The oft-repeated adage, poverty is not a hindrance to success, rings true in the life story of Col. (ret.) Mario Edgardo A. Montenegro. Claiming to be an average student since his elementary years, he supported himself as a work student, not minding the hard work he had to go through.
He is someone who literally rose from the ranks. Already an active member of the Dumaguete City police force then, he decided to enter the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) in Fort Bonifacio, Makati, Metro Manila and later, in Camp Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Laguna. At that time, his rank was that of Patrolman First Class.
His military background proved very helpful as he was called upon to lead in chants during morning exercises in the Academy. Before graduation and as part of military training, he was among only seven out of 45 cadets to be sent to Camp Tanay, Rizal to undergo the Scout Ranger course. Out of 60 trainees, he was among only eight who made it. In the hectic training, they learned the values of self-discipline, determination, and perseverance. After graduation from the Academy, he was assigned in Region 10.
While in this particular assignment, he was called upon by his superiors to teach military tactics as he has prior knowledge being a commissioned officer in the Philippine Army. In addition, he also taught map reading, incidentally, the hardest subject.
After almost two years, he was reassigned to Region 7 and eventually back to the Dumaguete Police Force. This was the time when he decided to go into law school as a full-time student while, at the same time, serving as Chief of Police/Station Commander in a municipality in the province of Negros Oriental for three years.
Those were very challenging years as he was the only officer at that time leading combat/reconnaissance operations in the hinterlands of the municipalities of Valencia, Zamboanguita and Siaton in Negros Oriental. All these he did on top of doing his voluminous readings as a law student in Silliman University, Dumaguete City. He remembers a particular time when he requested his Taxation professor to take the final examination in advance, wearing his full combat gear, as he would be leading his group in a jump off immediately after the exam.
He was fortunate to have been reassigned as Chief Tactics in the NCRTC, Fort Bonifacio when he was already doing his law review to help defray his expenses. It was in 1986 when he passed what could be the toughest Bar exam in the history of the Philippine legal profession with a passing average of only 17.8 percent.
Consequently, he became the first Police Legal Officer of the Negros Oriental Provincial PC/INP Command and later, designated as Chief of the Legal and Internal Affairs Service, the former Judge Advocate General Service Office, of the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police (PC/INP) Region 7. In addition to his duties, he was the Trial Judge Advocate President of the PC/INP Court Martial of Region 7 and member of the INP Appellate Board of the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) of Region 7.
To keep abreast with current issues on national development, he taught part-time at the University of Cebu College of Criminology, Southwestern University College of Law, and at the Central Visayas Polytechnic College, now Negros Oriental State University, on advanced police subjects in the Police Training Center in Region 7.
For Montenegro, learning never stops. He enrolled in Criminology at the University of Cebu, took, and passed the board examinations by just doing self-review in 2001. To complete his five degrees (B.S. Commerce, Saint Paul College Dumaguete, 1971; B.S. Public Safety, Philippine National Police Academy, 1980; Bachelor of Laws, Silliman University, Dumaguete City, 1985; B.S. Criminology, University of Cebu, 2001), he finished Master in Public Management (with thesis) at the Negros Oriental State University, Dumaguete City in 2002.
He went the extra mile, too, as the only police officer designated as Assistant Regional Director for Investigation in Region 7 when he initiated the conduct of short-term subjects in law and crime investigation in various municipal police stations in Bohol and the province of Cebu.
After his compulsory retirement from the Philippine National Police in 2004 after serving for 33 years, he was appointed by the Department of Justice as Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor. Being a long-time police official, his first assignment as Fiscal was in the drug courts for five years. He did what no Fiscal or Prosecutor had done before him, like doing an ocular inspection of the crime scene and taking photos, which gave him some background on the case during cross-examinations, as well as give the Trial Court Judge a visual scenario of the actual crime scene.
Montenegro is currently doing private law practice after he retired as Prosecutor in 2013. He shuttles between Cebu City and Dumaguete City with the support of his wife, Cresinta, their three sons, and their grandchildren.
He is guided by these three principles of success: strong determination and perseverance; focus on one’s desired goal; and, seeking guidance and blessing from Almighty God. He shares this quotation from an unknown author: “There are many of us who see things as they are and complain. Let us rather see things as what they should be and aspire for that vision.” – NWI