the public service that he has become practically synonymous to the office he leads and represents, i.e., the Legal Staff of the Office of the Secretary of Justice.
When I first met him when I assumed office as SOJ way back in July 2010, there was a resounding consensus that he possessed invaluable “institutional memory” that is highly desirable – if not imperative – to ensure that the Department does not regress or become paralyzed due to the sensitive (and at times painful) transition from one administration to another.
That I was able to acclimatize to my new post as quickly and effectively as I did back then was something that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without his cooperation and counsel.
For this, I thank him deeply and sincerely.
Ordinary Filipinos may not realize this, but their lives have been shaped by this man, who may not be a “household name”, but was nonetheless influential in the running of the government, as the Republic’s Chief State Counsel, for so many years.
Public officials, national and local, write to the Secretary of Justice, seeking legal opinion on a variety of matters – how to interpret a particular provision of law, whether or not a particular act is constitutional, which office has the authority to do what, etc.
All of these are studied first by the Legal Staff, led by the Chief State Counsel. The Legal Staff also assists in the negotiation of treaties and international agreements, gives its position on the legality and, to a certain extent, wisdom of proposed legislative measures and executive action.
Even non-Filipinos have been touched by his work, due to his work as head of the DOJ’s Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit, and also because part of his duties was to review immigration decisions that are reviewable by the Office of the Secretary of Justice.
Through all these, CSC Paras has indelibly left his mark in Philippine governance and, consequently, on the lives of millions of people.
To a public servant like CSC Paras, and given the responsibilities he has had to shoulder throughout the years, it was most certainly hard to draw the line between office and non-office hours. I am sure that he had his own dreams, and I am certain he wanted to spend more time with his loved ones – but I can vouch that he tried his best to be available whenever he was needed. His was a level of willingness to make personal sacrifices that we could use more of in the bureaucracy. For his sacrifices, again I thank him.
This is my personal way to pay respects to a man I worked with closely for more than five years. Those five years, which I can count as both some of the most challenging and fulfilling years of my life in public service, would not have been the same without him as Chief State Counsel.
By way of thanks, I would ask everyone to help me pay respects to him by saying a silent prayer for the eternal and peaceful repose of his soul, and for comfort for the family he has left behind.
Truly, his loss will be felt.