A Fruitful Past Decade and a Hope-filled New Decade

By: retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

*Closing Remarks of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the online Awards Ceremony of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity on August 11, 2022.*


Your Honors, the Chief Justice and other justices of the Supreme Court and the three appellate courts, incumbent and retired, other high government officials, Your Excellencies of the diplomatic corps and of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, members of the three FLP boards of judges, our partners and friends, deans and professors, our awardees and their families, members of the FLPSS, my fellow FLP trustees, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

I am pleased that our Awards Program has gone well, despite occasional digital glitches. My regret though is that we have not been able to meet face-to-face, not only now but also during the past two years due to the rampaging COVID-19 infections. Originally, we were hoping for a face-to-face convocation this year. In fact, we already reserved the meeting facilities of the Asian Institute of Management which were kindly made available to us by its much-admired President and Dean Jikyeong Kang. However, two weeks ago, we shifted to this online mode because we were concerned about the new, very transmissible Omicron variants that have surreptitiously entered our shores. Nonetheless, we have not allowed this unfortunate happenstance to dilute the joy of this occasion which, as I said, has gone exceedingly well.

Now, let me first acknowledge and extend our appreciation to Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo for his gratifying keynote address and for his chairmanship of the Board of Judges of our Legal Scholarship Program. He and the other judges – who have been named earlier – spent an enormous amount of time scrutinizing the credentials of our applicants and asking interesting and relevant questions during a three-hour long interview. I deeply appreciate CJ Gesmundo for beautifully summing up what we, in the FLP believe in, and by “we” I respectfully include him. Let me quote him, “By safeguarding the rights and freedoms of the individual, the judiciary allows our country to prosper, and in nurturing economic prosperity, rights will also be securely protected. Indeed, it is a symbiotic relationship, safeguarding rights go hand in hand with nurturing prosperity.” So well said, Your Honor.

Let me also thank the competent and prudent Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando and the members of the Board of Judges for our Dissertation Writing Contest for their Herculean effort in reading, evaluating and discussing the various dissertations submitted for their review after they were passed upon and vetted by the FLP Screening Committee.

Let me also show our appreciation to our Board of Judges of the new Esmel Fellowships chaired by the multi-awarded and the first and only two-term former governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Amando M. Tetangco Jr. who, I am honored to say, is also a member of our FLP Board of Trustees. As you now know, the Esmel fellowships are worth a whooping P450,000 each. They signal the FLP’s determination to promote the prosperity side of its philosophy.

FLP believes that the best way to nurture prosperity is to help our people help themselves through private entrepreneurship. Along this belief, FLP – apart from these fellowships – is also encouraging our business schools to offer courses to combine business, law and technology. Toward this goal, I have had sessions with Dr. Kang, AIM President and Dean and her dedicated team of two full-time AIM faculty members, Professors Olivier Roche and Felipe Calderon. Her team has been working during the last eight months to produce a curriculum for the degree of Master in International Business Law (MIBL) starting this coming school year.

I got the idea of proposing this MIBL program from the graduate study and experience of our grandson Miguel Panganiban Sandejas who – after finishing his MBA, magna cum laude, major in entrepreneurship, at the famous Babson College in Boston – proceeded to take up and finish a Master of Science in Law degree or MSL also with honors at the pedigreed Northwestern University in Chicago. The wonder of it is that, prior to taking up MSL, he did not enroll in, much less graduate from, any basic law course whether in the Philippines or in the US or anywhere else. Of course, he cannot practice law in the Philippines and cannot even be allowed to take the local bar examination which requires a four-year law degree as a prerequisite. I understand, however, that he could take the bar exam in some US states even without a bachelor’s degree in law. However, Mig told me he has no intention at the present of taking the bar exam or of practicing law anywhere. He is fully satisfied in just finishing his MSL, because, to quote him:

“I discovered that knowledge of the law definitely rounded out my business thinking. Not only does the law tell you what you cannot do, but it tells you how far you can go. In this way, a businessperson can act with confidence and sail forward without fear. In the world of finance and taxes, the law helps guide the numbers and provides another solution for optimizing income, reducing expenses and protecting shareholders. It provides a solid foundation and reason for all actions.”

It is with this background and knowledge that I thought entrepreneurs should be armed not just with the usual business subjects but also with law backgrounders, particularly on obligations and contracts plus esoteric subjects like patents, trademarks, data privacy, property rights and statutory construction.

It is my hope that the other leading graduate schools of management like Ateneo, La Salle, UP, UST, etc. will follow suit. And we, in the FLP, would be more than willing to work with them and to include their students in our yearly Esmel fellowship competitions.

Let me now segue to thank the Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) and the Metro Pacific Investments Foundation led by business wizard Manuel V. Pangilinan for immediately and without any hesitation agreeing to be our partner in the Esmel fellowships. Its CFO and spark plug, Chaye Cabal-Revilla, and its Chief Legal Counsel, bar topper Ricardo “Jun” Pilares III, responded by instantly processing our proposal and drafting a Memorandum of Agreement. As a measure of good corporate governance, may I disclose that I am an Independent Director of MPIC?

Let me also profusely thank the Tan Yan Kee Foundation led by Dr. Lucio C. Tan for unstintingly funding our Legal Scholarship Program during the last six years – even during the harsh business environment of the last three years caused by the COVID pandemic. What is more, the TYKF even funded more than the 20 scholars agreed upon by happily solving the tie for the 10th place by adding one more third year slot thereby increasing our annual scholarships to 21. Indeed, maraming salamat po, Dr. Tan and the TYK Foundation. We are of course more than gratified that, aside from graduating with Latin honors or their equivalent, our scholars always land among the topnotchers of the yearly bar exams administered by the Supreme Court.

Permit me likewise to thank the Ayala Corporation led by the esteemed Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala for being our partner during the last five years in our Dissertation Writing Contest which has produced excellent papers from law students on the subjects of liberty, prosperity and the rule of law. Starting next year, we will expand the contest to include students taking the Esmel graduate courses.

Our deep appreciation goes likewise to Dr. Tony Tan Caktiong and Mr. Injap Sia for jointly donating to FLP a condo at the Hotel 101 in Taguig City. We hope to earn enough income from this condo to help poor students under our Panganiban Education Assistance Program.

At this point, may I explain that our Professorial Chairs Program co-sponsored by the Metrobank Foundation had been suspended and continuous to be suspended till it would be safe to restart face-to-face encounters? Several of our chair holders have expressed readiness to lecture at any time the program is resumed.

Finally, I thank the gutsy Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez, my Supreme Court colleague for many years and now Acting FLP President and President of the Association of Retired Supreme Court Justices for her heartwarming Opening Remarks and for crediting me more than I deserve because the acclaim for FLP belongs to all of us here present, not just to me.

To close this address, may I sum up that during the first decade of its existence (2011-2021), the FLP concentrated on its liberty programs? But during its second decade, 2021-2031, it will include programs to promote the prosperity side of its philosophy starting with the Esmel fellowships. FLP’s ultimate project for the liberty side is a Center for Liberty and Prosperity where an interactive and immersive Museum for Liberty and Prosperity would be constructed in partnership with the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, its ultimate project for the prosperity side is what we call the “Entrepreneurship Fund” of at least one billion pesos with the aim of investing in and helping manage micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the active assistance of our Esmel fellows. Relevantly, I wish to acknowledge the help of the former president of BPI and of the Bankers Association of the Philippines Cezar Consing in studying pro bono the viability and sustainability of this project. This is essential to FLP’s basic belief that the key to prosperity is to help people help themselves through private entrepreneurship.

Please help us pray for the attainment and success of these two giant ultimate projects. Thank you.