*Message of Chief Justice ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO during the Award Ceremony of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity held on July 28, 2023 at the Stephen Fuller Hall of the Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.*


Retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Foundation of Liberty and Prosperity (FLP); Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, Chairperson of Dissertation Writing Contest; Judicial Integrity Board Vice Chairperson Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, FLP Governance Committee Chairperson; Retired Senior Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, FLP Board of Trustees Member; other esteemed members of the FLP Board of Trustees and Officers; members of the Board of Judges for the Legal Scholarship Program and for the Dissertation Writing Contest; distinguished guests; dear friends; ladies and gentlemen—good evening.

First off, allow me to congratulate our Esmel Fellowship Program Fellows; the Winners and Finalists of the Dissertation Writing Contest; our graduates with Latin Honors; and of course, our third-year and fourth-year scholars under the Legal Scholarship Program. I have been able to attend the FLP’s annual awards ceremony twice before—and I remember that on both occasions, the event had to be held via Zoom. I am glad that on my third time, I finally get to meet our awardees, as well as our partners and sponsors, in person instead of just online. As you may know, at the height of the pandemic, the Supreme Court turned to such technologies to ensure that our courts will keep working even during the strictest lockdowns. But for occasions like this, I have to say, nothing beats the real thing. The passion, the inspiration, the energy all simply feel more palpable when we get to be together like this.

The honor of being here to speak before you all tonight is truly mine. We in the judiciary are happy to see that the brightest and most passionate young legal and entrepreneurial minds of our nation are committed to and eager to work towards the common vision that brings us all here: the vision of a country that safeguards the liberty of its people and nurtures their prosperity under the rule of law.

This vision is premised on an understanding that, contrary to misconceptions, the curtailment of liberty is not the price of prosperity. Instead of being separate or even mutually exclusive goals, they are symbiotic; they are “twin beacons,” as the FLP’s founder retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban put it, that we must strive towards. These twin beacons have formed the core judicial philosophy of Chief Justice Art; their propagation has been, as he described it, his personal crusade during his time with the Court. But he did not stop there. Even in retirement, he pressed on with this advocacy. Using his retirement pay, he founded the FLP in 2011, and, with the help of partners, soon started work on its initial projects.

I remember in 2021, during a book launch on his 85th birthday, I talked about how Chief Justice Art has mastered the Art of Relevance well after his retirement—remaining as incisive and as lucid as he was when he was writing ponencias, his voice even more resonant now that he writes for a wider audience and with wider freedom than he did when sitting in the Court. But perhaps even more remarkable than that is how, at a time of his life when most would choose to sit back, relax, and reap the rewards of an illustrious career, Chief Justice Art only remained tireless in his continuing crusade for liberty and prosperity.

Today he continues to inspire us and remind us: that justice and jobs, freedom and food, ethics and economics, democracy and development—all these must go together, for one is useless without the other. The question we are faced with, then, is not a choice of one against the other—but instead of how hard we are willing to work in pursuit of both.

This is why we are also happy to see that in its second decade—from 2021 to 2031—the FLP, after having primarily concentrated on the liberty side of its philosophy, is expanding its reach into the prosperity side of the equation. Part of this, I understand, is the Esmel Fellowship we awarded tonight; we are also anticipating the implementation of the FLP’s “ultimate” projects for liberty and prosperity, including the establishment of the Center for Liberty and Prosperity and the Entrepreneurship Fund aiming to help the poor liberate themselves from poverty through private initiative. We look forward to the success of these projects; after all, in the spirit of a common saying, the proof of a philosophy is in lived reality. There is perhaps no stronger argument for the intertwined nature of liberty and prosperity—and the need for their common pursuit—than to see it in action through programs such as these, and the many other initiatives of the FLP.

We count on all our awardees here tonight to help make sure that these initiatives will truly bring tangible benefits for our people. After all, tonight is more than a reminder that hard work is rewarded; it is a call to work even harder in service of something larger than yourselves. It is an affirmation of your commitment to put our country’s welfare over your own personal interests; and, in accepting this honor, a commitment to continue affirming and advancing our intertwined aspirations of liberty and prosperity for all, wherever you are and however you can—whether as budding legal scholars, aspiring entrepreneurs, or exemplary law students and future lawyers.

Magistrates, of course, must be impartial. But on this note, I must confess that our Legal Scholars hold a special place in my heart, having served as Chairperson of the Board of Judges for this year’s search. Let me tell you: choosing from so many outstanding students from the best law schools across the country was no easy task. But I was truly fortunate to share the burden of this endeavor with the members of our Board, whom I wholeheartedly thank: Former Secretary of Education Dr. Edilberto de Jesus, Tan Yan Kee Foundation Head of Corporate Communications Ms. Evelyn Doris Abao, Philippine Association of Law Schools Chairperson Dean Soledad Deriquito-Mawis, and FLP Corporate Secretary Atty. Joel Emerson Gregorio.

As they would tell you, the competition was tough. As in past years, the selection process was difficult. But it was always clear to us what kind of scholars we were looking for. We gauged not just what prospective scholars have achieved, but what greater heights they can reach. We looked for more than intelligence and academic excellence; while important on their own, these, to be meaningful, must also come with an ability to see far beyond the particulars of any given case and understand how decisions impact not just the parties involved, but our country and its trajectory as well. We looked for character and integrity. For courage, rectitude, and fortitude. For honesty, incorruptibility, and fidelity to the highest standards of ethics and morality. We looked, in short, for students who understood what it means and had what it takes to safeguard our rights and liberties to guarantee our country’s prosperity.

But it also goes beyond serving as the Chair of your Board of Judges. You hold a special place in my heart because you are our next generation of legal minds. You are the future of our profession. In a few short years, you will become full-fledged practitioners; down the line, some of you may even decide to join the Bench—and the judiciary plays such an important role in turning this shared vision of ours into tangible reality. Perhaps its work in safeguarding liberty is more pronounced, but equally important is its role in enabling our country’s progress. While seemingly more passive, the judiciary, through its decisions, is just as responsible as the executive and legislative branches of government for the development of our country. As I have said before: by striking a consistent balance between individual rights and freedoms and legitimate government interests, we create a stable environment for economic growth. And when we nurture sustainable and inclusive growth, we widen the realization of rights and strengthen their protection. The Supreme Court and the entire judiciary remain steadfast in our commitment to perform this task as best we can, in accord with our constitutional mandate and our laws.

We also eagerly look forward to what you—and all our awardees—will contribute, in your own ways, to this endeavor. Remember: all this, at times, might sound abstract and academic, but nothing can be further from the truth. When we talk of liberty and prosperity, we talk of food on the table. Of children being able to go to school. Of enterprise being allowed to flourish, and uplift others with it. Of Filipinos from all walks of life being able to live in security and with dignity.

Seen this way, the stakes are undeniably high and the work undeniably daunting. But have no fear: it is work you will not have to do alone. I understand that later tonight you will take your oaths as members of the FLP Scholars Society; which is to say you will join a community of like-minded and like-hearted individuals who are as determined and as committed as you in advancing our nation’s liberty and prosperity. In doing so, I hope you find a deeper font of strength and inspiration and a wider avenue for collaboration towards the aspirations and ideals that brought you together. I hope you support and amplify each other’s work to help bring us closer to the nation we envision: a nation that safeguards the liberty to prosper and guarantees a prosperity of rights and freedoms for all.

Again, to our fellows, winners, awardees, and scholars: congratulations, and we wish you all the best in your endeavors. To our sponsors from the Ayala Corporation, the Tan Yan Kee Foundation, and the Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, we extend our gratitude for being steadfast partners not just in nurturing and supporting the best young minds of our nation, but also in our collective pursuit of liberty and prosperity. To the boards of judges for the dissertation writing contest and the Esmel Fellowships, led, respectively, by Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier and Retired BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., our thanks as well for generously giving your time and effort for this endeavor.

And of course, to Chief Justice Art Panganiban, whose clarity of vision guides this entire undertaking, you have our heartfelt gratitude—as well as that of generations of Filipinos who, we earnestly hope, will truly and fully enjoy, now and in the future, the fruits of liberty and prosperity.

Thank you, and good evening.