Speech delivered by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno during the launch of retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban’s book With Due Respect 2 on March 15, 2017 at the De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Law, Rufino Campus, Bonifacio Global City

Thank you, dear friends.
I am here today as a true admirer of Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban. More than anything, it is what he has stood for in his life as a jurist that has impressed upon me the importance of the position I now hold. But allow me to also say that I am grateful to Marixi Rufino-Prieto, to “Sandy” Prieto-Romualdez, to “Charlie” Rufino, “JV” [Rufino, John Nery, Juliet Labog-Javellana, and the entire Philippine Daily Inquirer for continuing to hold the nation a loft in a certain sense to a standard whereby everyone is called to a search for truth. And I guess your role remains unparalleled, and the fact that you have sustained this crusade of yours, if I may say so, speaks volumes about the men and women who make both your on-grid world and your off-grid world authentic. So mabuhay kayo, Inquirer.
Allow me to dispense with mentioning the dignitaries who are here today. There are many, but except for one very special person, Washington SyCip. Dear Wash, I know that not many especially not many among our fellowmen know the kind of wisdom you have imparted to so many leaders of this country. And we hope that you will continue this singular role that you have played in the history of this country. So Wash, here’s to your continued good health.
Allow me to say that it is in fact a distinct honor, indeed a pleasure, to join you in this gathering where both the world of the judiciary and that of the media meet, albeit in a social setting, as befits the man whose book is being launched today. He is none other than our dear friend, retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, who uniquely straddles both worlds.
As you may know, Chief Justice Art is one of only three living predecessors as Chief Justice of the Philippines. Even as retired Chief Justice, he continues to support the work that the Judiciary does—very recently, he, together with former Chief Justices Hilario G. Davide and Reynato S. Puno, have agreed to help the Judicial and Bar Council to work as consultants without any payment. (applause) So Chief, this is a rare occasion for me to thank you for that kind of service you still continue to lend to the Judicial and Bar Council and indirectly to the judiciary.
He has been very instrumental in explaining the work of the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court with his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. And may I acknowledge that it is through John, he has become a chief teacher of law. And I needed very little persuasion to accept this invitation today as he launches yet another book because I am so convinced that with his prolific pen, this time containing his selected Inquirer columns from 2011-2016, he will again continue with this kind of encouraging atmosphere that we have set for him today to continue educating us again and again. For purpose of disclosure of self-interest to those who may not have read the book yet that I am lauding his work, but it includes a little something about my appointment as Chief Justice. So pardon me for that.
I, of course, have been informed that this is actually the second collection of selected writings from Chief Justice Panganiban’s column “With Due Respect,” and I heard from JV the wonderful success that the first volume merited. And we should all be glad that writing on Philippine law, politics, culture, the philosophies of the various Justices, inside stories even, have merited a high place in the readership of Amazon.com. So I am very sure, Chief Justice, with all conviction, it will not be your last collection of volumes. (applause) Through God’s grace, I am praying and so many people are praying for you to continue to remain strong.
Indeed Chief Justice Panganiban’s blossoming as columnist, which incidentally he lists first as his present occupation—I am sure, Marixi, it is not the one that earns him the most income, no? (laughter)—is proof that there is life after retirement from the Supreme Court, including retirement from the exalted position of Chief Justice. But how can anyone expect a personality as vital as that of Chief Justice Panganiban to not have his voice heard anymore when he retired considering that his voice had eloquently and powerfully stood up for the liberty and prosperity of our people when he was sitting in the Court?
In hindsight, his becoming a newspaper columnist should not totally come as a surprise to anyone; there were already portents of this in his past. In his youth, he peddled newspapers in the streets of Sampaloc, Manila, and growing up, he became a member and editor of various campus publications. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, he served as President of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In his 11-year judicial career, all spent in the Supreme Court, he wrote prodigiously with an output of 1,200 full decisions and opinions as well as one book in every year of his tenure in the Supreme Court. Printer’s ink may thus be said to run in his veins—I don’t know the brand or quality (laughter)—so that not even the discouragement of his acknowledged “guru and surrogate father,” the late Senate President Jovito [R.] Salonga, as well as eminently practical reasons, swayed him from accepting the offer of Philippine Daily Inquirer Chair Marixi Prieto to write a column for the paper after his retirement from the Supreme Court in 2006. In fact I harbor a suspicion that it was in fact Senator Salonga’s discouraging comment that “No retired chief justice has become a columnist” that he took as a challenge and may even have subconsciously spurred CJ Art to accept Ms. Prieto’s offer and make history once again.
Certainly his story—Chief Justice Panganiban’s experiences, his convictions, his hopes, his dreams dreams—forms the perspective from which he writes his column. As a self-made man who overcame a hardscrabble youth which caused him to forego a scholarship to Yale Law School, his personal mantra is “Good news, bad news. Who Knows? I will just keep on doing my best and God will do the rest,” quoting from one of his favorite stories which appears more than once in his book.
And true enough, without fail for the last 10 years and counting, his column has appeared in the Sunday edition of the Inquirer. He wrote through “time constraints, occasional illnesses, carpal tunnel of… two hands, business commitments, speaking engagements and travel abroad.” Nothing could have sustained such an effort but a belief on his part in the importance of his work as a column writer of a daily with a readership as wide as the Inquirer’s. And his work is important, make no mistake about it.
As I have stated in the preface I wrote for his book, it has been said that the decisions of the Supreme Court, besides resolving legal disputes, can also be viewed as civic education for our people; and our justices, to use the words of former Yale Law dean Eugene Rostrow, viewed as “inevitable teachers in a vital national seminar.” Through his column, CJ Art, even after retirement from the Court, continues to empower our people to engage and take part in the public discourse and debate by informing them about the national issues affecting them. For instance, he has written on the right to information, the move to federalism, judicial reforms, and how the judiciary can help the national economy; as well as walked his readers through such historic events as EDSA 1 and 2 and the impeachment of a Chief Justice. Take note that it is his personal choice to write about such issues as the Inquirer gives him a free hand on what to write about. His is no small contribution as, to quote our landmark decision in Valmonte v. Belmonte, an informed citizenry is vital to the democratic government envisioned under our Constitution. I myself have gone on record in saying that our nation cannot progress unless we as a people engage in a national dialogue about our pressing issues and concerns and how to address them rather than leave everything to the say-so of our elected representatives and the mandarins in civil service.
CJ Art evidently understands this dynamic as a reading of his book readily reveals. He has always been a firm believer that the people should be provided with more, and not less, information about matters of government and governance. When he was a member of the Supreme Court, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office, a first in the then nearly century-old history of the Court, to disseminate information about the Court, its decisions, and activities. So Atty. “Teddy” Te has him also to thank for this initiative. In my term as Chief Justice, I have also endeavored to give our people greater access to the Court. For example, in 2013 we made use of the available technology and started live streaming oral arguments, such as the one held yesterday on the petition filed by Senator Leila de Lima. In past years, people had to physically trek to the Supreme Court and line up to get passes on a “first come first served basis” to be able to enter the En Banc session hall and watch oral arguments. Thanks to CJ Art and similar visionaries, the Court is now firmly on the path of greater transparency and accountability. Please noe that in accordance to my request to Chief Public Information Officer Atty. Theodore Te, whatever information that is not confidential and will not hamper the work of the Court should be made available. (applause)
In closing, I would like to thank CJ Art not as Chief Justice but also in my capacity as a citizen for the immeasurable public service he has rendered through his column. His plain language approach in explaining the work of the Court that often involves the use of jargon or technical language has brought the Court and the work of the courts closer to the people. It is a rare gift that he has—being able to merge clear and plain language without sacrificing the substance of law in his columns. Knowing CJ Art to also be a prayerful person, may I close with a prayer that his “ageless passion” continue to burn bright as he pursues his advocacy of “safeguarding the liberty and nurturing the prosperity of our people under the rule of law,” and that he continue to find great joy and personal fulfillment in writing his column. Pagpalain kayo ng Poong Maykapal at Mabuhay po kayo, CJ Art!

[1] Artemio V. Panganiban. “Joy in writing for the Inquirer.” February 12, 2017. http://opinion.inquirer.net/101589/joy-writing-inquirer, accessed March 14, 2017.

[1] Id.

[1] G.R. No. 74930, February 13, 1989.

[1] Title of the musical on Chief Justice Panganiban’s life story.

[1]Thank you to all.” Closing Remarks of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN, Chairman of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, during the Formal Award Ceremony for the LibPros Scholarship Program at the University of the Philippines new campus at the Bonifacio Global City, Taguig on December 1, 2016. https://cjpanganiban.com/2016/12/01/thank-you-to-all/, accessed March 14, 2017.

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