Hail to the Future Leaders of Our Country

Remarks delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the Awarding Ceremonies of the Honor Graduates, Scholarship Awardees, Dissertation Writing Contest Winners and Finalists held via Zoom videoconferencing at 3:00 PM on August 13, 2021.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

          At the outset, please permit me to thank Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo and Senior Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe for chairing our Boards of Judges for our Scholarship Program and for our Dissertation Writing Contest, respectively. Moreover, let me also say how appreciative I am for the valuable advice they delivered earlier, Justice Bernabe for her Opening Remarks and CJ Gesmundo for his speech as our Guest of Honor and Speaker.

          Indeed, as Justice Bernabe noted, this is her third time to chair the dissertation writing Board of Judges. Though she is scheduled to retire from the Court in May next year, I hope that she would continue honoring us by sharing her expertise in safeguarding liberty and in nurturing prosperity even after her fruitful and brilliant term in the Court.

          Chief Justice Gesmundo’s speech is a gem not only for our scholars and winners but also for full-fledged lawyers and for this ancient retiree. I am referring to his thesis, to which I fully concur without any reservation or separate opinion, that “the power of the judiciary, far from being passive and weak is actually dynamic and compelling” and that “the power to resolve and decide issues and controversies with finality carries with it guidance on future actions.”

          Let me also thank the other judges who were earlier acknowledged during the program, especially my good friend, Secretary of Justice Menardo I. Guevarra. I always look forward every Sunday for his insights on my Inquirer columns, insights he texts to me via WhatsApp. I also express our gratitude to our kind partners: the Tan Yan Kee Foundation headed by the generous Dr. Lucio C. Tan as Chairman and his brother, Harry C. Tan as Vice Chairman, for the Scholarship Program, and the Ayala Corporation headed by the esteemed Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala for our Dissertation Writing Contest.

          Let me now formally hail and congratulate our honorees: the scholarship awardees, the dissertation writing winners and finalists, as well as the honor graduates. The FLP is singularly proud of all of you. These two FLP projects are designed to help you pass, nay top, the bar examinations. And beyond the bar exams, FLP aims to train you to think, study, analyze and write clearly, creatively and critically to meet the demands of our profession and our nation, with emphasis on how the safeguarding of liberty and the nurturing of prosperity could be applied to the various aspects of legal theory and practice.

          During our past award ceremonies, we also honored our bar topnotchers. However, the bar exam scheduled last November was cancelled due to the rampaging COVID 19 pandemic. Thus, we do not have bar topnotchers and placers during our Awards Ceremony today. Nonetheless, at about this time next year, we hope to hand cash grants to our future bar topnotchers among our two batches of scholars and dissertations winners. Remember, our two earlier batches had topnotchers among them, Sean James Borja, first place, and Katrina Gaw, fifth place, for our first batch; and Kenneth Glenn Manuel, sixth place, and Jun Dexter Rojas, ninth place, for our second batch. Moreover, all of them, 100 percent of them, successfully hurdled the tests. So, I expect you, our third and fourth batches, to rise to the level of excellence set by your predecessors.

          Earlier, we also welcomed and inducted our present batch of scholars and winners into the FLP Scholars Society or FLPSS. I hope you will be proud to belong to this exclusive group where membership is limited to those who pass the exacting qualifications required by our stringent rules and the screening of our boards of judges. No hazing or corporal punishment is required, just academic excellence and your commitment to live by and uphold the philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law from now on till the end of your life on earth.    

          Let the FLPSS be your networking podium to strengthen one another as you answer the call to lead our people. Let it also be your way of giving back, to spread the call for excellence, for trustworthiness and for patriotism.

          In 10 or 20 years, you will be the leaders of our country. You will be the super lawyers, the justices and judges, the legislators, the governors and mayors, the cabinet members, the chief justices, and the presidents, who will shape our destiny as an upright and dignified nation that values liberty, prosperity and the rule of law.

          I am happy to note that the FLPSS has been active in the planning and execution of today’s Award Ceremony. Indeed, I expect you to take a more active role in the conduct of FLP’s activities. In fact, I have asked our Executive Director Susan Gavino to invite your President, Atty. Arvin Cortez, to attend FLP’s board meetings as an observer.

          I am also grateful that the Society is deeply involved in the celebration of FLP’s 10th Anniversary this October 10. But beyond just participating in the planning and execution of FLP’s projects, my wish is for you to be innovative and creative in thinking of how you and FLP can help our people and our country.

          For example, as a new program, I am thinking of inviting you to come to my home in small batches of 10 or 12 so we can have intimate sessions on how to advance liberty and prosperity in our own schools, families and communities. Or simply, to refresh our brains and our spirits similar to what was written in the book, “Tuesdays with Morrie.”

          It may interest you to know that my guru, the late great Senator Jovito R. Salonga, used to visit me at home after he retired from public life to exchange ideas with me on current events when I was still in the Court, and on my Inquirer columns, after I myself had retired. I pleaded with him that, being younger and less-endowed, I should be the one visiting him, but he insisted on coming to my home, allegedly because he already considered me his mentor after I became his chief legal counsel when he was president of the Senate. Anyway, I enjoyed those years of encountering and exchanging ideas with him. Truly, I can say that I had my “Sundays with Jovy,” ala Mitch Albom, the author of “Tuesdays with Morrie.” 

          Another example, I have thought of expanding our scholarship program and dissertation writing contest to encompass post-graduate students in entrepreneurship, sustainability, management and economics or ESME, and thereby balance our liberty initiatives with prosperity components. In fact, I have proposed to the Asian Institute of Management to create new programs in these ESME fields which FLP can help by initiating scholarships, dissertation contests and even professorial chairs similar to the ones we now have for the legal profession. The FLPSS members can apply for these educational programs to expand their horizons from the purely legal to the hybrid of law and entrepreneurship, or of law and sustainability, or of law and management, or of law and economics.

          Another innovative idea: I have spoken with our FLP trustees about the creation of what I tentatively call an Entrepreneurship Fund of about P1 billion (yes, one billion pesos) to help manage and to invest equity, when needed, in small and medium enterprises that have social impact, but have no access to banks and other sources of funds because precisely of their “smallness” and lack of expertise and/or capital.

          Verily, I am confident that the over 60 members of the FLPSS will be able to think of similar new and creative ideas to help the poor and the powerless to ascend the staircase of prosperity. If my ancient brain can conjure these fresh ideas, certainly your young and adventurous minds can think of even more innovative and audacious projects. That is the challenge I throw at you collectively as a Society and individually as scholars.

          Let me now briefly sum up FLP’s programs. During its first 10 years, FLP undertook and/or is currently undertaking (1) a program to stabilize itself by acquiring a 700 square-meter, one-floor condominium space in Salcedo Village, Makati, about 600 meters of which were leased to support its administrative needs with the rentals, and the balance to house its Secretariat; (2) an educational platform for the liberty component of its philosophy via professorial chairs, legal scholarships, and dissertation writing contests; (3) the publication of a Coffee Table Book and the calling of a National Forum to celebrate its 10th Anniversary; (4) the creation of an Interactive Museum of Liberty and Prosperity, in cooperation with the Supreme Court; and (5) the restaging of the Global Forum on Liberty and Prosperity in 2026 to coincide with the retirement of CJ Gesmundo.

          During its next decade, from 2022 to 2031, FLP plans to focus on prosperity to balance its liberty initiatives during its first decade (a) by sponsoring professorial chairs, scholarships and dissertation writing contests in ESME courses, similar to those we now have for the liberty part of our underlying philosophy; and (2) by creating the Entrepreneurship Fund I spoke about earlier.

          I close this short talk with the caveat that I discussed privately with Arvin, your FLPSS President. Please do not get involved in activities that tend to divide, disunite or dismember the Society. You can, of course, express your freedoms of speech and action outside the Society. After all, I know that minds are like parachutes for they work only when they are open. My plea, however, is this: while you are free to express any thoughts or to undertake any projects of your choice outside the Society; within it please do not create, or tend to create, unnecessary division and chaos. For example, while you may participate in partisan politics, please do so outside the Society, not within it. Inside the Society, we should be always united in our common pursuit of liberty, prosperity and the rule of law. We should have no political, ideological, social, religious, gender or even medical issues that will deflect us from our common vision and mission.

           I fervently hope that you will keep these words of advice even when I may no longer be around. Though I may be already in the Great Beyond, my spirit will be hovering above you, beside you and behind you – humbly to inspire and guide you in your journey of life, liberty and livelihood for our people and for our country. Maraming salamat po.

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