Chief Justice Teehankee Remembered

Edited transcript of the extemporaneous speech of Retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN, as guest speaker, during the Commemorative Program on the 25th Anniversary of the Death of Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee held on November 27, 2014 at the Ateneo de Manila Law School, Rockwell Center, Makati City, sponsored by the Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Center for the Rule of Law.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat. Before I begin my address, let me greet the important personalities attending this program to commemorate the 25th death anniversary of our beloved Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee. First, I say good morning to Chiel Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., chairman of the Claudio Teehankee Foundation and my esteemed predecessor in the Supreme Court. If CJ Davide is the eternal admirer of Chief Justice Teehankee, in turn, I am his eternal admirer because (1) I succeeded him as chief justice, and (2) I continued his program of reforms called the Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR), which became the exemplar or model of the World Bank in judicial reforms. It was officially included in the website of the World Bank for all developing countries to follow as a model, if they want World Bank assistance.

Second, good morning too to Justice Arturo Brion, incumbent member of our Supreme Court, who like Chief Justice Teehankee, is an alumnus of Ateneo, a valedictorian and a bar topnotcher. So, I think he should someday also become a chief justice. (silence) That was a hushed response. I think Ateneo students should applaud that! (Laughter). Good morning also to Ambassador Manuel (Dondi) Teehankee, the worthy son of the worthy father and a great lawyer, bar topnotcher and diplomat like his father. Finally, good morning also to the other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Today, I have three messages for you. First, I say “Maraming salamat po” to the Claudio Teehankee Foundation for granting me the Rule of Law Award on April 13, 2013 in this very hall. Thank you also for inviting me to sit as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Foundation. What I did not know was that I would be elected Vice-Chairman. I did not know that until yesterday when I saw my name on the program. I also did not know that I would be speaking today. In our car on our way to this convocation, I asked my wife, who is here with us, for her indulgence for little while to enable me to think about what I would tell you today.

My second message is: I would like to pay a short tribute, my own tribute to the great jurist and great hero that is Claudio Teehankee. He was an intellectual giant, graduating summa cum laude both in his preparatory law and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the best university in the Philippines (clapping of hands)… according to the Ateneo Law Alumni Association! (laughter) He was, of course, a great lawyer. My own mentor and guru, former Senate President Jovito Salonga, looked up to him. I know, because I used to be an associate in the Salonga Law Office. Whenever we had cases in which Dingdong Teehankee, that’s how he called him, was on the opposite side, he would tell me, “You better prepare our trial brief very well because we are going to be on the opposite side of one of the best lawyers in town.” In their court skirmishes, both lawyers articulated very well their respective positions. So, will I tell you who won their great legal battles? Yes, they both won because they defended very well their respective sides.

Claudio Teehankee was a great jurist. He stood by his convictions, and put them into practice. Some people have great intelligence, great knowledge, great wisdom but they do not put their wisdom into practice. But CJ Teehankee upheld his belief and conviction against all odds, against even his own benefactor, against President Ferdinand Marcos who appointed him to the Supreme Court. He stood for what he believed in. He stood for liberty. He pioneered the libertarian philosophy in the Philippines. He nearly died for it. He sacrificed his own entitlement to be chief justice during Marcos’ reign. He was bypassed twice. But destiny still rewarded him with what was long overdue him. After the dictator was toppled in 1986, President Corazon Aquino appointed him the 16th chief justice of our country.

To be rewarded for upholding his conviction was not his aim. His aim was simply to fight for what he believed in even if it was dangerous to his (and his family’s) health and safety. It is easy to be brave during peace time like now. But, during the Martial Law years, it was not easy to be brave and forthright. During those perilous times, there were many gifted public officials but few had the courage to stand up for their convictions. CJ Teehankee stood up for his principles and sacrificed his and his family’s entitlements, safety and comfort. That is why I always look up to him and to people like who stand up for their conviction when it is inconvenient and dangerous to do so.

I am saying this because I see Mr. Oscar Lopez over there at the back of the auditorium (pointing to Mr. Lopez). He is the head of the Lopez business conglomerate which stood up against President Marcos. (clapping of hands). Mr. Lopez is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Claudio Teehankee Foundation, according to Ambassador Dondi. That is why I always tip my hat to the Lopez Group, particularly to its head. They could have been the biggest conglomerate during the Marcos regime. They were very close to him at the beginning of the strong man’s term. Former Vice President Fernando Lopez was Marcos’ teammate and ally. But they forsook all their businesses and wealth when they parted ways with Marcos, when they disagreed with and attacked his dictatorial rule. The Lopez family was undaunted and stood up for dignity, honor and country. That is why I look up to them in the same way as I look up to Chief Justice Teehankee.

My third message, which was specifically requested by Ambassador Dondi, is to explain the “kindredship” between the Center for the Rule of Law and the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity or FLP. The FLP was organized as part of my 75th birthday celebration in 2011, to promote and perhaps perpetuate my legal philosophy of “liberty and prosperity.” As a lawyer and a citizen, I believe of course in liberty. That is a given. The same deep faith in liberty was what Chief Justice Teehankee and the few justices allied with him, like Justice Ameurfina Melencio Herrera and Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma, demonstrated. Their libertarian philosophy, which they stood for during those dangerous times, is now embedded in our new Constitution. It is no longer a just philosophy, it is now a mandate for all Filipinos. Of course, my philosophy upholds the liberty of our people at all times: the right to vote and be voted, equality before the law, the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to life, liberty and property, the right to due process and the right to equal protection of the law. These are all rights of liberty. These are rights now imbedded in our new 1987 Constitution.

But I also think that during these times, it is not just the political liberty of our people that we must serve, protect and promote. We must also serve, protect and promote economic freedom. The businessmen benefit the most from these economic freedoms under the regime of free enterprise. I believe they have the obligation to share their benefits with their workers and their fellow Filipinos, so we can all conquer poverty and ultimately share prosperity.

The philosophy of liberty and prosperity means justice and jobs, freedom and food, peace and development; one is useless without the other. But how does the rule of law come in? Well, at the end of my term as Chief Justice, in October 2006, I convened the Global Forum on Liberty and Prosperity. About 300 jurists and lawyers all over the world, including several chief justices, came to the Philippines and attended. Among them was the chief justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin. She is still the incumbent Canadian CJ up to now. Her term is quite long. She was appointed in her 50s and the retirement age in Canada is seventy five (75). She came over for three (3) days and she liked what she saw. Thus, she stayed for four more days. She stayed with her low-profile husband Frank. I am glad to say that my wife and I cherish a friendship with them.

Anyway, during that conference, I pushed for liberty and prosperity not only in the Philippines, not only in Asia but in the world. Fortunately, the delegates accepted my advocacy and passed a resolution that they would promote this philosophy in their respective jurisdictions. Chief Justice McLachlin went a bit further and said, “I believe in the liberty and prosperity philosophy that is being promoted by Chief Justice Panganiban, but if I may say so, if I may propose, liberty and prosperity should be pursued under the rule of law.” I readily accepted her proposal. So, the full title of the philosophy is “Liberty and Prosperity Under the Rule of Law.” Liberty and prosperity are ends or goals. And the way to achieve them should be the rule of law.

So, when I was invited to sit as a trustee in the Chief Justice Teehankee Foundation, I was happy to accept because it espouses a concept and a program similar to our Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity Under the Rule of Law.

Thank you very much.

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