Overwhelmed with Honor and Joy

Response of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN to the speech of incumbent Chief Justice ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO launching the book WITH DUE RESPECT 3, a collection of the columns of CJ Panganiban from 2016 to 2021 published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, held online on December 7, 2021 to celebrate his 85th birthday.  

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo and my other esteemed colleagues in the Supreme Court and in the judiciary, incumbent and retired, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. 

       I am overwhelmed with honor and joy that my dear friend Marixi R. Prieto and her gung-ho daughter, Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, President and CEO of the Inquirer Group of Companies, have once again published a compilation of my columns during the last five years into a book and titled it “With Due Respect 3.” Indeed, though I feel unworthy of their kindness, they perpetualize my humble work into books every five years – the first in 2011, the second in 2016 and the third, today, December 7, 2021 which happens to be exactly my 85th birthday. The difference is that this year’s book is divided into two volumes. 

       To be completely honest, I did not consider myself capable of writing a column. The plain truth is that I have never written one in my life until after I retired from the judiciary. Though I have had a historical romance with newspapers, having peddled them for many years in the streets of Sampaloc, Manila to help my impoverished family meet our daily sustenance when I was an elementary and high school student, I have never dreamt of writing a column. Having been a lawyer of Teodoro Valencia, a famous columnist of the country a few decades ago, I knew the rigors, risks and responsibilities of column-writing which are different from authoring legal articles for law journals and writing decisions and resolutions in the Supreme Court.  

       For these reasons, I was very hesitant to accept the kind invitation of Marixi to write three times a week for the Inquirer. I sincerely thought I was not worthy to be counted among the Inquirer’s opinion writers who are known to the best in our country. I became even more hesitant after my now deceased guru, Dr. Jovito R. Salonga, told me he didn’t know of any retired chief justice who has written a column. He said, “Chief justices make history. They do not write it.”  

       But Marixi could not be dissuaded. She said, “Dr. Salonga may be correct, but I do not know of any retired chief justice who had been offered to write a column.” Indeed, Marixi convinced me and we compromised that I would write only once a week, instead of thrice as she wanted. 

       Consequently, I can truly say that I owe Marixi my opinion-writing career. Indeed, I have written continuously for 15 years from February 2007 up to now, a period longer than my over 11 years in the Supreme Court. During all those 15 years, I wrote every Sunday without fail, despite occasional illnesses, travel abroad of about five times a year, and pressing work as an officer, corporate director or adviser in over 15 companies and foundations.  

       I owe her whatever awards or accolades I have received because of my humble work. I owe her the acclaim that the first book, With Due Respect 1, received as the third placer in the Amazon best seller list for the courts category, topped only by first placer Jeffrey Toobin of CNN, and second placer Antonin Scalia, the revered (and now deceased) senior justice of the US Supreme Court.  

       May I also say that – as I wrote in my column on November 7, 2021 titled “Disini to pay damages in BNPP suit” – I have undergone the agony and travails of being sued for libel and the time-consuming harassment that an innocent person has to endure to have a baseless charge dismissed. My consolation is that I was absolutely cleared by the Department of Justice and by the Court of Appeals that stopped the Regional Trial Court of Makati from hearing the charge for being completely inane and baseless.  

       May I also express my sincere thanks to our incumbent Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo for formally launching With Due Respect 3 and for his very kind words for this ancient jurist. At age 65, he could be my son, and I could be his father. Like me, he did not seek his position as the highest magistrate of our country. He was named to the position by President Rodrigo Duterte without his asking for it. Uncomfortable with public attention, he maintains a very low profile, making public appearances only once in a while. This quality makes this launch of With Due Respect 3 even more ennobling and memorable.  

       I know that he commands the esteem and highest regard of his colleagues who, like me, expect him to lead the Court with passion and dedication. I personally know too that he has an abundance of the four attributes that our Constitution requires of jurists – proven competence, integrity, probity and independence. In addition, he is also a glutton for work and is determined to solve the perennial backlog of cases that has bedeviled the Court and the judiciary for so many, many years. And being familiar with new technologies, he is ready and eager to automate the judiciary. 

       Permit me also to thank JV Rufino, the young and energetic boss of the Inquirer Books, for giving special attention to the printing and publication of WDR3, as well as Compañero Sean James Borja who patiently arranged the columns topically instead of chronologically to give readers a better flavor of the various subjects taken up by my columns. Sean was the valedictorian of his law class at Ateneo de Manila in 2018 and copped first place in the bar exams of the same year, aside from being a much-awarded mooter during local and international moot court competitions. We, at the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, are very proud of him for leading our first batch of scholars who took the bar exam. Let us watch him grow and go as he matures in the practice of law.  

       Finally, may I thank the Inquirer editors, especially Jorge Aruta and Rosario Garcellano who have both retired now, and of course, Gilbert Cadiz, the incumbent opinion editor, for their patience and prudence in correcting my occasional grammatical errors, and failures to observe the Inquirer style book. May they never tire of teaching this aging jurist the rudiments of the English language and of column-writing. Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat. 

[1] Response of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN to the speech of incumbent Chief Justice ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO launching the book WITH DUE RESPECT 3, a collection of the columns of CJ Panganiban from 2016 to 2021 published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, held online on December 7, 2021 to celebrate his 85th birthday.  

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