The Colorless Atty. Mac

Atty. Romulo Macalintal and Vice President Leni Robredo

by Wilfredo G. Villanueva

He is the election lawyer of Senators Tito Sotto, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, and Vilma Santos. He lawyered for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Ampatuans, the Cayetanos. He’s been an election lawyer since 1980, after passing the Bar with an average of 83.1 in 1979. He has done nothing else, except for some other thing which made him quite famous, an element in his life I will disclose towards the end of this article.

He is also Vice President Leni Robredo’s main election lawyer. When former Senator Bongbong Marcos accused VP Leni of electoral fraud, she had to rely as well on the pambansang election lawyer: the smiling, 71-year-old, Atty. Romulo Macalintal, who looks 55 and is visibly in love with life. The twinkle in his eyes and the spring in his steps are a sight to behold.

He has three children, two of whom are lawyers, the other one a business owner. His wife, an English teacher in Polytechnic university, and he have three apos. Both of them are devout Catholics, serving in church as lay minister, lectors and commentators. He is almost always with family, doesn’t do golf, walks with his wife for exercise in the tree-lined park of the subdivision in which he lives.

He has no political color, as you might have guessed with the list of clients I narrated above.

“Not an issue,” he said of the electoral protest filed by the former senator, known plainly as Bongbong. “They haven’t presented an iota of an evidence to-date,” Atty. Mac said.

The wet ballots?

“The ballot boxes are stored in less than ideal conditions. Sometimes the rains get to them. But no matter, every ballot has an image—an electronic carbon copy—which can be relied upon to settle a controversy, as provided for by law. Besides, who will benefit when the ballots are wet? The losing candidate,” he said.

“Under Rule 74 of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal effective January 16, 2018, ballot images will be decrypted (making a code intelligible) in case of questions on the integrity of the electoral process.”

“So we have nothing to worry about,” he said.

Malayo sa bituka?

“Yes, malayo sa bituka. Possible questions on ballot consistency may arise, that’s why this was included in the rules.”

“The same thing happened in Taguig when Dante Tinga protested Lani Cayetano’s win in 2010. Comelec opened the ballot images, and they still declared Mrs. Cayetano as the winner.”

The missing audit logs?

“Audit logs are not placed inside the ballot box. The teachers turn the audit logs over to the election officer. Again, not an issue,” he said.

“Section 29 of Resolution 10057, dated February 11, 2016, provides that the audit logs shall be delivered by the teacher to the election officer.”

“The only contents of the ballot box are: election returns, minutes of voting, the ballots themselves, unused ballots which are torn.”

“Yung hindi nagamit (na mga balota), pinupunit ‘yan, yung kalahati ilalagay sa ballot box, yung natirang kalahati, binibigay sa election officer.”

Vice president-elect Leni Robredo attends a Thanksgiving Mass with her daughters, Sen. Bam Aquino, Atty. Romy Macalintal and supporters at the St. Peter Parish Church in Commonwealth, Quezon City before her proclamation at the House of Representatives.

In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass held in support of the VP Leni at Saint Scholastica’s chapel on Leon Guinto st., Manila last April 2, the start of the recount, Atty. Mac said he would surrender his license as a lawyer if he should lose this case. He is that confident.

“The Marcoses want to regain political stature. Between 2019 and now, how can they float in media so people will not forget them? File a case against the winner of the vice presidential race, that’s how. Madaling makalimot ang tao, kaya andun pa rin sila, despite their loss.”

To drive home his point that automated elections is cheat-proof, he said:

“Two candidates.

Candidate “A” is approached by a syndicate saying that it can make him win in the election, just pay P5,000,000. If “A” loses, the money will be returned. The money is deposited in a bank for safekeeping, to be released to the syndicate upon the electoral victory of “A.” Next, operator will approach Candidate “B.” Same script, same amount of money, to be returned when “B” loses. Fair enough. Come election time, operator monitors the news on tv, without lifting a finger—therefore no cheating ever occurs. Candidate “A” wins. Syndicate gets the P5,000,000. It returns the other P5,000,000 to “B,” for losing. It tried its best but “A” must have cheated more. By the way, syndicate contact person says, I incurred expenses, remember I gave best effort, can I keep P1,000,000 of the P5,000,000?”

So every candidate is convinced that cheating did happen, and on the flip side, every candidate isn’t sure that he or she indeed won, because he knew “cheating” took place.

In a congressional hearing,

Atty. Mac asked a politician who swore there was cheating: “Who is the operator?” “Your honor, I cannot remember.” “Ah,” Atty. Mac said, “you should have reported the incident to Comelec.”

And so it goes. Cheating does occur, but only in the minds of candidates, because they were approached, but the fact remains: election results with an electronic spine cannot be breached.

So, back to Bongbong. “He has no case. He cannot present evidence.” Atty. Mac challenged the former senator early last year to present proof of cheating mano-a-mano, and if there was, pambansang election lawyer would resign. Bongbong was a no-show in the announced gunfight at O.K. Corral, which would have happened outside Manila Cathedral.

“Vice President Robredo is a reluctant candidate, being the last choice, after Grace Poe. She has no resources to resort to cheating. Take care of the case, she told me, basta I know I won,” he said.

“Why don’t we reverse the situation,” he said, “the one who won should file a case. Probably the loser cheated but it wasn’t enough. Baka kami ang nadaya. By the way, vote buying is a form of cheating,” he said, naughtily.

“VP Leni was lagging in the surveys, but she proved her worth as vice-presidential timber in the debates, that’s when the people noticed her. The election results only reflected the survey results in the run-up to the elections,” he said.

What other issues were raised?

“Bakit daw mabagal ang proseso. Dahil madaming protesta. Bongbong protested the results in 25 provinces, sa isang munisipiyo lang, for manual recount, two years na aabutin.”

“Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental are first to be opened for manual recount. It is linear, nakapila, isa-isang bibilangin kada boto. We have 40 teams to review the ballots, for every committee, may representative ang both parties, and one head adviser.”

“Napaka-espesyal naman ng kabilang panig. Maraming IT (information technology) pretenders na nagsasabing pwedeng dayain, but until now they have not proven anything.”

“The best evidence na mali ang count ng makina, is to show evidence that a vote for “A” was read for “B.” Hanggang ngayon, wala. Since 2010 to the present, not even one ballot was proven to have been counted in favor of another candidate in automated polls.”

And now to one of the happiest

moments in his life, which he related with great relish, the kid in him manifesting itself after all this talk of lawyering and life-and-death matters of state.

He is the only Filipino, probably the only fan in the world, who spent two hours with the late Muhammad Ali in his hotel suite as the latter was preparing for his fight with Joe Frazier in Thrilla in Manila in 1975.

Ali learned that the young Romy Macalintal, then 28 years old and not yet a lawyer, kept an album of clippings and memorabilia of the boxing star. The boxing great invited Macalintal to his hotel suite and they spent two hours talking to each other one-on-one.

“Ali was so amazed at my album because he would also see albums of his fights and life in other countries, but these were done because the fans knew he would be coming,” Atty. Mac recounted. “But I was different, because I started my scrapbook even when Ali was an unknown fighter.”

“When Ali died in 2016, CNN United States interviewed me and I cried like a little boy,” he said. Local media followed suit in interviewing him like he was family of the departed.

It seems the big little man

has a way with stars in the firmament. Pastor Apollo Quiboloy is a personal friend.

“We don’t discuss religion. He calls me if he wants me to speak to his congregation on certain topics because I speak well, he said.”

“In Davao it is hot, but when you reach Pastor Quiboloy’s 40-hectare center of religious activity, you have to wear a jacket. It’s because he planted 100,000 pine trees in what was once deforested land. You should see the river bed which used to be dry. When the trees grew, the stream was revived and water gushed forth. Talk about a watershed.”

The obvious question: are you close to President Duterte, the president being buddies with Pastor Quiboloy?

“When I met Digong one time,” Atty. Mac said, “I greeted him Mr. President and he replied, ‘O, idol, kumusta ka?’ To which I replied, ‘Sir, pwede bang selfie?’ and I had a selfie with President Digong.”

The man is a technician, driven, a magnet to the powerful because of his childlike charm and sharp legal acumen, colorless politically, but full of commitment and color in his private and professional life.

Detail doesn’t escape Atty. Mac. He treats his election cases like he is still compiling the Muhammad Ali scrapbook, every material accorded due respect and reverence. From walking with his wife in the early morning, to serving at Holy Mass, to hailing famous personages, to handling election-related cases, he is the same Romy Macalintal who became famous in 1975 in the shadow of The Greatest. A true advocate in the strictest sense. Atty. Romulo Macalintal, a fan.

47 Responses to “The Colorless Atty. Mac”
  1. Is he related to Querube Macalintal, Marcos-era CJ?

  2. karlgarcia says:

    Atty Mac is one of my wishes for your interviews!
    Wish granted.
    Colorless din ang tingin ko kay Atty.pero I have to admit at first I thought he was a mercenary, but that is not a fair judgement for any lawyer.

    • My comment to Will when I saw a draft of the article was that he (Atty Mac) is a walking contradiction, amoral as to whom he represents as a lawyer, but with principles. It takes a strong character and mind to do that, to focus on the job of being an attorney, and not the peer pressure of politics.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Oo nga. Lawyers are taught in law school to debate on both sides of an issue. That’s how they prove their mettle. But hey, there is no whiff of a scandal about him, unlike the one who gave a dirty finger to pro-CJ activists in Baguio. A real gentleman, Atty. Mac. That’s why he’s loved in the entire political spectrum.

  3. Sup says:

    I did watch him recently at ANC headstart…He is a ”no nonsense person” who knows what he is talking about…Thanks Will…..

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      You’re welcome, Sup. Sometimes, we just have to talk to one another to dispel book cover judgments.

  4. edgar lores says:

    1. What is interesting to me about the vice-presidential poll protest are the lengths to which the contenders and their supporters will go to further their cause.

    2. Mostly the antics are on the side of the loser. I know of none from the winner’s side. And the object of the antics seems to be to be in the news rather than to present the discovery of any truth.

    3. The antics are not limited to the home ground. Just last week, a group of protestors gathered across the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom where VP Leni Robredo was scheduled to deliver a speech on poverty and politics. Placards shouted “Fake VP” and “Wet Ballot Boxes.”

    4. The inanity is overwhelming.

    5. At the center of this maelstrom is the undying ambition of a dynasty to regain the reins of power. The cost does not matter, only the results do. And they are not forthcoming.

    5.1. The claws of that ambition cling to the President’s untucked shirt and scratch the increasingly hard ground of the voter base. Did you see the video of the offered hand of the Ilocos Norte governor being spurned? Not once, not twice, but many times. The governor has a rigid smile pasted on her face, but surely in the privacy of the home, the smile dissolves and the mouth opens into a snarl of hurt and rage.

    • If a nation is defined by the character of her leaders, the Philippines is a scurrilous, nasty state. It’s a choice.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      “… a snarl of hurt and rage.” Thanks, Edgar. Would that it be made permanent, like an iron mask.

    • NHerrera says:

      The case of Macalintal is an interesting one with regards to his amorality as a lawyer verging perhaps on the immorality of taking on clients such as enumerated by Will.

      A mere google of “lawyer as amoral” comes out with 314,000 results in under a minute:

      Among those in the list is a link to an article in pdf form written by one with a PhD — Stanford. Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of California School of Law. The article was written 1975, but I believe his arguments are still valid.

      Click to access 38th_conf_session1_lawyers_as_professionals_some_moral_questions.authcheckdam.pdf

      I want to quote a line from the article:

      The primary question that is presented is whether there is adequate justification for the kind of moral universe that comes to be inhabited by the lawyer as he or she goes through professional life. For at best the lawyer’s world is a simplified moral world; often it is an amoral one; and more than occasionally, perhaps, an overtly immoral one.

      Central to the author’s essay is the concept of role-differentiation that a lawyer as a professional uses relative to his client, and explains in part why a lawyer acts the way he does.

      The article comes, in my opinion, as some sort of defense for Macalintal in taking on his varied clientele.

      • edgar lores says:

        NHerrera, thanks. Role-differentiation it is.

        I must stress though that the moral universe of lawyers is not mainly amoral.

        If we compare Mr. Macalintal with Panelo and Duterte, there are vast differences.

        Just in sartorial terms alone, Macalintal is neat, Panelo is flamboyant, and Duterte is rumpled.

        But in terms of legality, I believe Macalintal works within the bounds of the law; Panelo stretches the law; and Duterte breaks the law.

        Duterte is decidedly immoral.

  5. Vhin AB says:

    The Great Mac with The Greatest. I really didn’t see it coming. Thanks, Will.

  6. Vicara says:

    “Pastor Apollo Quiboloy is a personal friend. ‘We don’t discuss religion. He calls me if he wants me to speak to his congregation on certain topics because I speak well.'”

    And what topics would be of special interest to that outfit, exactly? Money laundering via privately owned jets?

    Beware of the man who is friends with everyone. Sorry, but I have a suspicious nature.

    • Vicara says:

      I’m sure he’s a nice guy, as everyone says. But still.

      • Pinoys over here saying ‘mabait naman siya’ about someone is an alarm signal to me..

        • Vicara says:


        • karlgarcia says:

          Which is better or worse, mabait naman sya or mabait pala sya.

          Does the latter show surprise if an unexpected good behavior and the prior one of in defense of the person?

          We all deal with people we could be civil and cordial but we don’t have to be close to everyone.
          Closeness happens not overnight.
          I had admitted here that Aguirre is a family friend, everybody hates him, but if and when he reaches out we will not snub and shun him. And TBH, he is reaching out.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      The good thing about Atty. Mac is that he has no pretenses. He’s a lawyer after all. Will I take it against a cab driver for not choosing his passengers? Hmm. Probably not. True to his calling, he is.

      • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

        Mi primo, if I may, like a lawyer, the taxi driver decides, depends on the circumstances: the time and place of day and night, the aura or plain looks of the passenger(s). Cab drivers can be held up, but lawyers, Huh?

      • I think speaking to the congregation of Quiboloy is not on a lawyer’s usual schedule of fees, so he is a bit too near to that dubious church, under investigation by the FBI.

        To further use the taxi driver analogy – they say there are two kinds of taxi drivers at night over here in Munich – the kind that will just drive men to certain places if they want to, and those that will try to recommend certain places, and collect their commission from the pimp.

        • edgar lores says:

          1. My approach would be to separate Mr. Macalintal’s private life from his professional life.

          2. Professionally, he is indubitably more than a competent lawyer. He is a highly skilled one.

          2.1. This is proved by the list of his clients and, presumably, by his successes in winning cases for them.

          2.2. We know that lawyers are amoral. Colorless, as Will has said. Amorality in a lawyer is a necessity; it is a required professional trait. If a lawyer acted purely on a “moral” basis, then he would not be able to perform his prime duty, which is to defend his clients. Perhaps he would have no clients at all.

          2.3. Thus, I would say that I am glad that Mr. Macalintal is carrying the torch for VP Robredo.

          3. In his private life, Mr. Macalintal does raise question marks for me as it does for others.

          3.1. In my personal opinion, Quiboloy is a fake preacher and a false teacher. A true preacher and teacher would not support a murderer and a murdering president. He claims to be “The Appointed Son of God.” My quibble is in the use of the word “The.” We are all appointed sons and daughters of the Divine. Why else would we be here?

          3.2. What does this say about Mr. Macalintal? My opinion would be that he — like everyone else — is guilty of misjudgments. Perhaps more than that, he is a purveyor of delusion.

          4. This is a first for Will, a profile of someone who cannot be instantly recognized as a saint. Mr. Macalintal has saintly and unsaintly qualities. (In other words, flawed — like all of us. No, like some of us. There are some who are irredeemably unsaintly.)

          4.1. I welcome this essay. It details some of the false claims of the loser and a surefire way to make P5M – P6M. And it is a profile of a man who stands on the bridge that spans the gulf between Good and Evil.

          4.2. Now, I wonder if Will will cross the bridge and do an interview with someone interesting on the Other Side. It’s about time we have a “sin-o-graphy.”

  7. Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

    The lines below for lawyers like VP Leni
    and Atty. Macalintal and for my Itay and
    younger brother who passed, could yet
    be a part of a coming book:

    Some Professions and Occupations

    Courses attended by those in
    some professions and occupations
    have built iron clad in their syllabi
    to be trained proficient
    to be truthful or TO LIE
    in dirty black or clean white lies
    to be or not to be
    truthful or stinking liars
    become part and parcel
    of their daily grind.

    Now think of village priests
    of medical doctors, agriculturists.
    of artists, of engineers and teachers
    you can’t avoid superficial contrast
    but think also of politicians, lawyers,
    of businessmen and salesmen.

    Darn, everybody was born
    innocent to be truthful
    but must lie to survive
    and lie for the good life
    of pomposity and

    Know us not by the friends we keep
    Not even by the honors or initials
    after our names; nor by the exalted positions
    we have attained but by what God sees
    in sufferance we took
    as the tortuous straight road seldom
    and so few had taken.

    • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

      and the last stanza:

      Judge not or ye be judged
      life cannot avoid
      lies and truth like
      nights after days.

  8. Micha says:

    And he also lawyered for Gloria in the hello garci case?

  9. caliphman says:

    If I were to describe Atty. Macalintal and this article on him, it is that both see the practice of law as a battle of wits and the goal is legal victory and the triumph of justice. He is at the root a legal gun for hire, arguably the smartest if not the best, but he will defend the guilty even if society suffers terribly. This I think is the same attorney that sued inspite his immense legal fees that he should receive a senior discount on the fee for issuing such a card for himself. He won of course. Quod erat demonstrandum…QED.

  10. Yvonne says:

    For most lawyers I have seen, their end goal is not for the truth to come out and for justice to be served, especially if they think their clients do not have clean hands to begin with, rather, they wage war in the courtrooms to win the minds of their next clients.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Lawyers are hard, but they are lawyers (from sed lex dura lex). Now to win the case for VP Leni. Taxi drivers unite.

  11. I know what I know, and I know this is my favorite Irineo B. R. Salazar article of all time.

    Order up a “Jonathan Swift Award” for this one. He’s the king of satire.

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