With Due Respect 3 (CJ Gesmundo’s Speech and CJ Panganiban’s Response)

Compilation of articles written by Retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban
December 7, 2021 | 5:00 p.m.

SPEECH by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo as Guest of Honor

Our birthday celebrant, retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban; Inquirer Group of Companies President and Group Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Sandy Prieto-Romualdez; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon.

When I was interviewed by the Judicial and Bar Council for the position of Chief Justice, I remember being asked whether I was in favor of extending the term of Justices of the Supreme Court, obviously beyond 70, perhaps something similar to that in the United States where Justices serve for life, restricted only by good behavior. I remember immediately answering that even if one can have a long productive life, extending the Justices’ term beyond 70 would be counter-productive in the long run considering the physical limitations, since at a certain point in life, the productivity of a person wanes or goes down.

I may have spoken too soon. Had I paused and mentally examined the list of former members of the Court, I would have realized that there is quite a number whom age has not bogged down at all, and who, even during their retirement, have continued to be as sharp and as prolific as when they were holding office in the Supreme Court. From among this list, one easily stands out, and it is this one, who today we celebrate not just his 85 th birthday, but also the launching of his book, With Due Respect 3, the third compilation of selected articles he wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Indeed, retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban is proving to be the best argument to a lifetime tenure for Justices of the High Court. At two decades my senior, he has remained as incisive and lucid as when he was writing his ponencias for the Court.But the secret to his longevity and endurance, one can easily glean from his life.

Chief Justice Art is a self-made man. We know of his humble origins, that he is a product of the Philippine public school system in his primary and secondary education. He then studied at the Far Eastern University for his Associate in Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees. His academic history, culminating in the 1960 bar examination, where he placed 6th, is nothing less than sterling.

Chief Justice Art was mentored in legal practice by one of the greatest legal minds of our country, Senator Jovito Salonga. But his career has been multi-dimensional and is not confined to the field of law – he was appointed to various important positions in non-legal organizations, including the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the World Tourism Organization, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and the Rotary Club of Manila. He was also an Honorary Consul to the Republic of Honduras and is the only Filipino appointee of now Saint Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Council for the Laity. And for his crowning achievement, the annals of the Judiciary bear witness to the 10 years that Chief Justice Art served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, before he was appointed as its Chief Justice on December 20, 2005, until his retirement the following year. While with the Court, Chief Justice Art has been recorded to have authored more than 1,000 ponencias, not counting resolutions.

For me, the one accomplishment of Chief Justice Art I envy the most is his incomparable ability to remain relevant. Irrelevance, inconsequence, insignificance, these I have been told, are the dreaded curse accompanying retirement. From the highest position in one of only 3 branches of government, from being number 5 in terms of protocol plate number, hitting 70 ushers in a veritable downgrading to what has been described as a shockingly quiet, unremarked, even obscure existence. But not for Chief Justice Art. Here he is at 85, 15 years after his retirement from the Court, looking younger than ever, still spry and vigorous, and, most importantly, very, very relevant.

Chief Justice Art has mastered the Art of Relevance (I suggest you use this as the title of your next book, Chief Justice Art) through his passionate involvement in diverse fields of interest. Tonight, we celebrate in particular what for me is his most influential and potent tool for remaining relevant – his writing, his Inquirer op-ed column, With Due Respect, to be specific.

Through his column, sagely titled “With Due Respect,” Chief Justice Art undeniably continues to be a resonant voice, not just heard but read and listened to by many, from people with no legal background, to lawyers and law students, justices and judges alike, and even those of us currently sitting in the High Court. His columns discuss the burning legal issues of the day with more freedom than he had when he was sitting in the Court bound by its rules and proscriptions. Not in a few instances, Chief Justice Art has articulated sentiments and views which incumbent members of the Court could only wish to say themselves. His analyses of jurisprudence are incisive and can cut to the quick, but are always insightful. He likewise continues to write about his passion for reform, which he promoted assiduously as a Chief Justice. In his column, he has featured reformists in the ranks of the Judiciary, and the innovations and best practices these rising stars have contributed for the betterment of our service, whether on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, court management techniques, and judicial education breakthroughs. In all these, he always exhibits the utmost respect for the Court and its rules, even as he staunchly advocates what he believes is right and just in the circumstances, at times even mischievously, if I dare say. Chief Justice Art has thus successfully continued to “have his say,” so to speak, on the weighty matters involving the courts and the legal system, even well into his second decade after retirement. What a truly exceptional feat.

There is no doubt that Chief Justice Art has shown us a different perspective and given us a clearer analysis of current events and issues. Through his articles, he has enlightened the minds of Filipinos, creating an impact on the lives of many.

As I launch my own campaign for reforms in the Judiciary during my tenure, I hope that Chief Justice Art’s like advocacy will prod him to provide a platform for the transformative plans and programs we will implement to effect much needed changes in our systems, both adjudicative and administrative. The power of his relevance will surely be a potent aid in the coming days as the Court champions 3 target outcomes: efficiency, innovation and access, founded on the guiding principle that the delivery of justice must be timely and fair, transparent and accountable, equal and inclusive, and propelled by adaptive management. The next 5 years will foreseeably be very challenging and arduous, but we are hopeful that by the end of that term, the Filipino people will finally be served justice real time, when they need it, when the circumstances demand it.

In his October 31, 2021 column, Chief Justice Art wrote, “Modesty aside, I was happy at my tenure in the Court. And yet a yearning throbbed deep in my heart that I have not done enough…”1 It is a surprise that the Chief Justice who wrote a thousand decisions and several books is talking about not having done enough when he was in the High Court.

In hindsight, perhaps, this is where my answer to the JBC question would find some relevance. Whether we think we have done so much or so little during our tenure in the Court, the work is never finished. Whether we work until 70, 80, or until our Creator calls us, we would still regret not having done more. I believe, however, that by hanging our robes at 70, we assure the continuity, maybe not, although hopefully, of our plans and programs, but of the institution itself. That through a continuous stream of justices brought about by a steady retirement, the institution is revitalized and with the infusion of new blood, of equally dependable and competent magistrates, the institution will survive, through technological advancements, unprecedented pandemic, and what have you.

The life of Chief Justice Art equally argues for a fixed tenure for justices of the High Court. For more than anything else, he has proven that one can be more prolific and more productive even outside the Court, and one needs only the drive to continue to be able to serve our people even in a private capacity.

In parting, as everyone toasts and cheers Chief Justice Art for another year of accomplishments, including the third book of his collated op-ed columns “With Due Respect,” allow me to thank him again, on behalf of our institution, for the service he rendered to the Philippine Judiciary, for paving the road that the 6 Chief Justices after him have taken, and which I myself am presently treading, and for opening the gate of our minds to a relevant life after retirement, which all members of the Supreme Court will be facing for a certain point in time. Chief Justice Art, we shall look forward to the 4th installment of “With Due Respect,” or the maiden issue of “The Art of Relevance” and to more opinions from you, our unofficial resident amicus curiae. Cheers!

Overwhelmed with Honor and Joy By Retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

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 creat 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.