Mga Magpapakumbaba at Matatalinong Bedans*

Remarks delivered by Retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the Testimonial Dinner held on May 6, 2010 at the Club Filipino, Pasig City in honor of Justice Jose C. Mendoza, sponsored by the San Beda Law Alumni Association.

On November 15, 2006, when I was still the incumbent Chief Justice, my good friend Avelino “Ave” Cruz invited me to a gathering of retired but not-so-tired Red Lions. And surprise of surprise, he proclaimed me an Honorary Member of the San Beda Law Alumni Association. I thought then that he was just humoring me and wanted to massage my ego. Kasi po, alam niya na, nagtapos ako sa Mapa High na katapat lang ng San Beda, and from where I envied the San Beda boys who were being chased by the collegialas of the College of the Holy Spirit, La Consolacion and Centro Escolar.

Avelino V. Cruz, Esq.

That was one good reason why I wanted to take up law in San Beda. Kaya lang po, nuong naglalakad ako sa Morayta papuntang Mendiola para mag-enrol sa San Beda, natapilok po ako. Mabuti na lang nasalo ako ni Dr. Jovito R. Salonga, ang decano ng FEU Institute of Law at hindi ako nasugatan or napilayan. Kaya naman hindi ko napahindian ang kanyang alok na sa FEU na lang ako mag-enrol.

Gayun pa man at kahit senior citizens na kaming pareho, masugid pa rin po si Ave. So he wrote me two weeks ago, if I may quote his letter: “Since you are a distinguished Honorary Bedan Law Alumnus, we would like to request that you deliver a special message as our Special Guest of Honor.” After reading his letter, I told myself, “Tutuhanan pala na meyembro ako hanggang ngayon ng San Beda Law Alumni Association. Okay ito; tahanan yata ito ng mga bar topnotchers. Kaya lang, wala pa silang katutubong Chief Justice. Kaya siguro, nag-import na lang sila buhat sa FEU!”

Ladies and gentlemen, if San Beda has no home grown Chief Justice, it is the fault of Ave Cruz and Rene Saguisag. You see, back in 1986, Ave was offered a seat in the Supreme Court by President Cory Aquino. But he rejected it and opted to be deputy prime minister, second in power to then Vice President Salvador Laurel who was named concurrent Prime Minister. At that time, we were still following the parliamentary system under the 1973 Constitution. But when Cory and Doy were estranged, Ave was orphaned. So, he decided to become lifetime chairman of the San Beda Law Alumni Association.

Saguisag, Nachura and Pangilinan

In the case of my compadre Rene Saguisag, then Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo handed him his signed appointment to the Supreme Court in January 1987. Pero mahiyain po si Rene, likas na hindi mahilig. Nababarkada lang talaga. Nuong araw pa, nuong mga estudiante pa kami, hinikayat ko siyang maging Pangulo ng National Union of Students. Ayaw niya, kaya napunta kay Raul Roco, na isa ring Bedan, ang NUS presidency.

Kung sabagay, mabuti na rin siguro ang nagyari. Kung tinanggap ni Ave o ni Rene ang alok ni Pangulong Cory, eh di sana hindi nagkaruon ng Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno at Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban. At hindi sana ako naging Honorary Bedan Alumnus. Kasi mas bata si Ave at si Rene sa aming lahat at sa haba man ng panahon, hanggang ngayon, Chief Justice pa sana ang isa sa kanila. At kung ganoon na nga ang nangyari, wala sanang girian sa pagka midnight chief justice ngayon.

Oo nga pala, nandito din si Justice Ed Nachura. Kasalanan din niya kung bakit walang home grown Chief Justice ang San Beda. Kasi po, hindi niya tinanggap ang nomination ng JBC upang maging “successor” ni Chief Justice Puno. Siguro po nagmana ito kay Rene Saguisag, talagang likas na mahiyain.

Gaya din po ni Manny Pangilinan, ang board chairman ng San Beda College na narito rin ngayong gabi. Kahit po pinakamagaling siya sa lahat ng mga business leaders sa ating bansa, lubos na magpapakumbaba pa rin. Kaya nga po, nagpapasalamat ako sa kanya, sapagka’t kahit honorary Bedan lang ako, inimbita pa rin niya ako bilang independent director ng mga malalaking kumpanya niya, gaya ng Metro Pacific Investments, PLDT at Meralco.

Justice Jose Catral Mendoza

Mga Kaibigan, talaga pong likas na mapagkumbaba at matalino ang mga taga San Beda. Tingnan na lang natin ang pinakabagong hirang na mahisrado ng Korte Supreme na si Justice Jose Catral Mendoza na pinagdiriwang natin ngayong gabi. Nang malaman niya ang paghirang sa kanya, ito ang sinabi niya sa mga taga Korte Suprema, “Some things do happen beyond one’s own planning and imagining. This appointment is one of them. I thought that I would be retiring as an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals in a year’s time. But fate carried me along directions I never envisioned even in my dreams. And for this life’s surprise, for this appointment in particular, I call it a miracle, leaving me the feeling of awe and wonder.”

Ang sabi po niya, “Miracle!” Ngunit ang totoo, ito’y homecoming lang para sa kanya sapagka’t nagtrabaho po siya sa Korte bilang Confidential Attorney nina Justices Nestor Alampay at Abdulwahid Bidin from 1985 until he was appointed Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Laguna in 1989 and then of the RTC of Quezon City from where he was elevated to the Court of Appeals on July 4, 2003, and finally to the Supreme Court.

According to the Constitution, “every member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.” Undoubtedly, Justice Mendoza possesses all these qualities. But what struck me most is his faith in the Almighty to whom he dedicates all he is and all he does, the discipline by which he lives his life. After all, he comes from a family devoted to the Lord. Two of his brothers are Catholic priests, and three others are current or retired members of the Philippine Air Force, where discipline is the daily routine, not to mention that his own father was a colonel in the Air Force himself.

It is no surprising then, that his first public message to the officials and employees of the Supreme Court upon his assumption of his duties, was and I quote, “As the history of the Court unfolds, it is my ardent prayer that the Lord may grant me: the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

As a retired member of the Supreme Court, I can only say “Amen” to these words of wisdom. I have no doubt that with such prayer to begin with and with determination and dedication, Justice Mendoza shall be remembered in the history of the Supreme Court, which he will serve seven fruitful years before he retires on August 17, 2017. Mr. Justice Mendoza, I bid you good luck. May our Good Lord guide you always as He has done so during the past 63 years of your life.

Mabuhay po kayo. Maraming salamat po.


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