* Message delivered by Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, Guest of Honor and Speaker, and Chairman, Board of Judges, FLP Legal Scholarship Program 2019-2020, during the Awarding Ceremonies of the Bar Topnotchers and other Bar Exam Passers, Honor Graduates, Scholarship Awardees, Dissertation Writing Contest Winners and Finalists held via Zoom videoconferencing at 10:00 am on June 12, 2020.
Hon. Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines;
Retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, Chairman of the Board, The Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity;
Members of the Board of Judges of the Dissertation Writing Contest 2019-2020 and of the FLP Legal Scholarship Program for the Academic Year 2019-2020
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
A pleasant day to everyone!
My association with retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban has a long history. As such, I can say that I am privy to his ideals, aspirations, and vision for the Judiciary, as well as the legal profession. He had always seen the world with such infectious optimism. He believes that this Utopia exists where the branches of power co-exist harmoniously; where the people’s civil liberties are robust; where private enterprise thrives; and ultimately, there is an equitable distribution of wealth where the marginalized share in the sense of hope and prosperity.
These are the cornerstones of Chief Justice Panganiban’s legacy, and they are given life by the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity.
This house is built on the vision of “Liberty and Prosperity under the Rule of Law,” and the best way to ensure its stability is in strengthening its foundation. The organization thought it wise to advance its goals by investing in the fittest of candidates to the legal profession. Today, we have great reasons to celebrate.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Foundation managed to have 100 percent of its candidates successfully hurdle the 2019 Bar Examinations. This is a testament to the collective brilliance, determination, and will of our scholars, as well as the foundation’s keen eye for potential and tenacious follow-through. This is truly an amazing feat worth having a moment for.
But perhaps the icing on the proverbial cake is the sterling victory of the Foundation’s very own topnotchers. They are Jun Dexter Rojas of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines who placed 9th, and Kenneth Glenn Manuel of my alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law, who placed 6thin the 2019 Bar Exams. Ladies and gentlemen, take a bow.
Incidentally, Kenneth, a Certified Public Accountant, is also an alumnus of my alma mater in the undergrad, the Colegio de San Juan de Letran which is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year. To you, Kenneth, I say, Arriba!
But these are just some of the things that make this year’s celebration unique, special, and memorable. There are things much bigger than us that we have to address as an organization, as a nation, and as human beings. This pandemic has turned the world on its side and we may never live our lives as we knew it.
I cringe at the term “new normal” because at the rate changes are happening, we can hardly keep up with the new “new”. The bottom line, and I dare say the most important thing during these very trying times, is that we have to be resilient. We have to keep our ears close to the ground and have a sense of “now” so that we can prepare, adjust, and adapt quickly to these changes.
But this is not all doom and gloom. In fact, this is the best time to put plans in place and to think more strategically and purposefully.
We, at the Supreme Court, have had to make adjustments ourselves as we endeavor to execute the mandate given us by the Constitution as seamlessly as possible without compromising the health, security, and safety of our people. The Justices had to keep up with the times, turning “techies” overnight, so that we could learn how to use these teleconferencing technologies. I dare say that I have never worked so hard in my life until now.
More than ever before, we would be leaning heavily on technology. The health crisis has indeed challenged the administration of justice. Thankfully, the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and to the Revised Rules on Evidence, as well as the Guidelines on the Use of Videoconferencing Technology for the Remote Appearance or Testimony of Certain Persons Deprived of Liberty in Jails and National Penitentiaries, have anticipated this and provided for the infrastructure to allow electronic filing of pleadings and teleconferencing in courtrooms, among other innovations.
During the second month of the quarantine period, there were reports of Covid-19 infection among Persons Deprived of Liberty or PDLs. In order to help arrest this possible health disaster in our detention facilities, the Supreme Court, through the Chief Justice, issued Administrative Circular No. 37-2020 on 27 April 2020 allowing more trial courts to pilot-test videoconferencing in hearing urgent matters in criminal cases involving PDLs.
Thereafter, the Court again reiterated the use of videoconferencing in hearing cases but this time in both criminal and civil cases. This directive was in Administrative Circular Nos. 39-2020 and 40-2020 which was issued on 14 May 2020 and 15 May 2020, respectively.
The Court also directed Court Administrator Midas Marquez, and our Public Information Office, to fully utilize our Supreme Court Website and Twitter account in sending out communications and announcements in order to quickly disseminate them to the public and court users. The Court’s Help Desk is likewise operational. Our offices have been operating on a skeleton force and work from home set ups.
So, you see, we remain optimistic. We all have to be. We are looking forward to a foreseeable future when this pandemic would be contained, and a vaccine would become readily available at all drugstores. This situation has forced us to innovate, and discover, and grow. These are the very tools that drive us to succeed. They say that the Covid-19 virus had inadvertently become an equalizer of sorts as the virus sees past status, religion, and gender. Now that humanity is having a moment, there can be no better time to serve. Freedom and prosperity are in our horizon.
Congratulations to the winners of the Dissertation Contest 2019-2020, the Scholars of the Legal Scholarship Program 2019-2020, the Honor Graduates, the 2019 Bar Exams Passers, and the Bar Exam Topnotchers of the Foundation of Liberty and Prosperity.