A Great Man, A Great Soul
By Chief Justice (ret.) Hilario G. Davide, Jr. at the launch of Chief Justice Panganibans’s book titled “With Due Respect, selected columns in the Inquirer” held on March 29, 2012 at Powerbooks, Greenbelt, Makati City.
I thank the Philippine Daily Inquirer for inviting me to attend this launching of Chief Justice Panganiban’s book With Due Respect, a collection of selected columns written by him in the PDI, and to be requested to deliver a message at such event. The occasion brings me back to the glorious days Chief Justice Art and I had together at the Supreme Court from his assumption of office as Associate Justice on 10 October 1995 until my retirement at midnight of 19 December 2005 upon reaching the mandatory age of retirement of 70. I was appointed ahead of him on 24 January 1991. It was my rare privilege to have worked with a great man, a great soul, who glorified God and magnified the Court in everything he did. In my Foreword to his tenth book entitled Judicial Renaissance (he was still an Associate Justice at that time), published to mark the tenth anniversary of his appointment to the Court, I said:
Justice Panganiban’s dignified obedience to the law and the universal precepts of justice exemplifies the organic necessity to administer justice swiftly, fairly, equally and effectively. As I have once said, our duty to administer justice today is an organic necessity because, to me, our living in a national life is no longer a privilege or even a duty, but is now a necessity. In our country today it is not enough to be an instrument of justice. We must be courageous and faithful disciples of the law and ministers of the temple of justice.
In the field of sober, wise, judicious, and principled decision-making, Justice Panganiban has stood out as an unrelenting public man…. Justice Panganiban visibly typifies through his work a dedicated human spirit burning with the conviction of a true lover of the law. There is nothing strained or forced in his judicial writing. It flowers immaculately as a stream of justice.
In my Foreword to the book SUMMA, a syllabi of the decisions and opinions of Chief Justice Art compiled by Atty. Emma Matammu, I also wrote:
The anthology embodies the unflagging determination not just of a tireless public servant but more of a learned jurist who is an embodiment of intelligence, competence, integrity, industry, probity, and independence. It provides an aperture to a vast and varied jurisprudential landscape, a legacy of the 21st Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines. And, above all, it exhorts every student and servant of the law to once again engage in intellectual collaboration as an ingredient for a richer, fuller life in the law.
Mr. Chief Justice Art was the most prolific writer among all Justices ever appointed to the Court since 1901. One hundred seventy three justices have so far been appointed to the Court. Twenty-three of them became Chief Justice. Every year from 1995 until his retirement on 6 December 2006, Chief Justice Art published a book to celebrate the anniversary of his membership in the Court. He had written a total of eleven books, to seven of which I wrote the Foreword. His legal scholarship is reflected in more than one thousand decisions and separate concurring and dissenting opinions. He had written the 246-page decision in the case of La Bugal B’laan vs. Ramos upholding the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995 — the longest and most substantiated ruling in the 104-year history of the Court as of 2005. The decision is a book in itself.
Five books were also written about Chief Justice Art, among which is the SUMMA I earlier mentioned.
In a little less than a year as Chief Justice, Chief Justice Art pursued without cease his judicial philosophy and program he outlined upon assumption as such, to wit: a) a Judiciary characterized by four ins: independence, integrity, industry and intelligence; one that is morally courageous to stand its ground against the onslaughts of influence, interference, indifference, and insolence; and that is impervious to the plague of “ships”: kinship, relationship, friendship and fellowship; b) continuation and revitalization of the Supreme Court’s ongoing Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR) which I initiated; c) revitalization of the legal profession; and d) achieving the loftier goals of safeguarding the liberty and nurturing the prosperity of our people.
His eleventh book is aptly entitled Liberty and Prosperity. Its acronym is LP which also stands for Leni Panganiban.
“Ageless Passion”, the special musicale for Chief Justice Art at 75, held on 20 December 2011 at the Meralco Theater reminds us that as a Justice and Leader, Chief Justice Art lived by three e-values for our age and beyond: Excellence, Ethics and Eternity.
This Ageless Passion has AP as acronym. AP, of course, is Artemio Panganiban.
I did not even realize upon its initiation that the APJR I earlier mentioned as acronym for the Action Program for Judicial Reform is also acronym for Artemio Panganiban and Judicial Reform.
Because of that Ageless Passion retirement did not stop him from pursuing with vigor his philosophy and principles of life and his passion for justice, law and truth. Two months after retirement he started writing his columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The columns have become the pillars for the further articulation of his philosophy and principles. The book WITH DUE RESPECT consolidates and compiles selected columns logically arranged for easy reading and understanding. The book consists of 318 pages, covers a collection of columns, the earliest of which was on 11 February 2007, which is actually the last chapter – Chapter 15 – entitled Visionary Leadership by Example, of Book 7. The latest is the column 27 February 2011, which is the last chapter – Chapter 10 – entitled Tread Cautiously and Prudently, of Book 4. The columns devoted to justice and law do not only reflect the innumerable principles that embody and give meaning to justice and law, and truth but of the sacred task and responsibility of those who are to administer justice and those who are to make or who are to and execute and enforce the laws. His special gifts of reason, wit, knowledge, wisdom, prudence and probity, easily provide guiding lights to public servants on what to do and what not to do to serve the ends of justice, law and truth, and to observe with utmost fidelity the public trust character of public office. Whether he addresses himself to specific persons or issues, such as on reforms, these values are the heart, the centerpiece. If only we hearken to his voice and sound views, many of the problems we face today would not have surfaced. Consider his columns on the Supreme Court incorporated in Book #2 of WITH DUE RESPECT. Reflect especially on Chapter 6 thereof on Midnight Chief Justice and on Chapter 9 thereof on Regaining Public Trust. His views on these impacted on the future of the Court.
Consider, too, Book 3 on Legal Reform, Book 4 on Matters of Law and Book 5 on Election Reform.
Our reflection on these can bring the greatest good to our country and people or could open our minds to disastrous consequences.
Let me, however, put on record that we did hearken to some of his wise counsel and we prevented instability, disorder, chaos.
Now, friends, the book launched today is divided into seven (7) books. Each book is a veritable separate book. You can add these to the eleven Chief Justice Art had written when he was a Member of the Supreme Court.
Seven has a special place in both the Old and the New Testaments which mention it more than a hundred times. Its symbolic meaning is completeness and perfection (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 286, 1199, 1469). Among the familiar seven in the Bible are: the completion in 7 days of the work of creation; the Seven Last Words of Jesus; the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the seven I AM statements of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel according to John, to wit:
I am the Bread of Life.
I am the Light of the World.
I am the Door of the Sheep.
I am the Good Shepherd.
I am the Resurrection and the Life.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I am the True Vine.
Now, ARTEMIO also contains seven letters. Knowing him through what he has accomplished through his Ageless Passion he has been formed with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: fear of God, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, piety, fortitude, counsel. Nonetheless, he has to complete himself again. With permission from PDI and with all due respect, let me say that his columns after 27 February 2011 must also be compiled into another book which should be launched on his 76th birthday on 6 December 2012. That would be a very interesting book for it will include his columns on the Impeachment of the Chief Justice which would influence one way or the other the wise resolution of the issue involved.
Let me now conclude by reminding ourselves that we are in the midst of the Lenten Season for the year 2012. This coming Sunday will be Palm Sunday and the following Sunday would be Easter Sunday. This is the season when the thoughts of purification and conversion and love and service should be closest to our hearts and minds. Let the Season bring us closer to the Lord and to the Joy of Easter.
Before you leave, you must have a copy of WITH DUE RESPECT.
I thank you.