“Malasakit sa Bayan” in Faith and Reason

Address delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the Third Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE III) at the University of Santo Tomas Quadricentennial Pavilion on July 15, 16, and 17 on the general theme, “AWA, UNAWA, GAWA; THE FILIPINO EXPERIENCE OF MERCY,” specifically as a Concurrent Workshop Presenter on the topic “On the Basis of Love: Malasakit sa Bayan ni Juan de la Cruz” on the second day of the Conference, July 16, 2016.

I thank His Eminence, Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, for inviting me to speak on the topic “On the Basis of Love: Malasakit sa Bayan ni Juan de la Cruz” during this Third Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE III). Upon my inquiry, Fr. Jason Laguerta, PCNE Director, wrote that I should “give a talk for 45 minutes to one hour to be followed by an open forum… to awaken… love of country and… to cultivate a culture of malasakit and awa in governance and public service.”


Truth to tell, I was very hesitant to accept this monumental task. Having already retired from active public life some ten years ago, I thought that, being almost 80 years of age now, I am passé and should limit my public appearances.


Struck by the Cardinal’s Words

However, as I contemplated on the letter of our esteemed Cardinal and the accompanying concept paper on the overall PCNE theme of “AWA, UNAWA, GAWA,” I was struck by these introductory words:


“… we are basically a people soaked in the values of the Gospel. In the   words of Pope Francis, we can say that we have been ‘mercified’        (kinaawaan/kinahabagan). We live by mercy – ‘sa awa ng Diyos’ (through           the mercy of God). We rely on His mercy – ‘may awa ang Diyos’ (literally:        God ‘has’ mercy)…”


Yes, I was touched, because I remembered only too well that I am only a humble creature of God’s infinite mercy and love. And in His infinite ways, He has called me through the letter of our Cardinal to shed my old age inhibition, and to come out boldly to proclaim two basic truths of my being: First, His mercy and love that I personally felt through my God-given Catholic faith; and second, His wisdom that I personally experienced through my God-given gift of reason. On the first, I was not taught at my early age about my Catholic faith. I assimilated it slowly from my youth up to now, still marveling at the role God has played at every turn of my unworthy life. On the second, I tried to cultivate and develop my God-given reason throughout my life and career. Truly, faith and reason became the quintessential duo of my being as a Christian lawyer. The Lord has taught me that faith and reason, mercy and legality, compassion and justice are not incompatible. In fact, they really go together to complete our humanity, born in the image and love of God Almighty. As I address you today, I hope to awaken your awareness of God’s mercy and love in you as you recall your own journeys of faith and reason.


After recalling our journeys of faith and reason, let me take up the third and final topic of my address – using our faith and reason to cultivate the mercy and love of God in public service and governance.


  1. Journey of Faith

Let me then start with my journey of faith: how the Lord rescued me from physical death and spiritual ignorance, and how He revealed himself amid my travails.[2] My impoverished parents were born and reared in the remote farming barrio of Mandili in Candaba, Pampanga. My father finished only high school and my mother did not even finish elementary school. After eloping and marrying, my parents moved to Manila where my father got employed by the government. He had to support not only his four children of whom I was the youngest, but also his seven siblings. This responsibility fell on his shoulders as the eldest in his family because his own father died even before I was born.


When the Japanese soldiers occupied Manila during World War II, my family returned to Candaba. There, at the age of six, I was afflicted with dysentery. There was no hospital, no doctor, no nurse to care for me. I was given up for dead, but through the mercy of God, I miraculously recovered without medical attention.


After the war ended, my parents went back to the city. I had to hawk newspapers, shine shoes and peddle cigarettes in the streets of Sampaloc, Manila to help my parents make ends meet. As I made the rounds of our neighborhood hawking newspapers in the early hours of each day, I promised myself that one day I would be president of the Manila Times, then the largest-circulated newspaper in the nation. And by the mercy of God, I was named President of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 1991. In college, I sold textbooks to my classmates, so I could have a free copy for myself. And I vowed that one day soon, I would write books.


Ignorant and Uncatechized

Though baptized a Catholic, I did not know my faith. Catechism was not taught in the public schools I enrolled in. After high school, I wanted to study at the University of the Philippines, where I was granted a scholarship after graduating with honors from Mapa High School. But my impoverished parents could not afford the then 15-centavo ride from our small rented apartment in Cataluna Street, Sampaloc, Manila to the UP Campus in Diliman, Quezon City. My father urged me to enroll either at the nearby University of Santo Tomas or at Far Eastern University.


At UST, I applied for a scholarship. An old Dominican priest interviewed me saying, “Humm… you graduated from public schools. If you can answer three questions, I will grant you a scholarship. First, how many Gods are there?” “One,” I promptly answered. “Second, How many persons are there in one God?” he followed up. “Three,” I replied. Then came the third and final question, “Name them.”


Ladies and gentlemen, I froze because I didn’t know the answer to this very basic question. That’s how “uncatechized” I was. So, I sheepishly whispered, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph.” Yes, I failed the test and was denied a scholarship. I hurried to FEU, where I was given a scholarship, no questions asked.


Going to FEU became one of the best turns of my life because I met very important people who shaped my career, like Dr. Alejandro R. Roces who became my adviser in student leadership, Law Dean Jovito R. Salonga who became my life-long mentor in the field of law, and Fr. Michael Nolan, the FEU Chaplain, who recruited me into the Student Catholic Action. He was the first Catholic priest who took an interest in me and encouraged me to run and win as the youngest-ever president of the FEU Central Student Organization, and later to organize and head the National Union of Students, the largest student organization in the country, then and now.


Saved by Fr. Nolan and Leni

In the NUS, I met the sweet and intelligent Leni Carpio, who represented St. Scholastica’s College at the NUS, and more importantly, who agreed to be my wife after three years of courtship. She wanted to be a Benedictine nun, until she met me. She taught me how to pray.


Among the student leaders of my time were Satur Ocampo and Jose Maria Sison. I was enamored by their leftist leanings and activities. Like them, I was attracted to the Marxist axiom to give according to one’s ability and to receive according to one’s needs. Had it not been for Fr. Nolan and for Leni, who both propelled me toward Christ, I would have joined them. At that time also, Luis Taruc, the then supremo of the Hukbalahap rebellion, wrote me regularly from the boondocks, urging me to join his cause. He and my father were childhood friends.


After presiding over an NUS conference in Naga City in 1958, I joined the other NUS delegates in touring Mt. Mayon in Albay. I was stricken with a terrible stomach ache and was rushed to the nearby medical facility, the St. Mary Maternity Clinic in Tabaco, Albay. The doctor there, probably an obstetrician, diagnosed my problem to be indigestion and gave me a generous dose of castor oil. I vomited it; so, he injected me with a shot of morphine which made me sleep for 24 hours.


When I woke up, the pain was gone and I returned to Naga via a commuter bus. Two weeks later, I was rushed by my law school classmates to the FEU Hospital where I was immediately operated on. It turned out that my appendix was ruptured in Albay. It was good I vomited the castor oil which could have agitated my infected appendix and caused my death. Anyway, without my realizing it at the time, I again survived through the pure mercy of God.


Growing in Faith

To cut short the story of my long journey of faith, may I just say that after Leni and I got married and were blessed with five wonderful children, my wife continued to indoctrinate me. Having forsaken her convent career, she made me her apostolate. Like many couples, we had our disagreements and problems; we underwent Marriage Encounter and Life in the Spirit Seminars and became charismatic Catholics. I read the Bible several times and perused over 100 religious books. Though unworthy, I was invited to be one of the lay delegates to the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, or PCP II, in 1991 where I befriended many learned bishops, priests and driven lay leaders who further inculcated in me the mission of Christ in the world. Later on, I was named by Pope John Paul II as the only Filipino in the Pontifical Council of the Laity based in the Vatican for the 1996-2001 term.


Sisters and brothers, why did I bore you with the long story of my life of faith in the Lord? Because I want you to know that I was born, and grew up, and matured all through the mercy and grace of God alone, sa awa at gracia ng Panginoon lamang. Some may call the miraculous turns of life mere coincidences or happenstances. That may be true if they happened only once or twice. But no, the miracles of mercy happened all the time. How come I did not perish while I was a boy of six, almost left for dead due to dysentery during war time in an isolated place without medical attention? How come I survived a ruptured appendix I carried for two weeks even as I vomited the wrong medicine given me? How come I failed to enroll at UP and UST despite my best effort and landed at FEU where, of all places, I started learning the rudiments of our faith from the chaplain of a non-sectarian university? How come I met my wife who changed my life at a time when, as a peasant student leader, I was enamored by the communist doctrine of giving according to one’s ability and receiving according to one’s needs? How come I journeyed from being a poor Catholic ignoramus who did not know the three persons of the Holy Trinity to become a member of the highest lay advisory council to the Supreme Pontiff?


There is only one answer: the mercy and love (awa at pagmamahal) of the Lord brought me all these. And more, as I now go to the second part of my address, which is my testimony of the mercy of God in my life of reason.


  1. Journey of Reason

As a teenager, I was quite shy and passive. I wanted to be a chemical engineer. But my strong-willed father directed me to take up law, which was his own frustrated ambition. And the more I argued with him, the more he insisted, saying “Kailangan maging abogado ka. Pilosopo ka kasi.” We finally agreed that I would start with my prelaw course, and that if after two years I still wanted to be a chemical engineer, I could shift my direction. However, my father died when I was just a first year prelaw student. At his death bed, I vowed to fulfill his ambition. So, I decided to come out of my shell and tried my best in academic studies and in extra-curricular activities at the FEU campus and in the entire country.


As I said earlier, I met Dr. Alejandro Roces who became my adviser in my extra-curricular activities and Dr. Jovito Salonga, who became my mentor in my academic studies and search for professional excellence. While Dr. Roces pushed me into student politics, Dr. Salonga guided me in my legal career. Though Dr. Salonga and I were of different religious faith, he, a well-known protestant preacher, and I, only a Catholic fledgling, we never discussed what separated us in faith but only what united us in reason. Through his guidance, I placed sixth in the 1960 bar exams, even though I got sick and was hospitalized during the first day of the tests.


At his recommendation, I was granted a scholarship for graduate studies at the Yale University, but due to my inability to secure a travel grant from the US Embassy (perhaps because of my student activism), I could not pursue graduate studies in the US. Dr. Salonga consoled me saying, “Forget graduate studies. Come and join my law office and I will teach you what I learned from UP (where he finished his basic law degree), Harvard (where he got his Masters in Law) and Yale (where he got his doctorate).” And teach me, he grandly did. After three years apprenticing in his law office, I set up my own law firm, with his blessing and help.


Meanwhile, my wife and I moved on and reared five wonderful children who all finished graduate degrees from Harvard, Stanford, University of California, University of Chicago, University of Michigan and Boston University, thereby fulfilling vicariously my ambition of studying in a pedigreed US university.


During the martial law regime, my law office did not do well. So, I tried my luck at international business while keeping my hand-to-mouth law practice in the Philippines. I was able to build modest business ventures in Hong Kong and in the United States. However, during the stock market crash in the early 1980’s, I lost the millions of dollars I earned. To cut the long story short, I reverted full time to the Philippines. Fortunately, my law practice and local business endeavors flourished as our country regained its political and economic freedom in 1986.


My personal association with Dr. Salonga continued through the years. In fact, when he became Senate President in 1987, he named me his personal legal counsel as well as counsel of the Liberal Party of which he was also president, thereby bestowing upon me my highest honor as a practicing lawyer. Nothing is more exhilarating than to be counsel of one’s former mentor.


Journey to the Supreme Court

After Salonga lost in the 1992 presidential elections, the winner, General Fidel V. Ramos, called me to his private office and asked me, after an hour of one-on-one conversation, to join his Cabinet as Secretary of Justice. I respectfully declined, saying that I did not deserve to be in his official family because I did not campaign for him and because my wife did not want me to be involved in a political job.


To this, Ramos retorted, “I know you did not campaign for me. You did not even vote for me. You voted for your mentor, Jovy Salonga. But that’s alright. I do not want to be President only of those who voted for me. I want to be President of all Filipinos. Anyway, I have known you a long time and I know you will serve with competence and integrity.” President Ramos gave me two weeks to reconsider. After much reflection and prayer, I still respectfully declined. Nonetheless, he would not give me an out; he offered me a seat in the Supreme Court, a non-political position I could not refuse.


In spite of the kind, unsolicited offer of the President, my journey to the highest court of our country turned out to be difficult. You see, the Judicial and Bar Council, which vets all nominees for judicial appointments, found it improper for the President to express his choice before it has submitted its list of nominees to him. The conservative JBC chairman, then Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa, vehemently opposed my nomination to show President Ramos that the Council was independent and could not be influenced. He was adamant and uncompromising, despite my personal friendship with him and despite his telling me that I was qualified for the post.


From 1992 to 1994, seven vacancies were created in the Supreme Court due to the retirement of the incumbents. For each of these vacancies, my name was submitted to the Judicial and Bar Council for screening. But in all seven times, I failed the screening. Many objections were raised against me, like the alleged insufficiency of my professional competence and my alleged sins and wrongdoings.


In other words, those three years of screening were one long story of frustrations and defeats. Many times, I would sob and ask the Lord: “How long, oh God, must I bear these frustrations and embarrassment of being rejected? Why must I suffer for charges and accusations that are absolutely baseless? I have repented my sins and reformed my life; why do You still allow me to be chastised?”


In all these frustrations and in spite of the hard questions I hounded the Lord with, I never lost faith in His wisdom and providence. I always took comfort in Romans 8:28: “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”


In January 1995, after having been bypassed seven times and convinced that our God did not want me to be in the Supreme Court, I humbled myself and bowed to what I thought was God’s will for me. My spirit was shattered and my heart bled, but I lifted up my ambition to the Lord with a solemn prayer:


“Take oh Lord, all that I am, all that I will ever be.
Take my personal ambition, my liberty, my career.
Do what You will with them and I will follow

whatever You want me to do.”


In July of the same year, another vacancy in the Court occurred. A close friend who was then a member of the high court[3] asked me, “Why don’t you try again? Don’t pass up the opportunity, because the next vacancy will be in late 1997 already.” At first, I did not heed my friend’s suggestion because I had already given up on my ambition.


However, about 1:00 a.m. of Saturday, July 29, 1995, I woke up and could not sleep. My friend’s words kept bothering me, kept reverberating in my ears. So, I decided to pray for over two hours. I told the Lord that I had already surrendered my quest to Him, that I had already given up. Why was I still bothered? I fell asleep about 4:00 a.m., waiting for a sign from the Lord. None came that night. But the following morning, He spoke loud and clear to me. Let me explain.


Jesus Speaks Thru the Bible

Sisters and brothers, it is my belief that God speaks to us through the Bible. Though written some two thousand years ago, the Scriptures are still sources of God’s personal messages. For Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever. I believe that if we read or listen intently and prayerfully, in full faith and confidence, God will speak to us personally as we are struck by a verse or a chapter in the Good Book that comes alive and answers our questions.


The following morning, Sunday, July 30, 1995, I served as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in our parish. As was my habit, with my eyes closed and with the ascending Jesus in my mental vision, I intently listened to our parish priest as he read the Gospel for the day. I was struck by the following verses that he read from Luke 11:1-11:


“Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find,
knock and the door shall be opened to you.
For whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds;
whoever knocks is admitted.”


I had cold perspiration and goose pimples as I gasped mentally, “My Lord, are you asking me to persist in my quest?” But I was not satisfied. I said to God in my prayer, “Lord, I may just be deluding myself, hearing things I want to hear. Please give me another sign to confirm this message.” The Lord’s confirmation came after one week in the same church. That Sunday, August 6, the Gospel reading was on the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus according to Luke 9:28-36. It states that as our Lord was transfigured,


“a cloud came and overshadowed them and the
disciples grew fearful…Then from the clouds came
a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One.
Listen to Him.’”


Listen to him. These three words struck me. And once again my heart pounded madly as cold sweat oozed out from all over my body. I became sure of what the Lord wanted me to do. After all, was it not the Lord Jesus who said the week before, “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened to you?” And now our Heavenly Father commanded me, “Listen to Him.” So, I followed Him and submitted my name once again to the JBC for screening.


In the days following, I continued praying. During the Masses I attended, I affirmed my determination to pursue God’s will in my career by quoting a favorite Jesuit saying:


“I will work as if everything depended on me.
and I will pray as if everything depended on God.”


During the meeting of the JBC on September 13, 1995, there was a serious attempt to exclude me from the list. I would have been excluded right then, had it not been for one member,[4] who I believe was guided by our Blessed Mother. He pleaded, “I think we should let Panganiban’s name stay in the list in the meantime. We are meeting next week anyway, and if you still insist on deleting it, so be it.”


This member told me two days later on, that unless a miracle happened, I would surely be eliminated from the list. So I prayed again, and exclaimed that human forces, however exalted and powerful, could not prevail against the Lord’s will. And true enough, during the JBC meeting one week thereafter on September 20, 1995, no one, by some mysterious reason, objected to my name’s inclusion on the recommended list. For the first time in three years, I passed the screening unanimously. A miracle!


Thereafter, a list of five JBC recommendees, including me, was sent to Malacanang. Knowing my difficulties in the Council, President Ramos called me and asked me pointblank, “How did you do it? How did you get the JBC to nominate you?” “Well, sir. I did not do it. The Lord did it. Hallelujah!” I exultantly replied. The President made good his promise to appoint me. And my career in the highest court of the land began, after I had given up on it.


It is my faith that it was God who made my appointment possible. In my book Justice and Faith, published in 1997, I wrote that because I owed my office only to Him,


“all my actions and all my decisions will
all be in accordance with His commandments
and His Gospel. I hold office by God’s grace
and I pledge to serve Him and our people with
fortitude, integrity, competence and prudence.”

God’s blessings, however, did not end there. As one of the senior members of the Court, I was included in late 2005 in the JBC’s short list of three nominees to succeed Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. After an exciting one month of prayer, I was chosen by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be the 21st Chief Justice of the Philippines. Unlike my experience with President Ramos, I had no occasion to speak with President Arroyo prior to my appointment. But, as in the past, I considered my Chief Justiceship a gift from our Lord to be used only pursuant to His Will.


Post Retirement Activities

After I retired from the judiciary, I thought I would just be gardening and smelling the flowers and fading away quietly. In fact, my wife and I bought a small lot to move to; we planned to rent out our large family home and live on the rentals (together with my pension). And yet, I am now as busy as I was twenty five years ago, attending meetings of over a dozen big corporations where I sit as director or adviser, presiding over several foundations and charitable causes, arbitrating or mediating legal and business disputes, writing columns and travelling abroad five or six times a year.


As I look back poignantly at my career, I see clearly the hand of God. Even when I thought I was alone, He was always there with me. Even when doors seemed to close, windows of better opportunities opened up. Why was my father so insistent that I become a lawyer? Why did he die when I was just about to shift my schooling from law to chemical engineering? Why did I end up in FEU, when I really wanted to study in UP and in UST? Why did God enable me to meet Fr. Nolan, Dr. Roces and Dr. Salonga? Why did I miss graduate studies abroad? Why was I nearly bankrupted in my international business endeavors? Why did President Ramos call me? Why did I decline a top Cabinet job? Why did God allow me to suffer three years of rejection by the Judicial and Bar Council? Why did the Lord bring me to the Supreme Court and to the highest judicial post in our country? Why did He open so many business directorships just when I thought I would just be smelling the flowers and fading away quietly? Why did our Lord bring me here before you to confess my long journey of faith and reason?


III. Public Service and Governance

If my story has touched even just one or two of you in the audience, has reminded you of your own journey of good news and bad news, and has convinced you, despite all contrary odds, to go on fervently serving our Lord and His Church of the Poor, then I would have succeeded in my mission to inspire you (in the words of our Cardinal Tagle and Fr. Laguerta) to “rely on His mercy and cultivate a culture of malasakit and awa in governance and public service,” which is really the third and final topic of my address today.


To preface the topic, let me tackle the misconception that the doctrine of separation of church and state prohibits us, both the clergy and the laity, from advocating pro-Christian tenets and opposing anti-Christian policies and actions.


The most basic concept of church-state separation merely requires the government to be neutral in the “competition,” as it were, among different religious denominations. Hence, Congress cannot appropriate and the President cannot spend public funds to build a basilica for the exclusive use of one religious group; neither can it promote the tenets or dogma of another to the detriment of the rest; nor can it pay the salaries of priests or imams for performing strictly religious duties. Furthermore, it cannot use religion as a prerequisite or condition for the exercise of any civil or political right or privilege. While there is separation of church from state, there is no separation of the state from God.


The Philippines is theist, not atheist, not even agnostic. In fact, it is monotheist; it worships one God. That is why our Constitution begins with this significant first phrase: “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God x x x.” That is why both Houses of Congress and the Cabinet preface their meetings with prayers. That is why the Supreme Court (and other courts) also pray, usually with the “Centennial Prayer for the Courts,”[5] before starting its sessions.[6]


You may want to know that our Constitution and our laws do not prohibit the men of the cloth from being elected or appointed to public offices. In fact, it is Canon Law and the hierarchical Church that sometimes limit their political participation.


God Never Fails

Given this clarification on church-state separation and our constitutional rights and duties to participate in polity, we can indeed tackle with faith and reason the many challenges confronting us as citizens. As Catholics, we can take our bearings from Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (No. 182), thus: “… The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfillment in eternity, for he has created all things ‘for our enjoyment’ (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone. It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life ‘related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good.”


This exhortation of Pope Francis affirms the traditional social teaching that Catholics must bear witness to our faith not only in church or in our internal life but also in the political and social spheres. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Vatican II[7] urge us to bring the values of the Gospel into the various spheres of temporal matters.


Most Crucial Temporal Matter

At present, I believe that the most crucial temporal matter in governance and public service is the proposal of our new President to institute the federal system and to abolish our centuries-old unitary system of government. To do this, the Constitution will have to be changed and overhauled, not just amended. The first challenge is the method of overhauling the Charter. Is it by Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) whereby Congress itself proposes directly the constitutional revisions; or by a Constitutional Convention (Con-con) elected separately by the people. To be sure, there are many advantages and disadvantages for each method. We can discuss them during the open forum.


The second challenge is how to make the new Constitution as pro-God, pro-faith, pro-life, pro-prayer, pro-family and pro-human rights as the 1987 Charter. The present Constitution is a great improvement of the previous Constitutions which did not have as many of these “pros.” With faith and reason, we must face these challenges, from their inception when the method of amendment is taken up in Congress, to the election of pro-Christ constitutional convention delegates, to the deliberations on the new constitutional revisions, and to the plebiscite campaign, pro or contra, on the revised Constitution.


Apart from constitutional revision, there are policy proposals that we, as workers in the vineyard of the Lord, must be vigilant about at all times. Take for instance the proposal to revive the death penalty by hanging or by musketry. Clearly, this proposal violates the Ten Commandments, as well as the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person enshrined in our Bible and in our Constitution. Thus, both the clergy and the laity have the duty to oppose it; first, in the public arena and in all avenues of public discussions; second, in the Congress when the bill to re-impose it comes up for deliberation and discussion; third, in the Supreme Court, if and when it is enacted into law; and, fourth, in world opinion and international tribunals, citing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty for being discriminatory, for being anti-poor and for recycling the culture of violence over and over.


Along with our opposition to the legalization of the death penalty is the imperative of challenging vigilantism and the illegal execution of alleged criminals summarily and without due process. For we know that the end never justifies the means.


On a more positive approach, we should support, without violating fundamental rights, the government’s drive against criminality, drugs and corruption; assist in rehabilitation during calamities; foster free education for the poor; promote job creation that comes with just wages and decent working conditions; help the peace process; and encourage credible elections by joining organizations like the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting which was organized and is led by Catholic leaders.


And always, we should unceasingly pray for continuing enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, we need to use our freedom of speech to assert, to argue and to denounce. Sometimes, as civil servants, we must uphold our Christian values at the risk of ridicule, censure or even of losing our jobs.[8] Sometimes, we must turn to the “nobility of silence,” as was done recently by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.


I do not intend to take up all the civil and political issues that face us. Neither can I discuss all the various arguments, strategies and tactics that we can employ. One session like this is not enough to take up all the many issues of life and death facing us. But, I believe that we have been given a mission by our Lord to face these challenges with faith and reason, and to envelop them with the love and mercy of God. At times, we may be confronted by enormous opposition, at times, overwhelmed by superior forces and, and at times, temporarily defeated by the anti-Christs. But in all our adventures and misadventures, trials and triumphs, defeats and victories, frustrations and exaltations, pains and gains, crucifixions and resurrections, let us always remember that our God will never abandon us. He will always be with us: above us to inspire us, behind us to strengthen us, before us to lead us, and within us to transform us to be another Christ — humble, loving, and sacrificing. To Him, we dedicate our heart, mind, soul, spirit and work today and every day. To God be the glory! Alleluia!

[1] Address delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the Third Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE III) at the University of Santo Tomas Quadricentennial Pavilion on July 15, 16, and 17 on the general theme, “AWA, UNAWA, GAWA; THE FILIPINO EXPERIENCE OF MERCY,” specifically as a Concurrent Workshop Presenter on the topic “On the Basis of Love: Malasakit sa Bayan ni Juan de la Cruz” on the second day of the Conference, July 16, 2016.

[2] See also “Why I Am Who I Am” at cjpanganiban.com/speeches and scroll down to May 24, 2007

[3] Justice Jose A. R. Melo

[4] Secretary of Justice, later Vice President Teofisto Guingona

[5] This prayer is worded, thus: “Almighty God, we stand in your holy presence as our Supreme Judge. We humbly beseech You to bless and inspire us so that what we think, say and do will be in accordance with Your will. Enlighten our minds, strengthen our spirit, and fill our hearts with fraternal love, wisdom and understanding, so that we can be effective channels of truth, justice and peace. In our proceedings today, guide us in the path of righteousness for the fulfillment of Your greater glory. Amen.”

[6] This prayer was composed by the Executive Committee for the SC Centenary Celebration, which I humbly chaired, to celebrate the centenary of the Supreme Court in 2001.

[7] “…Laymen should also know that it is generally the function of their well-formed Christian conscience to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city; from priests they may look for spiritual light and nourishment. . . . Since they have an active role to play in the whole life of the Church, laymen are not only bound to penetrate the world with a Christian spirit, but are also called to be witnesses to Christ in all things in the midst of human society. Bishops, to whom is assigned the task of ruling the Church of God, should, together with their priests, so preach the news of Christ that all the earthly activities of the faithful will be bathed in the light of the Gospel. All pastors should remember too that by their daily conduct and concern they are revealing the face of the Church to the world, and men will judge the power and truth of the Christian message thereby…”  (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, No. 43)


[8] I was seriously threatened with impeachment as a member of our highest tribunal for repeatedly opposing the imposition of the death penalty in several Supreme Court decisions.

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