Bishop Socrates Villegas during the Retirement of Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban on December 06, 2006


I am from Bataan, the birthplace of Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano, the first Filipino chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. I come to bring you, beloved Chief Justice, the greetings and gratitude of the people of Bataan because you are a fine example of what our kababayan Chief Justice Arellano exemplified in his life-love of God and love of Country. Pro Deo et Patria. In your short stint as Chief Justice, we in Bataan looked at you from afar and saw our kababayan, as it were, “reincarnated” in you. The ideals and idealism of the proto chief justice are in you. Thank God for you.

We do not know how to thank you for your heroic service to the nation as a justice of the Supreme Court. We are asking the Lord Jesus to complete whatever is lacking in our expression of appreciation. The Holy Eucharist is the highest form of gratitude that we can ever offer. The highest gratitude and highest praise we now offer to God for giving us a brother and friend, jurist and patriot in you dear Chief Justice.

Chief Justice Arellano lived, in his life as a jurist, the dictum of that great jurist and martyr, St Thomas More, I am the King’s good servant but God’s first! And so it is with you, our dear honoree. After all the accolades and praises have been said about you, there is truly one thing that we are grateful to God for — you showed us great love for the King but above all you showed us that you are first and foremost, a loyal son of the Father in heaven.

There is separation of Church and State and we must maintain this separation for the good of the nation and for the welfare of the church too. If the church marries a political party, she risks being widow in the next elections. Ours is a democracy not a theocracy. But our beloved Chief Justice has time and again taught us that separation of Church and State does not mean separation of man from God. Indeed, to separate man from his God would be illegal in the Philippines because of our fundamental law dreams of every Filipino to be maka Diyos.

Above all else, Chief Justice Art has shown us that loyalty to God and excellence in government service are not incompatible. Every Christian is called to holiness. Every Christian in the government service must be a holy public servant. What the nation needs now are heroes and saints. We are greatly impoverished when we attempt to list down living heroes and saints among us. Heroes and saints need not be dead. There is a hero and saint in all of us. Let us allow that little light of grace in us to shine forth. Our nation would be instantly renewed if everyone in the government will answer the call of God to be saints and heroes, living lives Pro Deo et Patria. It is the ability to let go of selfish dreams and ambitions and keep the common good always in mind and at heart. This is the first legacy that Chief Justice Art bequeaths to us “SELFLESSNESS.” The service of Chief Justice Art is an indictment for so many our national leaders who seem to equate their political survival with the survival of the nation and risk the life of the nation just to pursue their political whims and caprices.

Selflessness by itself is not heroic. It must be accompanied by a twin brother named “SENSITIVITY”. We let go of our selfish concerns so that we can be more sensitive to the whisperings of God. We sacrifice our whims and wishes in order to be more sensitive to the dreams and hopes of our fellowmen. Chief Justice Art is quick to catch the wind of the Spirit at work among the people because he listens. Lady Justice is always blindfolded but her ears are sharp and sensitive to the cry of the poor and the pleas of the little ones. Having come from the business sector prior to his service in the judiciary, Chief Justice Art is attuned to the pulse of the people and promptings of God. His mission is not to be successful but to be faithful. Sensitivity does not always result in popularity. Sensitivity to the people and sensitivity to God put together are proofs of sterling integrity.

I am the King’s good servant but God’s first. To the King or to the Lord, we are always servants. Our priority is indeed service to the lord but we are and will always be only his useless servants. As the last chapter of his illustrious service in the Supreme Court comes to its end, Chief Justice Art will exit the way he entered: a SERVANT. The greatest in the kingdom of God is not the one who is called “Chief” but the one who stoops down to wash the feet of all. Chief Justice Art has served us well and washed our feet clean through his selfless service sensitive to the Lord and the people.

When Justice Cayetano Arellano set forth to become the first Chief Justice, he poured to the Supreme Court the sweet balm of his selfless love of the nation, his heroic sensitivity to will of the people and his abiding faithfulness to God.

Today, Chief Justice Art bequeaths to us the same legacy — selflessness, sensitivity and service. May the nation be blessed with more heroes and saints among us, the same heroism and holiness that we have found in Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.

Amen, Mabuhay!


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