Blessings and thanks

AS the New Year dawns, I think we should all count our blessings and thank the Lord for every new day. As for me, when I retired from the Supreme Court in December 2006, I thought that my workdays were over and that I would just pursue my “APOStolate” tending my 10 wonderful grandchildren. Little did I know that retirement really meant a change of tires to prepare for a new journey.

New journey. My new journey started when Inquirer chair Marixi Prieto invited me to write for this paper. A few days later, my good friend, Henry Gozon, and Jimmy Duavit visited me at home and asked me to sit as independent director of GMA Network, a media post I thought complemented my Inquirer column.

But the blessings did not end there. One after another came more invitations to sit as independent director or adviser in other blue chips, including (in no particular order) Meralco, PLDT, Petron, Metrobank, First Philippine Holdings, Metro Pacific Investments, Metro Pacific Tollways, BPI, Robinsons Land, Jollibee and Asian Terminals.

As an independent director, I do not represent the interest of any shareholder. My main task is to check management and make sure that the corporate governance standards set out by law are observed. Given that the independence and integrity expected of independent directors are similar to those of jurists, I feel at ease performing my work in these companies.

Far from exhausting me, this new journey breathed new meaning and purpose into my seventies and impelled me to study and reflect on the challenges of new technologies, economics and businesses; challenges that make my work also my source of refreshment and fulfillment.

New blessings. Beyond printing my weekly writings, the Inquirer is publishing a new book in my honor, titled “With Due Respect.” In between his graduate studies in Harvard, Inquirer editor John Nery synthesized my columns during the last five years to create a new tome. It is the first of two electronic books (e-books) produced by the Inquirer Group (the second is authored by Cielito Habito, a fellow columnist and respected economist). For this milestone issued on my 75th birthday, I thank the Inquirer.

The book is now accessible in its digital form. (Download the iPad app at http://bit.ly/inq-digital-ios and for Android-powered mobile devices at http://bit.ly/inq-digital-android). Hard copies are sold at P550 each from the Inquirer Marketing Office, c/o Bianca Kasilag (bkasilag@inquirer.com.ph) or at Inquirer Classified Ads branches. Soon, it will be available at your favorite bookshops.

May I also say “maraming salamat po” to the San Beda Law Alumni Association, chaired by Compañero Ave Cruz of the famous ACCRA Law Office, for building a new moot court in San Beda College and christening it in my honor.

I likewise thank the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc. (PDRCI) for naming its new arbitration court, the first and only one in the country, as the Chief Justice Panganiban Arbitration Center. The project was made possible by Bert and Sylvia Lina who donated the funds for the interiors, furnishings and equipment of the center, located adjacent to the new headquarters of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry at McKinley Hill in Fort Bonifacio.

Actually, I feel a little awkward that these projects, which were timed for my 75th birthday last month, are being named after me, a living person. But what can I really do, except to humbly thank the donors for the undeserved honor.

New ways to say “thank you.” In gratitude for these outpouring of generosity, may I meekly respond with my own grants to two worthy causes. First, as many know, I was a newsboy during my tender years. I was deeply touched when, upon learning I was among the topnotchers in the 1960 bar examinations, the newspaper dealer—from whom I got the papers I peddled—threw a party 50 years ago for the newsboys of Cataluna Street, Sampaloc, Manila.

To help educate my fellow newspaper hawkers, I am donating my one-year income as a columnist to the Inquirer Newsboys Foundation. When I mentioned my intended donation to Inquirer president Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, she was so moved that she immediately offered to double the amount, so twice the number of newsboys would get the opportunity to study and perhaps have a chance to be chief justice 50 years from now.

My second donation amounting to half of my retirement pay from the Supreme Court goes to the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity. This newly formed foundation seeks to continue the reforms I started during my judicial term and to implement my core legal philosophy of “liberty and prosperity under the rule of law.”

Under this philosophy, the judiciary and the legal profession must not only safeguard the political liberty of our people but must also nurture their prosperity and economic well-being; I believe that justice and jobs, freedom and food, democracy and development, peace and progress, ethics and economics; nay, liberty and prosperity must go hand in hand, and that one is useless without the other.

Accordingly, the foundation will (1) set up professorial chairs, scholarships and legal research facilities; (2) craft new school curricula that teach not only what is prohibited but also what is legally and ethically possible to solve festering business and social problems; (3) hold seminars in law schools, bar associations, media groups and business organizations; (4) establish a Center for Liberty and Prosperity; and similar projects.

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