Congratulations, Appreciation and Explanation

Closing remarks of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the Awarding Ceremonies held on May 18, 2019 at the Ateneo de Manila Professional Schools Auditorium at Rockwell Center in Makati City in honor of the (1) bar exam topnotchers, passers and top graduates, (2) the current 2018-2019 scholars and (3) the winners of the just-concluded Dissertation Writing Contest of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity.


Your honors, your excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. We are honoring today the cream of Philippine legal education, the topnotchers, honor graduates, scholars and winners of the various Education Programs of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, in partnership with the Tan Yan Kee Foundation and the Ayala Corporation. To begin my closing address, may I ask our honorees, a question that is relevant to us, given the just-concluded mid-term elections:

What is the difference between an ordinary robber and a corrupt politician? Answer: The ordinary robber chooses the people he or she will rob. On the other hand, the politician is chosen by the people whom he or she will rob.

Another question: Why do seniors like me love to talk to themselves? Answer: Because they always want to hear an expert’s advice. Another answer: They like to talk to themselves because they cannot get an audience of young, brilliant people to listen to them.

Aha, but today, I got you bright, young people – topnotchers, passers, honor graduates, scholars and winners – to listen to my corny jokes. Now that I have your ears, I would like to talk about three topics: One, words of congratulations; two, words of appreciation and three, words of explanation.

Words of Congratulations

To begin my words of congratulations, please join me in felicitating our number one bar exam topnotcher, Atty. Sean James Borja. He has been our scholar since our scholarship program began in 2016 when he was a junior law student. Since then, he has never disappointed us; in fact, he has always amazed us because he maintained his academic excellence and leadership qualities as well as showed his willingness and ability to internalize and promote the philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law. Moreover, he graduated as valedictorian of his class here at the Ateneo de Manila (…the best law school… in Rockwell, Makati!) and then proceeded to become number 1 in the last bar examination. As earlier announced by our emcees, he received scholarship grants of P200,000 for his third year law proper, another P200,000 for his fourth year law proper, plus P25,000 for being valedictorian, and now another P200,000 for being numero uno in the last bar exams, or a total of P625,000 in just two years. Cheers!

Please join me also in congratulating Atty. Katrina Monica Gaw for being our scholar during her fourth year law proper for which she received P200,000 and for copping the 5th place in the last bar examination for which we just gave her P100,000, or a total of P300,000. She wanted to be with us today but she had already planned a trip abroad, as her reward to herself, for her magnificent achievements. When I saw her recently, I told her she was better than I because I ranked only No. 6, so she must excel my being only chief justice!

Of course, I also greet our 20 new scholars who received P200,000 each, divided into maximum of P100,000 for tuition, P80,000 in monthly stipends, book allowance of P20,000 and a plaque of appreciation. Like Attys. Borja and Gaw, we expect them to top the bar exams.

As earlier announced, we have 10 finalists in the Dissertation Writing Contest who won P20,000 each, and from these 10, our distinguished Board of Judges selected three third prize winners for an additional cash prize of P100,000 each; one second prize winner, Diana Lou Boado of the Lyceum of the Philippines University, for an additional P200,000; and one first prize winner, Josiah David Quising of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law (the best law school in the Philippines… according to the FEU Law Alumni Association!) for an additional P300,000. Incidentally, Mr. Quising was also our scholar during his junior year in law. We did not forget their faculty advisers who were rewarded P50,000 for each of the third prize winners, P75,000 for the second prize winner and P100,000 for the first prize winner. Hail and congratulations to all of them.

My words of congratulations will not be complete unless I include the parents of our topnotchers, bar passers, scholars and dissertation winners. May I ask all you proud parents to stand up, so we can recognize you? The truth is I envy you because you have sired brilliant children who will all be brilliant lawyers, prosecutors, judges, justices and chief justices someday. In my case, and of course, also of my beloved wife, Professor Leni Panganiban, none of our five children took up law. And therefore, we will not be able to feel the parental joy of having bar exam topnotchers, passers, scholars and dissertation winners.

In their default, I encouraged our ten grandchildren to take up law, promising them full scholarship from my personal retirement benefits in any school of their choice here or abroad. Unfortunately, none has taken up the bait so far. I tried my best to convince our eldest grandson Miguel, when he was still in high school, to take up law. I even showed him my library which I said I would bequeath to him. Ironically, it turned him off. He rushed to his grandmother Leni, saying that he would not take up law because he could not imagine himself reading all the voluminous books in my library. Instead, he took up an industrial management engineering course at UP, and then proceeded to take up a Master in Entrepreneurship at the Babson College in Boston, reputed to be the best entrepreneurship school in the United States. The other day, I got a text from his mother, my eldest daughter Len, who was in Boston attending his graduation, with the good news that Miguel received Magna Cum Laude honors. Well, I said to myself, they also excel pala even if they are not lawyers!

But the better news is that he was admitted, starting next school year, at the Pritzker School of Law at the Northwestern University in Chicago to take up Master of Science in Law, though he did not have a basic law degree. How is that possible? The answer according to his prayerful lola Leni is: for man it is impossible, but for God, all things are possible. The question in my ancient mind now is whether he would be allowed to take the bar exam in any country and thereafter to practice there or anywhere, even without a basic law degree.

Words of Appreciation and Thanks

Let me now turn to my second topic, words of appreciation. First, let me thank our two topnotch Boards of Judges, both chaired by respected justices of the highest court of the land, namely, Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio for the scholarship competition and Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe for the dissertation writing contest. Both of them sent regrets at their failure to attend today’s program because both are abroad. Justice Bernabe, an Ateneo alumna, wanted to attend because, according to her, she spent a considerable amount of time reading the rather voluminous dissertations submitted to her as chair of the Dissertation Board of Judges. I also invited CJ Lucas P. Bersamin but he is also out of town. Why are they all out of town? Because the Supreme Court is at recess for one month. We could not reschedule the Award Ceremonies because our scholars from various universities nationwide are taking up their final examinations this month, and today, Saturday, is the least disturbing for them.

Both Justices Carpio and Bernabe invited the members of their Boards of Judges to hold the final round of evaluating the applicants at the Division Conference Rooms of the Supreme Court. These rooms constitute the sacred inner sanctum of the temple of justice in our country where, normally, only justices are allowed entry when Division cases are deliberated upon and decided. No secretaries, clerks or aides dare enter these rooms when the justices perform their rituals and duties. This is indeed a great privilege for our scholars and winners, who even before passing the bar examinations were already allowed entry to the Supreme Court’s inner sanctum.

Along with them, may I public thank the other members of the Scholarships Board of Judges, namely former Education Secretary Edilberto C. de Jesus, who is also a former president of and a retired professor at the Asian Institute of Management, where my dear wife Leni taught together with him for 37 years; he was also president of the Far Eastern University; Dean Joan Sarausos-Largo of the University of San Carlos School of Law, which by the way, produced four of the top 10 in the last bar exam; she is the incumbent president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools, and one of the holders of the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity; Ms. Elizabeth T. Alba, an executive of the Tan Yan Kee Foundation; and Law Professor Tanya Karina A. Lat, a trustee of the FLP.

On the other hand, the four other members of the Board of Judges for the Dissertation Writing Contest are retired Supreme Court Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Dean Largo, Companero Solomon M. Hermosura, the indefatigable general counsel of Ayala Corporation, and Companero Joel Emerson J. Gregorio, a consultant of the Asian Development Bank and a trustee of the FLP.

May I also publicly thank our partner and co-sponsor, the Tan Yan Kee Foundation for generously funding our Scholarship Program? The foundation is named after the father of tycoon Lucio C. Tan. His group of companies adopted the TYK Foundation as the main outlet of its corporate social responsibility. From a holistic commitment framework, the TYK Foundation targets education, culture and sports, health and social welfare including environmental concerns, research, and manpower development. We invited Dr. Tan to join us today in handing out the cash gifts for our topnotchers and scholars but he had to leave today for an urgent meeting in Hong Kong. In his stead, we thank TYKF trustees Marixi R. Prieto, retired chair of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Amando Tetangco Jr., retired six-star governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for helping us in handing out the said checks. Gov. Say is rated six stars because he has the distinction of being the only BSP governor to serve for two terms of six years each. Had his charming wife Elma not objected because she wanted him to rest and relax, Gov. Say would have been given another term of six more years, without his asking for it.

I extend equal thanks to another partner, the Ayala Corporation, for generously funding and encouraging the FLP to sponsor the Dissertation Contest. When I advised Ayala Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala of this unique contest to provide content and substance to our advocacy for liberty and prosperity under the rule of law, he immediately agreed to fund the project, as an extra addition to Ayala’s normal budget for philanthropy. Unfortunately, Mr. Zobel is also out of the country today and could not attend. But we are happy and grateful Atty. June Lee Navarro, Ayala Corporation’s Deputy General Counsel and Ayala Land’s general counsel came and assisted us in the distribution of the cash rewards for our dissertation contest winners.

Let me also thank the Ateneo de Manila Professional Schools for allowing us to use their facilities, especially the Ateneo Auditorium where we are holding these Awarding Ceremonies. Ateneo has always been kind in opening its facilities to us for our education projects. May I say a special “thank you” to Law Dean Jose Maria G. Hofilena for his Opening Remarks? Incidentally, he is the latest addition to our list of professorial chair holders.

My deep appreciation also goes to the Philippine Daily Inquirer for the full-color, whole back page advertisement that came out today, compliments of its president, Sandy Prieto-Romualdez. The ordinary cost of that back page full color ad is P330,000 plus 12 percent VAT or a total of almost P400,000. Maraming salamat po also to the Philippine Star, through its president, Miguel G. Belmonte, for running also for free the same ad on page 15 of the May 15 issue of that paper.

Furthermore, I say my sincere appreciation to the Honorable Raul C. Pangalangan, a judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, The Netherlands for his message. When I learned yesterday that he was in town, I earnestly asked him to deliver a special message today, to which he gamely agreed. Incidentally, Judge Pangalangan’s family is a major member of the larger FLP community because his wife, UP Law Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, is one of the 15 esteemed holders of the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity, and their son Raphael was the first place winner in our Dissertation Writing Contest last year.

I cannot end my thanks without mentioning the wonderful, melodious songs of the Friends from the UP College of Music, particularly for their acapella rendition of “Primus Inter Pares,” one of 18 original songs composed by internationally-acclaimed maestro, Ryan Cayabyab, who was recently-proclaimed a national artist of the Philippines. Lyrics for these 18 songs were written by Kristian Jeff Agustin.

Let me give you a little backgrounder on Jeff. To celebrate my 75th birthday seven years ago, my former staff in the Supreme Court met to stage a concert by the Manila Symphony Orchestra featuring the favorite love songs of my wife and me. After the meeting was over, Jeff, who was one of the clerks working in my chamber when I was the incumbent Chief Justice, half-embarrassingly handed to Atty. Jean Manalili, my former chief of staff, several sheets of paper where he wrote my life story in shining poetry. To cut the long story short, these sheets of paper were submitted to Maestro Ryan who found them worthy to be turned into a unique musical depicting my life story. The musical, titled Ageless Passion, was staged at the Meralco Theater in Pasig City in 2011 to celebrate my 75th birthday. At that time, the musical had only seven original compositions. In thanksgiving, I organized the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity during the same year. It was restaged in 2016 at the Maybank Performing Arts Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, and this time to mark my 80th birthday. Maestro Ryan and Jeff added another 11 original compositions to make a complete musical of 18 original compositions. Both shows were televised for two hours over GMA NewsTV Channel 11. Notably, the musical was presented by a full complement of professional actors, singers and dancers accompanied by the 60-piece Manila Symphony Orchestra. So, I am amazed and grateful that the Friends from the UP College of Music were able to sing “Primus Inter Pares” acapella, without instrumental accompaniment. Thank you again Friends from the UP College of Music. Incidentally, our only son, Archie, graduated from the UP College of Music, Summa Cum Laude, and proceeded to take up further music studies in Munich, Germany. However, he took another masteral degree in engineering economic system at Stanford University and followed it up with a PhD also on engineering economic systems also at Stanford. Now, he is Executive Director at J.P. Morgan in NYC. Banking is his profession but music is his passion. He is probably following the footsteps of Gov. Tetangco, except that he is still a bachelor!

By the way, I wish to reiterate that Jeff Agustin, the lyrics composer, was just one of the ordinary clerks, not a legal assistant, in the Supreme Court. I did not know that he was such a talented artist. After writing the words of “Ageless Passion,” he got a scholarship from the University of Westminster in London, where he finished his Master in Visual Arts in 2012. Currently, he is finishing his PhD with dual specializations in Communication and Media from the Hong Kong Baptist University, and in Art and Design from the Manchester School of Art in Great Britain. In the country on summer break from his schooling, Jeff is with us today. May I ask him to stand up and be recognized like the other FLP scholars and winners, for he too is a scholar and winner par excellence?

Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to also cite our two emcees, Jose Angelo Tiglao and Mikael Gabrielle Ilao, both FLP scholars, for gamely and smoothly steering today’s program. Gabby correctly recalled that last year, Sean James was the emcee. Will she follow his footsteps and be numero uno in her bar exam?

Words of Explanation from FLP

My third and last topic consists of a short explanation. In ordinary parlance, this is the commercial break for our sponsor, the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity.

My friends, all our scholars and dissertation winners were chosen based on strict merit, on their academic excellence, leadership qualities and ability and willingness to internalize and espouse the philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law. Only in case of a tie was the candidates’ social status or financial plight considered, with the less-privileged candidates preferred. The main objective of the contests is to augment existing literature on the FLP’s core philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law.

For this reason, all the honorees are expected to be models, now and later in their professional careers, of the FLP’s advocacy that we all need both justice and jobs, freedom and food, ethics and economics, peace and development, liberty and prosperity; that these twin beacons must always go together for one is useless without the other; and that the best way to conquer poverty, to create wealth and to share prosperity is to unleash the entrepreneurial genius of our people by granting them the freedom and the tools to help themselves and society. I ask them to make a solemn vow to carry on these advocacies during their lifetime, even after I have gone from this world and passed to the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and God.

To help them continue these advocacies, FLP is organizing new programs, including the formation of an FLP Scholars Society to keep alive and burning their enduring bond of friendship and lifetime vow of continuing our advocacies.

After that announcement, that commercial from the sponsor, let me finally hail all of you ladies and gentlemen for attending today’s ceremonies and for your enthusiastic claps and cheers.

To show our appreciation, I invite all of you to a simple merienda at the lobby outside this auditorium. Let us break bread and continue toasting, cheering and congratulating our honorees, even as we wish our fourth year scholars and winners good luck during their graduation and forthcoming bar exams. Mabuhay!