* Transcript of the extemporaneous Closing Remarks delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN after the Public Lecture of Polytechnic University of the Philippines Law Dean Gemy Lito L. Festin held on May 12, 2018 at the Bulwagang Bonifacio, A. Mabini Campus, PUP, Anonas Street, Sta. Mesa, Manila.
I have three points to share tonight. First, let me congratulate Dean Gemy Lito L. Festin, our featured chair holder of the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity, for his innovative and well-researched piece titled “Tutelary Rules Principle as Legal Tool for Easing Economic Rights’ Access to Justice in the Philippines.” I think it is one of best lectures I have heard since the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (FLP), in cooperation with the Metrobank Foundation (MBF), started this Lecture Series.
Appreciation and Honorarium
To show our appreciation more concretely and beyond mere words, may I hand over to Dean Festin his honorarium for P100,000, via this check for P90,000; the balance of P10,000 constitute the withholding tax which will be remitted directly to the Bureau of Internal Revenue in accordance with law, and which remittance the good Dean may use when he files and pays for his income tax returns early next year.
So too, may I advise you that Dean Festin’s piece will find a prominent place in the Coffee Table Book that FLP and MBF will be publishing soon to feature our outstanding professorial lectures. This is not an ordinary book. It will be a big multicolored tome that everyone concerned would be happy to place in their living rooms, not just in their libraries.
I also felicitate the three “reactors,” (in the order they spoke) Atty. Rosalie J. De la Cruz-Cada (Deputy Director for Projects of the IBP Center for Legal Aid), Judge Joselito C. Villarosa (of Branch 66, Regional Trial Court of Makati), and Atty. Arnold C. Bayobay (Graft Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman) for their interesting feedbacks and questions. My admiration too goes to Companero Carlos S. Cao Jr., former Labor Undersecretary and POEA Administrator, for being an insightful and funny Master of Ceremonies.
Truth to tell, this is my first time to hear of the word “Tutelary.” Indeed one is never too old to learn. I may be a retired chief justice now at 81 years, but I think I am not “retarded.” One is never too old to learn new treats.
Political vs Economic Rights
We have always known in law school that most of our economic rights, even those defined in our Constitution, are not self-executing in nature and cannot, by themselves, be the subject of justiciable controversies. To be enforceable, they need enabling legislation. In several decisions, our Supreme Court – citing the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission – has held that economic and social rights cannot, by themselves, be enforced by the judiciary.
This line of decisions finds support in constitutional history, starting from the United States where we adopted our own Constitution. Remember that the more than two-century-old US Constitution was crafted during the American struggle for freedom and independence from British colonial rule when political and civil liberties were the battle cry. And so it is with us. All our basic laws, starting from the Malolos Constitution to the present 1987 Charter, were also drafted at a time when our people fought for political and civil freedom from foreign conquerors, Spanish and American. This is reflected most specially in the Bill of Rights which centered on political and civil rights.
In the present age, while we still treasure our political and civil liberties, our people’s focus is more on their economic needs and wants. This is clear in many recent credible polls and surveys showing that the most urgent concerns of our people relate to poverty, jobs and high prices. They long for liberation from the bondage of poverty. Of what use indeed is the freedom to travel if we cannot fill our stomachs? Of what use is the freedom of information, if we cannot quench our thirst for potable water?
This is why – since I was a student mired in destitution to my professional life as a lawyer and later as I jurist – I have always advocated for justice and jobs, freedom and food, ethics and economics, nay, liberty and prosperity; one is useless without the other. My major decisions starting from Tanada vs. Angara in 1997 have espoused this doctrine. That is why even in retirement, I organized the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity as a way of celebrating my 75th birthday in 2011.
Writ of Prosperity
In his lecture, Dean Festin ably tackled this jurisprudential difficulty of enforcing economic rights. But he has moved further by proposing a solution – by referring to the “Tutelary Rules” which the Columbian Supreme Court has drawn precisely to enforce economic rights.
I will no longer repeat his many cogent arguments why we must encourage our Supreme Court to follow the Columbian example and promulgate new Rules of Procedure – a power our Constitution has endowed on the Court – to authorize the enforcement of economic rights. But may I add that one good way of doing that is to create the Writ of Prosperity, in the same manner that our Court has promulgated the Writ of Amparo, the Writ of Habeas Data and the Writ of Kalikasan.
The last Writ was issued to provide a legal way to enforce the right to ecology which is arguably an economic right that does not normally find the same traditional constitutional treatment as the self-executing political and civil rights.
May I suggest that Dean Festin take the initiative of bringing this matter to the Philippine Association of Law Schools to the help of his colleagues there in molding this idea and preparing the detailed Rules of Procedure for this new Writ of Prosperity. I am sure PALS President Sedfrey Candelaria of Ateneo would be sympathetic to this proposal.
I am sure also that both the FLP and the Metrobank Foundation will support this endeavor to give birth to the Writ of Prosperity.
May I also suggest that concurrently with the effort to convince the Supreme Court to institute the new Writ, we make a similar endeavor to amend the Constitution to include the right to prosperity and the corollary right against poverty? This would be timely because of the current national effort to amend the Constitution. Again, both the FLP and the MBF, and I personally, would be happy to support this worthwhile venture.
Polytechnic University of the Philippines
The second topic of my closing remarks would be about PUP. I must confess that this is my first time to visit your school. But I do know about it since it was the old Philippine College of Commerce founded in 1901 up to its transformation into a university by a group of avant garde educators led by my activist friend, the late Dr. Nemesio Prudente. PUP is also kind of nostalgic for me, because I located my first law office here in Sta. Mesa, at the Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard very near the vehicular bridge crossing the railroad, less than one kilometer away. Back then, I was intending to run for Congress in this congressional district that includes the University Belt, until the idea was vetoed by my dear wife who did not want any partisan political post for me, or for our children.
To be sure, I am sentimentally attached to PUP, because it was, and still is, the hotbed of activism. Activist student leaders are close to my heart because as you may know, I organized the National Union of Students of the Philippines more than fifty years ago, which was, and still is, the largest student organization in the country. Incidentally, at that time, the Catholic colleges like Ateneo, La Salle, St. Theresa and St. Scholastica did not participate in non-Catholic student organizations. But the NUSP crossed the cloisters and got the collegialas into the mainstream student movements. This historic turn was a bonus for me — it was because of the NUSP that I met the gentle Scholastican, Elenita Carpio, who later became my wife.
I am thus happy that PUP chose to be an active participant in FLP’s programs. Aside from the professorial chair that FLP awarded to Dean Festin, it also awarded full scholarships, including tuition, books and monthly stipends, to three FLP law students, Jun Dexter Rojas, Ma. Vida Malaya Villarico and Rexlyn Anne Evora. They won three of the 21 scholarships awarded for this school year, with only Ateneo de Manila surpassing the count with four. Ms Evora was also chosen as one of the six finalists in the FLP Dissertation Writing Contest.
May I also announce right now that additional cash prizes await them should they graduate with Latin honors? FLP will also award P100,000 to each FLP scholar or dissertation writing contest winner/finalist who make it to the Top Ten in the coming Bar Exam, and double that, or P200,000, for the numero uno.
I have no doubt that PUP graduates are capable of achieving this feat. After all, your bar exam track record is enviable. Your first batch of graduates in 2016 had a 100 percent passing record, while your 2017 grads had an 88.88 passing rate. It is time for you to top Bar Exam this year. I will be there in 2019 to celebrate and hand out FLP’s checks for the Top Ten achievers among our scholars or dissertation winners/finalists.
Why I Am Who I Am
Now, for the third and final topic of my closing remarks. I was very touched by the Invocation that started our program. I was reminded of my speech titled “Why I Am Who I Am Now” delivered in 2007 when I was the guest speaker to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Canossian Sisters (the speech can be accessed in my personal website, cjpanganiban.com).
By way of backgrounder, like many of you in the audience, and yes, like many of PUP students in general, I belonged to a very poor family when I was young. My father finished only high school and was a government clerk. My mother did not finish elementary school. My father supported not only his four children, of whom I was the youngest, but also his seven siblings who were all younger than him, because his own father passed away even before I was born. As the youngest in our impoverished family, nothing was left for me. I had to sell newspapers, peddle cigarettes amongst jeepney passengers, and shined shoes to support myself. In college, I had to maintain my scholarship and sell textbooks to my classmates to be able to own one as my commission.
I studied in public schools, at Juan Luna Elementary School and Mapa High School. I wanted to enroll at the University of the Philippines for college where I was granted a tuition scholarship as an honor graduate of our high school batch of 1,200. But my impoverished father could not afford the then 15-centavo bus fare from our small rented “entresuelo” in Cataluna Street, Sampaloc, Manila to the UP Diliman Campus. He advised me to enroll instead at the then nearby University of Santo Tomas or Far Eastern University.
At UST, I was interviewed by an old Dominican priest. “So, you want a college scholarship. Since you come from a non-Catholic high school, I will ask you three questions. If you can answer them, I will grant you a scholarship. First, how many Gods are there?” “One,” I readily replied.
“How many persons in one God?” he followed up. “Three,” I gamely answered. Then came the final question, “Name them.” Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, I did not know the answer, so I muttered, “Susmariosep!” “Wrong,” he boomed with finality, ending my hope of entering the oldest university in the country. At FEU, I was granted a scholarship without any question, but I had to maintain it with high grades throughout my stay.
That incident I considered as a challenge for me to learn more of my faith. At FEU, I met the chaplain, the late Fr. Michael Nolan, who recruited me to the Student Catholic Action. After college, I continued my Catholic learning, attending many seminars and reading the Holy Bible back to back a few times, plus tens of volumes of commentaries on Catholicism. I embraced the Lord Jesus as my savior and master.
In 1991, I was invited to be a lay member of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, where I (together with about 50 Catholic lay leaders) met and dialogued with all the Catholic bishops and leading priests here in forging new regulations to implement the reforms of Vatican II in the Philippines.
My ascent to Catholic leadership was capped by my appointment by the late Pope John Paul II as the only Filipino lay member in 1996-2002 of the Pontifical Council for the Laity based in the Vatican City. This 30-member Council is the highest advisory “dicastery” advising the Pope “on all matters regarding the life of the Catholic faithful worldwide.”
So, from being a Catholic ignoramus who did not know the three persons of the Holy Trinity, I graduated to the highest lay advisory council of the Pope in the Vatican. I relate this story to inspire you, my young friends in the audience, that we should take disappointments and defeats as opportunities and challenges to achieve victory later in life. Poverty and ignorance are not barriers to success. They can be overcome. Looking back, maybe if I were not as poor and as ignorant as I was, I would not have struggled and worked as hard as I did to become “why I am who I am today.”
Maraming salamat po and magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.