To a Higher Level

Transcript of the extemporaneous Closing Remarks of retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban after Dean Sedfrey Candelaria’s Public Lecture as the holder in the Ateneo de Manila of the “CJ Panganiban Professorial Chair on Liberty and Prosperity”, held on September 19, 2012, at Justitia Room, 4th Floor, Ateneo Law School, Rockwell, Makati City.

Maraming salamat po Dean Candelaria, sa inyong napakalalim nguni’t kaaya-ayang pagpapaliwanag. Ako po’y nilalamig dito sa Justitia Room kaya ako’y nag-amerikana, bagaman gusto ko sanang mag Barong Tagalog, kaparis ng aking elder sa Supreme Court na si Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. The Bible says “man does not live by bread alone.” And I add, neither can he live without it. So, unang una, iyon munang tseke – one hundred thousand pesos ito. At nandito po ang aming Tesorera, si Mrs. Leni Panganiban, kailangan niya ang pirma ni Dean Candelaria upang tanggapin ito. At saka, you know I was asking the BIR, ito ba’y taxable o hindi? Sabi nila, in the meantime, please withhold ten percent, saka na natin pag-usapan kung tax-exempt. So we will still ask for tax exemption, Dean Candelaria. But, in the meantime, the BIR said we must withhold the ten percent withholding tax. Anyway you can use the withheld amount when you pay your income tax for this year.

Really, I am very pleased that we started our “Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Lecture Series” with Dean Candelaria who set a very high standard. Incidentally, I wanted to study in Ateneo when I was a young man. But we were so poor, my parents could hardly afford to send us to school. That is why I had to peddle newspapers and shine shoes when I was a young boy. And when I was in college, my parents died, both of them. My father didn’t even graduate high school, he was a clerk in the Bureau of Land Management . My mother didn’t finish elementary school. We were four siblings – I was the youngest. My father’s ambition was to see his children finish their education.

We’re living in Cataluña Street in Sampaloc, Manila and my first ambition was to enroll at the University of the Philippines for my college degree. I finished high school at the Mapa High School. My classmates there and I used to go to Diliman. We were looking at the “Oblation” and we promised one another we’d study hard so that we would be given scholarships at the University of the Philippines. Well, my classmates enrolled there after our high school. We were all granted scholarships, but I couldn’t enjoy mine because my parents couldn’t afford the bus fare, the fifteen-centavo ride at that time, between Catalunña Street in Sampaloc, Manila (where we lived) to Diliman, Quezon City. I wanted to enroll also in Ateneo, but it was more expensive. In lieu of that, when I could already afford it, we sent all our children to Ateneo, not because of me, but because of my wife.

Chief Justice Davide, my esteemed predecessor in the Supreme Court, is here. He was Chief Justice for seven years before me. And I learned plenty from him. For one thing, he instituted a long-range judicial reform program called “Action Program for Judicial Reform” in which he asked me to assist. That reform program was so successful that the World Bank placed it in its website, as a model for all developing countries that wanted World Bank assistance. Unfortunately, our successors in the Court didn’t find it good enough to be continued. So it was stopped officially last June by the World Bank.

Hopefully, the incumbent Chief Justice, who is also from Ateneo — her economics degree is from Ateneo but her law degree is from UP — will continue and update that program of Chief Justice Davide. President Chito Sobrepeña, we call him Chito, but you, Dean Candelaria, calls him “Sangko Chito”. Sangko in Chinese means third elder brother, magkapatid pala sila. Mabuti ang may kapatid na mayaman. He was a Cabinet member of Presidents Fidel Ramos and Cory Aquino, and now he is the full time President of the Metrobank Foundation. He has so much money in the Foundation that he doesn’t know where to put it; so he just distributes it all over. We, in the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, got some of it. So put out your hats; when he throws money up, you can be sure it will come down. You can open your hats and some of it will fall unto you.

Kidding aside, the Metrobank Group is into real corporate responsibility. The Metrobank Foundation is one of the many foundations of Metrobank. It has a budget of a hundred million pesos to distribute every year. The motto of Metrobank is “excel”, “excel”, “excel”; excellence in teaching, so the Metrobank gives annual awards to “Ten Outstanding Teachers” at least P350,000 per teacher, apart from free transportation. It also awards outstanding soldiers, outstanding policemen, and outstanding artists.
But I’m also with the Foundation. You know, Dr. George Ty, the Chairman of the Metrobank Group, invited me after I finished my term as Chief Justice to join the Metrobank Group, firstly in the Foundation and secondly in the Bank itself.

At the Foundation, he invited me initially to be a member of the Board of Advisers. The Chairman of the Board of Advisers, at that time, was former President Cory Aquino. Unfortunately she died on August 1, 2009. And after she died, Dr. Ty came to me and invited me to take the place of President Cory Aquino. I was surprised because I didn’t think I could fill the shoes of the “Icon of Democracy”, but he insisted, and in all humility I accepted. Fortunately, I did, because now our Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity can also partake of financial assistance from Metrobank Foundation.
The Metrobank has other educational ambitions. Recently, very recently, Dr. Ty said “I will contribute one billion pesos to set up a new institution of learning, the Toyota Institute of Technology”. He is setting aside 10 hectares of land in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for the Toyota Institute of Technology to produce science and technology professionals in the Philippines, to be competitive worldwide, to be supported by Toyota Motor of Japan. Not to work for Toyota Motor but to work anywhere, to produce engineers and scientists, as good as the lawyers from Ateneo de Manila. I should also greet my wife, the Chief of this Justice, Mrs. Leni Panganiban. I noticed in the Ateneo that there are more women law students than men students. During our time, if we had five lady law students in a class of forty, that was already lucky. But now, we have more women, isn’t it? That’s why we have the first lady Chief Justice of the Philippines. But she had discouraged my 8-year old granddaughter, Nicole, from continuing with her ambition to be a lawyer. Upon the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, Nicole came to me with her newly baked blueberry muffins, (she’s an expert in baking). She said “Lolo I’m sorry I promised you that I will take up law but I will no longer do that”. And I replied “Why?” “Because, I can no longer be the first lady Chief Justice anymore. I’ll just be a baker,” she said. I remarked “Don’t worry, you’ll be first baker in the world to be Chief Justice.” And with that, she lightened up and said “You know, that’s right”.

I also greet the faculty and students of Ateneo de Manila. As I said, I’ve always wanted to enroll here but the best I could do was to be guest speaker during your graduation ceremony in 2006. That was more than 5 years ago. None of you were in the Ateneo College of Law at that time. But anyway, at that time, I said, “One of the graduates here will surely be a bar topnocher during my term as Chief Justice”. And true enough, I think three Ateneo graduates, during that year, were in the top ten during the bar exam of that year. And the number one topnocher was a lady, Joan de Venecia. When I was still in the Court, she came to me. She was a journalist, she was not taking up law yet. And she interviewed me. After interviewing me, I told her “You should be a lawyer.” She took my challenge and topped the bar examinations afterwards.

Let me now respond to our lecturer. With his scholarly discourse, Dean Candelaria has raised the standard of our lecture series that we hope to have in all major law schools in the Philippines. Because immediately, he lifted the issue of liberty and prosperity to the international plane, something that I don’t even understand very well, but now have gained a little comprehension of. I was focused only on the local application of liberty and prosperity. I was thinking, lawyers should not only be interested in themselves, not even only in their professions, but likewise in our people, in our country; to safeguard the liberty of our people is a given, to see to it that they are not deprived of their freedom, their civil and political rights, as well as their human rights, are observed strictly. We safeguard the liberty of our people by the judiciary’s strict scrutiny of the actions of government. Government was not instituted to be cruel to the people. Government was instituted so that the people’s interest can be upheld and given the best expression.

However, in matters of the economy (which, we lawyers do not really understand except for Dean Candelaria), we should defer to the political branches of government because the political branches are composed of officials elected by the people. They are charged with the duty of freeing people from disease, from poverty, from disability. And so therefore, we lawyers, and we in the judiciary, must defer as much as possible to these elected representatives on matters that involve the economy.

Before I graduated from the Supreme Court, I convened the Global Forum on Liberty and Prosperity as my valedictory conference held on October 18-20, 2006. I retired on December 7, 2006. I invited justices and lawyers from all over the world, 300 of them, to the Philippines.

We discussed the international impact of liberty and prosperity. That conference was assisted not only by the World Bank but also by national aid agencies like the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and other aid agencies from the US, Australia, Netherlands, European Union, etc. We discussed liberty and prosperity on a global basis. Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin came from her station in Ottawa to the Philippines. She was enamored by the theme of liberty and prosperity that she said “Please add the phrase ‘under the rule of law’ to the theme”. So I agreed to change the title of my legal philosophy to “Liberty and Prosperity under the Rule of Law”.

She intended to stay for only three days but she fell in love with the Philippines, especially with Ateneo de Manila, that she stayed four more days. And Ateneo de Manila appreciated her so much, Ateneo gave her a Doctoral Degree in Law, Honoris Causa. So you have a co-alumnus, the Chief Justice of Canada by the name of Beverley McLachlin, who holds a doctoral degree from the Ateneo de Manila.

Dean Candelaria, as I said, spoke of liberty and prosperity in the international sense but prefaced it with my ponencia in “Tañada vs. Angara.” I know that that case provoked a lot of controversy in terms of how to interpret the Constitution. It also evoked a lot of debate in the Supreme Court because, at that time, the economic paradigm was “protectionism;” we must first protect our own before patronizing foreign products; we must limit the entry of foreign goods and services in the Philippines in order to protect our own goods and services. We called that national economic protectionism. That was the paradigm before.

However, in the world, that paradigm became obsolete because inter-dependence among states became the norm.

In a society, we sometimes surrender some of our individual liberties in order to enjoy the benefits of living together. Sometimes we surrender part of our money for protection. We pay taxes to the government for that purpose.

Now, it’s the same with the world. You surrender some of your rights in order to enjoy some other rights. You compete in the entire world, in the same manner that you compete locally. States compete internationally. And to do that, we must break down tariffs; we must bring down taxes that impede the free flow of goods and services. And so, the realm of deregulation, of privatization, of getting government out of business became the norms. Some of us may disagree with these new paradigms. Because we say “Well, we must take care of our own first.” But if you take care of your own only, then foreign countries will not buy from you either, and you become isolated. Almost all countries in the world have adopted this international norm, including China, Russia and heretofore totalitarian and socialist states. Very few have isolated themselves like North Korea. And North Korea as you know is so isolated it cannot trade with the world. It trades only with very few countries.

Anyway, going back to “Tañada vs. Angara”, the adherence of the Philippines to the World Trade Organization was ratified by the Philippine Senate. There was a big debate in the Senate but eventually they were able to secure two thirds vote and the WTO Agreement was ratified by the Philippine Senate. The minority, at that time, led by a number of senators, Wilfredo Tañada and Joker Arroyo, went to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Philippines adherence to the WTO Agreement. That case was filed in the Supreme Court before I joined, but the ponente was my predecessor, I took his place and so I inherited his cases. That’s the way in the Supreme Court, a new Justice inherits the cases undecided by justice who retired and whom he/she succeeded. That’s how I got into that case.

You know the WTO Agreement consists of 36 volumes, each about 300-400 pages thick. So I had to pore over these. Most of these volumes were about what the different countries were shedding, what tariffs were being reduced, what tariffs were being abolished in every country that joined the World Trade Organization.
But the important thing is: will this trade agreement pass scrutiny under our Constitution? You know, our Constitution has a lot of nationalistic provisions that even now, are being challenged. In fact, some senators and congressmen wanted to amend the Constitution to limit these nationalistic provisions, but that is not here or there.

The point is: if we interpreted the Constitution strictly, we could have declared our adherence to the World Trade Organization unconstitutional. Such ruling could have been justified by strict scrutiny and strict interpretation in favor of the nationalists in our midst. But I thought, as ponente, that I would defer to the political branches of government. I said the Judiciary will not determine the advisability, the wisdom or the viability of whether the deregulation was good for the people or not, whether privatization was good for the economy or not. That is for the political branches — the President and Congress — to determine. That’s their job. Our job as jurists, in fact, our job as lawyers is not to be economists. Our job is to determine whether our Constitution had been violated. And in doing so, we need to adhere to a certain philosophy.

In other words, while I may have my private opinion that deregulation is not good, I cannot let that prevail in my decision. I must let the political branches of government determine that. After all, their decision can be rejected by our people by not reelecting them.

I’ll tell you that at that time, the justices were also conservative. They did not also quite understand the meaning of these new paradigms. It took me a lot of explanations to convince them. When finally the deliberations were over and I wrote the decision, I had to grapple with a lot of difficult constitutional provisions. In the beginning, a majority just concurred “in the result” of my ponencia. I was a little insulted. After trying my best to study the WTO, they agreed only “in the result”. Majority of my colleagues, I remember about eleven of them wrote “in the result”, meaning they agreed with my conclusion, but not necessarily with my reasons.

So I complained to Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, “Chief, please let us re-deliberate this. If our colleagues don’t want to agree with me, they must say so, and we will debate again. But I cannot accept a decision in which eleven of my colleagues say only “in the result”. It’s an insult to the ponente because they agreed with my conclusion but not necessarily with my reasons. I would like them to state why they do not agree with my reasons.”

So we redeliberated, but nobody would say why I was wrong. So I said “You must either write your dissent, your separate opinion, or you concur fully with me. And that’s what happened. They concurred fully, with only two retaining their “in the result” agreement.

If I may respond a little bit more to Dean Candelaria. The “PIIGS” are the countries in trouble in Europe. P for Portugal, I for Ireland, another I for Italy, G for Greece, and S for Spain. As Dean Candelaria said, some of them are peripheral states. Their economies are very small that even if they collapse, they probably will not affect too much the European Union. But if the two that collapse are very big, like Spain and Italy, they might negate the world economy.

You see ups and downs in the world, in this world of liberalization and deregulation, one day a very progressive country could go down and a very poor country could go up.

Anyway, the EU Austerity Program is like the austerity program that was imposed on us when we were under IMFtutelage. We’re no longer under IMF tutelage now. We have graduated from that but some countries in Europe, particularly some of the PIIGS, are under IMF tutelage now, and they all have to go through austerity measures. The first thing countries do when they have problems is to spend more per the Keynesian Theory of Economics. If they want to recover, they must grow; to grow they borrow and spend, in order that the economy can expand, can create jobs and can produce food, medicine and other products. Well, as a family, if we are poor, we tighten our belt; it’s a different thing. Anyway we will not go into that deeply, it was in the lecture of Dean Candelaria.

Suffice it to say that I am thankful to all of you for coming today and for gracing this occasion. Maraming maraming salamat po.

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