UN/WB Fastrac, Metrobank, Rule of Law Awards

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro forged last year was merely a road map, or a work in progress to attain peace and prosperity in Southern Philippines. Still to be fleshed out are four vital annexes that would lead to the enactment of a Bangsamoro basic law and the eventual creation of a Bangsamoro homeland. (For details, see my Oct. 21, 2012, column.)

UN/WB Fastrac. Most important, the creation of the homeland must be ratified by the people affected and must conform to the Constitution. If it does not, the final agreement would be void, or the Constitution should be amended to obviate this dark possibility.

Yet, despite these still to be crafted essentials, the United Nations and the World Bank recently announced the “Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (Fastrac),” described as “a new technical assistance program to support the peace process and the establishment of the Bangsamoro.”

In my humble view, Fastrac is both good and bad. Good, because it may help hasten the peace process. It is a financial and technical program, a carrot, so to speak, to speed up the final negotiations, which have been shrouded in mystery during the past few months.

It could be bad. If the final accord fails or the Supreme Court for some reason finds it unconstitutional, the Philippines—given the UN/WB Fastrac and the active intervention of Malaysia in the peace negotiations—could be deemed to have recognized the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as a “state of belligerency” which, in international law, grants some rights to the MILF and creates obligations and complications for our country. These legal and political possibilities deserve a future column.

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Metrobank in China. At Metrobank’s invitation, I attended last week the inauguration of its branch in Quanzhou, a city in the suburb of—but much bigger and more populous than—Xiamen or Amoy. Quanzhou is the birthplace of Dr. George S.K. Ty, Metrobank’s founder and patriarch. Metrobank is the only Philippine bank granted a full service banking license in China.

Leading the participants were Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing, and Metrobank top executives Arthur Ty, Mary V. Ty, Alfred Ty, Antonio Abacan, Francis Sebastian and Aniceto Sobrepeña. All the local Chinese officials lauded Metrobank for being the first foreign bank to operate in Quanzhou (and in Nanjing, a city near Shanghai).

Filipinos are well regarded in Xiamen. Henry Sy’s SM operates the biggest shopping mall there. John Gokongwei’s Robinsons Land and Lucio Tan’s Eton Properties are building huge real estate complexes in the city’s central district, similar to Ayala Center and Rockwell in Makati. Carlos Chan’s Oishi products are sold all over China, especially in Xiamen. Jollibee operates three large Chinese fast-food chains. Notably, China built a statue of Jose Rizal in nearby Jinjang, similar to but bigger than the one in Luneta.

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Rule of Law Awards. May I thank the Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Foundation for conferring on retired Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera and me the “Rule of Law Award” during elegant ceremonies held at the Center for the Rule of Law at the Ateneo de Manila.

Now 91, Justice Amor, as I fondly call her, was cited “[f]or her dignified obedience to universal concepts of justice, her pioneering spirit as the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, her academic accomplishments commencing from her being valedictorian and cum laude of UP Law Class of 1947 and bar topnotcher, her heading the Philippine Judicial Academy as First Chancellor, and her developing the Academy into the institution it is today that concretely furthers the cause of an independent bench and bar devoted to excellence and legal learning in the service of the greater good, all of which contribute towards a more stable and lasting Rule of Law.”

To that citation, may I add that had seniority been strictly observed, she could have easily been the first lady chief justice of our country. She was named associate justice in 1979, but as an aftermath of the 1986 Edsa Revolution, all Supreme Court justices resigned.

Recognizing her integrity and independence, President Cory Aquino reappointed her (along with a few others). But her reappointment was dated a little later than those of new Justices Pedro L. Yap, Marcelo B. Fernan and Andres R. Narvasa who—appearing to be her seniors based on their appointment papers—all later became chief justices despite their lesser years of actual service in the Court.

Yap served barely two years before being elevated to the top. When Justice Amor retired in 1992, Narvasa was still chief. Despite all these seeming setbacks, she served with gentility and grace, without rancor or recrimination.

I will just quote without comment the citation given me: “For his exemplary service in the Philippine Supreme Court culminating in his leadership of the whole Philippine Judiciary, for his lifelong commitment and service to a judicial philosophy that is based on Liberty and Prosperity, for his continued advocacy of the need to have a judiciary with independence, integrity, industry and intelligence, a revitalization of the legal profession in the tradition of its noble roots, and a philosophy promoting the twin goals of safeguarding liberty while assuring the prosperity of all citizens, as liberty is an empty vessel without economic equity, all of which contribute towards a more stable and lasting Rule of Law.”

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