525 Columns and 2 Books

* Remarks of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the launch of his new book, “With Due Respect 2” on March 15, 2017 at the Vicente A. Rufino Hall, De La Salle University Rufino Campus, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

At the outset, may I sincerely thank Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno for delivering a heart-warming address as our esteemed guest speaker today during the formal launch of “With Due Respect 2” and for kindly writing the Preface of the book. I am grateful for her very kind words about me and the book. I wish my wife Leni were around so she could have been reassured that she was correct when she said “Yes” to me 55 years ago. I am sorry that she cannot be with us as she is indisposed.


Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno

At 50 years of age, our guest of honor became the youngest associate justice of the highest court under the 1987 Constitution. Yes, she was and still is young enough to be my daughter. She is only two years older than our eldest child. She will sit in the high court for a total of 20 years. For 18 of those 20 years, she will sit as the first woman chief justice, second in length of service only to Cayetano Arellano, who served for 19 years on June 11, 1901 to April 1, 1920. But she outstrips him in total high court service by about a year because Arellano, who was our first chief justice, did not serve as an associate justice.

At the time of her appointment as an associate justice, she ranked 12th in the Supreme Court seniority totem pole, making her the most junior associate justice to become chief. Prior to her, the most junior to reach the top was Ramon Avancena who, before his elevation, ranked fourth among the associate justices at the time. CJ Sereno would be our country’s top magistrate during the term of four presidents, President Aquino, President Duterte and the winners of the 2022 and 2028 elections.

In this sense, she is both an insider and an outsider; insider for two years as an associate justice, enough to know the internal dynamics, habits and processes of the Supreme Court, and outsider enough to still see afresh the judiciary’s strengths and weaknesses, think outside the box and transform the courts without being tied to past practices and traditions.

Relevantly, she has crafted a reform program for the judiciary, including plans for a brand new home for the Supreme Court in a two-hectare property in Fort Bonifacio. (Parenthetically, did you know that the Court is practically a squatter in a compound owned by the University of the Philippines in Padre Faura, Manila? It does not own its home.) I expect CJ Sereno to be the real judicial game changer because she has the time, the intellectual gravitas and the passion to transform the judiciary and make it the model for excellence in Asia and in the world.

As one who has followed her career closely, I can say with utmost confidence that she would indeed refresh, reengineer, reform and transform the judiciary.

I have said this before and I’ll say it again, my hope and dream is to be alive 13 years from now when I would be 93 years old, and she – at age 70 – would be retiring and proudly bequeathing to our country, to our people and to her own children and grandchildren a truly transparent, accountable, excellent, independent and trustworthy judiciary.

Sycip and other VIPs

          May I also greet some important friends in the audience? I see my longevity idol, Washington Sycip. At 96, Wash is still robust physically and intellectually, and is characteristically humble and self-deprecating, calling himself in his biography as “Only a Bookkeeper.” I always listen to him in rapt attention whenever he speaks during the board meetings of the listed companies where we both sit as directors or advisers, like PLDT, Metro Pacific Investments, First Philippine Holdings, Metrobank, Jollibee and Asian Terminal.

Also here is Oscar M. Lopez, the patriarch of the Lopez Group, and his wife Connie, who is a Rufino and a first cousin of Marixi Rufino Prieto. Oscar and his pedigreed family are known for their business acumen, old wealth and philanthropy. But what truly distinguish him – in my humble view – are his values and principles, and his unyielding courage to uphold them regardless of cost. One time, I was asked: what is one word that best describes Oscar M. Lopez, and I unhesitatingly replied “HONOR.” This is because he never compromises truth and ethics to earn more money or to build a bigger conglomerate or to take advantage of anyone. He always stands for what is right and lasting, rather than what is convenient and passing. Mabuhay po kayo.


Tessie Sy Coson, chairperson of BDO, the largest bank in the Philippines, confirmed her attendance but would be a little delayed. In the late 1960s, Tessie was my student in commercial law when she was taking up commerce at the Assumption Convent in Makati. At that time, she wanted to become a lawyer but her father, the legendary Henry Sy Sr., vetoed her dream and, instead, asked her to help run their then modest ShoeMart store in downtown Manila. Over the last 50 years, Henry turned the small shoe store into the largest business conglomerate in our country, helped in no small measure by his eldest daughter Tessie. In the process, he became the wealthiest Filipino with a net worth of over US$16 billion. Up to now, Tessie still pines to be a lawyer and bar topnotcher, such that she prefers to call me “professor” instead of “chief justice.” But I always respond that, as the head of the biggest bank and as a top boss of the largest conglomerate here, she can retain and direct the best and the brightest practicing lawyers in the country and in the world without having to be one.

May I also greet Injap Sia, who at 40, is the youngest dollar billionaire in the country. He just wrote a brand new book titled “Life Principles.” Anyone aspiring to be a billionaire should read it. More than a decade ago, he set up “Mang Inasal,” which today is one of most successful quick service restaurant chains here. His latest venture is Double Dragon Properties, which had an IPO or initial public offering in April, 2014. It sold at P2.00 per share. Now, the same shares are quoted in the Philippine Stock Exchange at about P55.00. Thus, an investment of P200,000 in DD shares at the IPO price of P2.00 would now be worth over P5 million. Injap is the idol of my eldest grandson, Miggy, who wants to follow his footsteps as an intrepid entrepreneur.

There is also Ramon Del Rosario, Jr., former secretary of finance and now boss of the Phinma Group, which is engaged in education, housing, energy, hotels, steel products and strategic consulting. I see other VIPs in the audience: Former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, Phinma Chairman Oscar Hilado, Ambassador Andrea Reichlin of Switzerland, Atty. Ave Cruz, the President of the Asean Law Association, my golf buddies Ed Reyes, President of the Dasmarinas Village “Republic” and Archit Bartolome, first chairman of the BCDA (Bases Conversion and Development Authority) which planned and developed the Fort Bonifacio Global City, Philip Romualdez, President of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, and former University of the Philippines President Fred Pascual.

Marixi R. Prieto.

However, today, I would like to reserve my best “Thank you” to Marixi Rufino Prieto, chairperson of the Inquirer Group for making possible tonight’s book launch, and more fervently, for launching my career as an opinion writer over a decade ago after I retired from the Supreme Court. As I wrote in a fairly recent column, I accepted the kind offer of Marixi to write for the most widely read broadsheet in our country with a bit of hesitation because I did not feel qualified. You see, I have never written a regular column in my life. Though I was a minor staffer of the FEU Advocate and managing editor of the FEU Law Review during my student days six decades ago, I have absolutely no background on opinion writing. But Marixi was insistent. As a compromise, I agreed to write once a week, instead of three as requested by her.

True, during my tenure of over 11 years in the Supreme Court, I have written over 1,200 full-length decisions or ponencias, not to mention the many more thousand minute resolutions dismissing at sight an equal number of petitions, which on their face were downright unmeritorious, and 11 books reporting on my judicial work. But there is a big difference between writing legalese for the Court and writing opinions that even elementary school graduates should be able to understand. In writing for the Court, one can argue as lengthily and as passionately as one desires. But in writing for a broadsheet, space is at a premium and requires a minimum of words and characters to express the same idea. For example, in issuing judicial decisions, one can write, “In view of the foregoing premises, facts, circumstances, assumptions and arguments, I respectfully hold, ‘with charity for all and with malice towards none,’ the inevitable conclusion that…” However, in newspapers where space is severely restricted, one simply writes, “Ergo,” or “Thus,” or “In sum,” to express the same thought.

Since I started writing for the Inquirer on February 11, 2007 up to now, I have faithfully come out every Sunday, 100 percent, without fail for 10 consecutive years, regardless of my own time constraints, occasional illnesses, carpal tunnel of my two hands, business commitments, speaking engagements and travel abroad six times a year. All in all, I have written 525 columns since then up to last Sunday. Most of them have been compiled in two books; the first was titled “With Due Respect” and was published in 2011. It was patiently edited by John Nery, our master of ceremonies today and the current editor of the Inquirer.net, the online portal of the Inquirer Group.


This first volume included my columns in 2007 to 2010. It was available both in printed form and in digital edition via Amazon, Apple’s iBook Store, Apple’s iTunes and Barnes & Noble Nook. On February 11, 2012, I was amazed to receive a text from Inquirer President Sandy Prieto-Romualdez that the book was number three in the Amazon best seller list for the courts category, outranked only by the latest works of veteran book writer and CNN correspondent Jeffrey Toobin and US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who passed away in February last year).


This second volume, “With Due Respect 2,” that we are formally launching today captured my columns in 2011 to mid-2016. Much of the backbreaking work to produce it was supervised by J.V. Rufino. By rearranging my columns by subject matter, no longer by date of writing, John and J.V. produced new creations, like the making of a new evening dress by sewing together fabrics of different hues and materials, or like building a new house by putting together lumber, cement, steel and stone.


Enjoy Writing for Inquirer.

Looking back after writing 525 columns, I must say that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) writing for the Inquirer. Why? First, I am given complete freedom to dwell on any subject of my choice without interference whatsoever from the owners and editors, except minor editing of grammatical and typographical errors, adherence to the Inquirer style book and sticking to the pre-agreed space limitations.


I had the same kind of freedom in the Supreme Court, where I wrote my decisions freely, guided only by prayer, the Constitution, the law, and ultimately, by what is just and fair in every circumstance.


Second, writing a column forces me to be updated on the latest news on what is going on in our country and in the world, especially in the judiciary. As I personally encode it, I hone my computer skills.


At my advanced age, I have no more ambition for myself or my family. By writing my opinions, I am able to contribute my humble thoughts to the molding of unfettered policy and polity.


To do this, I have to dig into newer and faster methods of research to keep up with the Information Age – to learn how to google, to take advantage of computer data and to sift facts from fiction in social media.


Indeed, writing a column regularly requires keeping abreast with the exponential growth of knowledge. I had to divot from analog to digital technology and from the old Nokia mobile phone to the “smart” iPhone 6-plus. With it, I can send and receive free texts, photos and videos on iMessage, Telegram, Signal and Viber, take quality pictures that I can edit on the spot, receive and answer emails instantly, listen to music, watch movies, use it as an alarm clock and calculator, down load the digital edition of the Inquirer, and appreciate artificial intelligence.


According to a scientific paper reported in a recent issue of Time magazine (March 6, 2017, p. 73, “What 3 things can I do to extend the length of my life?”), the first of the three best things one can do to have a long and rewarding life is to stay curious, to keep on asking questions, to keep on challenging old paradigms and to study something new every day. (The second and the third are (2) Eat more plants than you think you need, and (3) Rethink what it means to be old – stay positive and do not denigrate growing old.) To quote Laura L. Carstensen, a professor of psychology and public policy at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Longevity Center, “Asking questions and discovering new things keeps you engaged with the world and with other people.” Indeed, “[l]earning something new can be a form of problem solving: digging into an article about something unusual or asking a family member about her obscure doctoral thesis (and actually listening to the answer) requires you to exercise cognitive muscles that have gone slack.” So, if I should be lucky enough to reach 96 years, like the venerable Wash Sycip, I would owe it in large measure to Marixi for insisting that I write a column regularly in the Inquirer.


Raul C. Pangalangan and Vicente A. Rufino

Before I close, let me also thank Dr. Raul C. Pangalangan, former Inquirer publisher and now a judge of the International Criminal Court for honoring me with his Foreword. He wanted to attend this launch today but was prevented by his international judicial work in The Hague in The Netherlands.


Lastly, let me thank all of you my friends who for lack of time I cannot name one by one, for attending this book launch. As you must have noticed, we are holding these ceremonies in the brand new Vicente A. Rufino Hall in the brand new Rufino campus of the De La Salle University College of Law in Fort Bonifacio.


Ladies and gentlemen, you may want to know that Vicente A. Rufino is the father of Marixi, Charlie, Cary, Pixie and their three deceased siblings. This campus was acquired and built at the initiative of and with the untiring help of the Rufino family. Incidentally, Mr. Vicente A. Rufino, together with his brother Ernesto (the father of Connie Lopez and Ernest Rufino, who is also with us today), who held office at the old Avenue Theater in Rizal Avenue, Manila, were among my first retainers and clients when I was a young, struggling practicing lawyer in the early 1960s.


Indeed, I owe the Rufinos a great debt of gratitude, the elder Rufinos for helping me start my law practice and the current Rufinos for bridging my retirement from my old judicial career to my new opinion writing career.


Cheers! Mabuhay! Maraming salamat po.

* Remarks of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the launch of his new book, “With Due Respect 2” on March 15, 2017 at the Vicente A. Rufino Hall, De La Salle University Rufino Campus, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

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