Parents and Children: When Law and Technology Unbundle Traditional Identities

examining the intense aspiration of parents and children to attain both liberty and prosperity and how this affects traditional identities and rights within the family

Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, Holder of the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chair on Liberty and Prosperity delivered her paper – Parents and Children: When Law and Technology Unbundle Traditional Identities – on March 28, 2019 at the 1st Floor Lecture Room, Bocobo Hall, UP Law Center, University of the Philippines – Diliman, Quezon City.

Professor Pangalangan’s paper explores how civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights impact on women and children in two particular legal situations: adoption and surrogacy. The paper discusses domestic and international laws on adoption and problems that still persist surrounding the adequacy of legal safeguards for the rights of the birth mother, the adopting parents and the child, especially in the context of intercountry adoption. In the subject of surrogacy, there is no Philippine law and international convention regulating it, but neither is there any explicit prohibition against it.

The paper argues that domestic laws did not contemplate the advent of technology that will make assisted reproductive technology possible nor the ease by which people can travel that makes cross border adoption and surrogacy accessible. It seeks to answer the following questions, among others: (1) do Philippine laws defining who are the mother and father of a child applicable in cases of adoption and surrogacy; (2) will a law that allows commercial surrogacy or encourage intercountry adoption not violate the political right to physical integrity of the birth or surrogate mother resulting in the commodification of her womb and her baby, or infringe on the right of every child to a name and nationality; (3) will a law that throws a blanket prohibition on intercountry adoption and international surrogacy agreements not disturb economic and social rights, such as the right to family life of the intending parents, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to work of the surrogate, and freedom from discrimination of all parties especially the adopted child or the child born of a surrogate; and (4) what changes in the Philippine legal order are necessary to implement the best interest of the child standard, which has animated both legislation and jurisprudence?

The public lecture is the 19th of a series of lectures and debates under the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity Program. FLP is undertaking this program in partnership with the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. and in cooperation with the Philippine Association of Law Schools. The program aims to encourage educational institutions and law schools to research and propagate at the academe the philosophy of safeguarding the liberty and nurturing the prosperity of our people under the rule of law.

Distinguished guests include retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, Court of Appeals Justice Louis P. Acosta, Sandiganbayan Justice Efren N. De La Cruz, Metrobank Corporate Secretary Antonio V. Viray, Dean Fides C. Cordero-Tan of the UP College of Law, Dean Anna D. Abad of Adamson University, Metrobank Foundation Executive Director Nicanor Torres, and Atty. Jannica Robles-Santos of the Court of Tax Appeals Presiding Justice. Apart from the faculty, students from the UP College of Law and other colleges of UP Diliman, Far Eastern University Institute of Law, Ateneo Law School, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, and Manila Tytana Colleges (former Manila Doctors College) attended the lecture.

Professor Pangalangan’s full lecture can be accessed at www.libpros.com, the official website of the FLP.


Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan and retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban


Opening remarks by Dean Fides Cordero-Tan of UP College of Law 

Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan delivering her lecture


Retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban delivering his closing remarks

 

28 March 2019
Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan
University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Law
“Parents and Children: When Law and Technology Unbundle Traditional Identities”
(downloadable PDF | presentation)

 

A Remarkable and Riveting Lecture

* Closing remarks of Retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN after the Lecture of UP Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, a holder of the CJ Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity, held on March 28, 2019 at the First Floor Lecture Room, Bocobo Hall, UP Law Center, UP Diliman, Quezon City on “Parents and Children: When Law and Technology Unbundle Traditional Identities.”

 

 

Congratulations to Prof. Beth Pangalangan for her impressive, awesome and absorbing lecture. Scholarly prepared and eloquently delivered, it was indeed one of the best lectures I have ever heard in a long time. It makes me want to be a student again to listen again and again to Professor Beth. Ah, to be young again!

Well-research, Indeed!

Of course, her frequent citation of my decisions and separate opinions reminded me of my over 11 years in the Supreme Court. And what especially amazed me is her research into and many quotes from my books, columns and even my speeches. Wow, really heart-warming.

Let me, at this point, hand to her FLP’s check for P100,000 representing her honorarium, less 5 percent withholding tax imposed by the NIRC as amended by the TRAIN Law, and the Certificate attesting to her enrollment as a distinguished Holder of one of the 15 CJ Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity.

May I also thank Dean Fides Cordero Tan for welcoming us to the UP College of Law. I do not remember having encountered her in the past, but her reputation for academic excellence and administrative expertise preceded her. In testimony thereof, the FLP Board of Trustees has unanimously resolved to invite her to join our corps of professorial chair holder. May I therefore have the honor of personally handing to our esteemed Dean Deng our official letter of invitation?

Ambition to Enroll at UP

My appearance here at the UP Lecture Hall reminds me of my life-long ambition to enroll at the UP. My classmates at Mapa High School in the early 1950s (when most of you in the audience were not yet born) and I used to visit the UP Campus in Diliman. Before the UP Oblation, we promised each other that we would study diligently to be able to obtain UP scholarships. And obtain the scholarships we were able to, except that in my case, my impoverished father – who was a simple government employee – could not afford the then 15-centavo bus ride from our small, rented apartment in Sampaloc, Manila to Diliman, Quezon City.

Even though I was not able to enter this school, I continued my association with the UP community, especially with activist student leaders like then UP Student Council President Fernando Lagua and then Philippine Collegian Editor Homobono Adaza with whom I cofounded the National Union of Students, the largest student organization in the country then and now. Because of their activism, Lagua was suspended for one year and Adaza expelled from the University. Looking back, I told myself, “Buti na lang hindi ako nakapasok sa UP, baka expelled din ako.”

My ambition to enjoy UP education was achieved by our only son and one of our four daughters. Our son, Archie, was only the 4th student to graduate Summa Cum Laude from the UP Conservatory of Music. While he proceeded to further piano studies in Munich, he eventually finished a PhD in engineering economic system at Stanford and is now a banker in New York City as an Executive Director of JP Morgan. But while banking is his profession, music remains his passion. Once in a while, he would come back home to give piano concerts in UP as well as in the Cultural Center and other familiar concert venues.

But my frustrated love for UP was requited by then UP President Edgardo Angara who gave me a small replica of the UP Oblation in the early 1980s to thank me for getting a donation of a fire truck from Japan. And my undying thirst for UP’s academic excellence was somehow quenched by my enrollment as an honorary member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

A Word About FLP

Before I close, let me say a few words about the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, which as already explained by the previous speakers, was organized after I retired from the Supreme Court to promote and perpetuate my philosophy of “Liberty and Prosperity Under the Rule of Law.” FLP has three education programs:

First, the Professorial Chairs for Liberty and Prosperity in partnership with the Metrobank Foundation, with 15 holders now, three of them by UP academics, namely, Professor Pangalangan, Dean Tan and President Danilo Concepcion.

Second, the Law Scholarship Program, in partnership with the Tan Yan Kee Foundation, for junior and senior law students at P200,000 each, covering tuition, books and monthly stipend. We award 20 of them yearly since 2017. We also give additional cash rewards to our scholars who graduate as valedictorians and/or with Latin honors, as well as to bar topnotchers. Among them is UP’s Ervin Fredrick Dy who obtained an FLP scholarship starting in the Academic Year 2016-2017. He took the bar examinations last November. If he or any other FLP scholar cops the first place, FLP will reward him with P200,000 cash. If any of them lands in the second to the tenth places, he or she will receive P100,000 cash.

Third, the Dissertation Writing Contest, in partnership with the Ayala Group. The first place winner last year was former UP student Raphael Pangalangan, the illustrious son of the illustrious couple from UP and Harvard, who got the P300,000 prize and a gold plaque. By the way, the contest is still open for this year. The deadline for entries was postponed to April 30, 2019 at the request of Dean Tan.

May I end these Closing Remarks with my fervent hope for FLP’s closer link and cooperation with the academics and students of the UP College of Law, the best law school in the world…according to the UP Law Alumni Association. Maraming salamat po.

Way to a Happy, Free and Prosperous Society

Remarks delivered by Retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN in response to the lecture delivered by Joan S. Largo, Dean of the University of San Carlos School of Law and Governance and President of the Philippine Association of Law Schools on October 17, 2018 at the Buttenbruch Hall of the University of San Carlos, Cebu City.

 

Let me begin by saying how amazed I am that just a few days after Dean Joan S. Largo arrived from, to quote her, “a learning visit on clinical education” in the United States, she was ready with a scholarly and authoritative lecture, backed by a PowerPoint, that she just delivered so eloquently before this appreciative audience of the best and brightest legal minds in Cebu.

I thank her and her colleagues in the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS), which she now heads, for their support of my philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law and of my advocacy for a writ of prosperity. With such display of unity in the academe, I believe, in time, we can successfully craft well-vetted “Rules of the Writ of Prosperity” that we can propose for the promulgation of our Supreme Court.

In her lecture, Dean Largo focused on the constitutional provisions on social justice and human rights which the government, particularly the political branches, have not been able to implement and enforce. She emphasized, and rightly so, on the need to arm the least, the last and the lost: the dirt poor, the marginalized and the powerless with a way to compel our government to uplift their plight. She cited the efforts of the highest courts of other countries, like South Africa, Argentina and Columbia, in using their authority to help alleviate the poor’s angst, pain and suffering.

Simple but profound truth

In my response to Dean Largo, let me also cite other countries to drive to home an analogous point, this time no longer a plea for direct assistance or dole-outs in terms of “conditional transfers” of cash, or cheap rice, or communal housing, or socialized medicine.

Taking off from a speech I delivered before the Asean Law Association a few years ago, let me begin with a famous quotation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “If a man does not have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.” Let me repeat that, “If a man does not have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.”

It may seem ironic that I should be citing an American civil rights icon in this august audience of patriotic Filipinos, but like Dean Largo who cited foreign jurisprudence to buttress her cause, I did so not because of Dr. King’s nationality, color, gender or religion. I quoted him because of the truth he said so simply yet so profoundly.

I cited him because precisely of my belief that truth is eternal and limitless; that truth is not bound by sovereignty, or territory, or ideology, or legality; that what is true in America is also true in the Philippines, in Africa, in South America and in the world. And that that truth is this: humans need both justice and jobs; freedom and food; ethics and economics; peace and development; liberty and prosperity; these twin beacons must always go together; one is useless without the other.

Now, even in retirement, I still continue my advocacy for these twin beacons of liberty and prosperity. Thus in 2011, five years after my retirement from the judiciary, when I celebrated my 75th birthday, I organized the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, which now sponsors several educational programs, namely, 13 professorial chairs in various law schools, 20 full law scholarships at P200,000 each, in which some USC students are recipients, and a dissertation contest, in which a USC student, Tess Marie Tan, won the second place, second only to Raphael Pangalangan, a Filipino graduate student of the University of Oxford in Great Britain, who copped the first place.

To repeat, there are certain truths that transcend sovereignties, territories, ideologies and legalities. And one of those truths is this: The best way to conquer poverty, to create wealth and to share prosperity is to unleash the entrepreneurial genius of people by granting them the freedom and the tools to help themselves and society.

Saving the fisherman    

Let me push my thesis further by quoting a popular adage from Confucius, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Indeed, to save a fisherman from destitution, we must help him learn how to fish more effectively. We must educate him in the skills needed to catch fish more efficiently, assist him in acquiring a boat, allow him the freedom to sail the vast oceans, and teach him the techniques to market the fish he catches.

Sometimes, some of us fear that the fisherman may get lost and die in the storms that batter the seas; or that he may become selfish and would want to own the entire ocean and its vast resources; or that he may become too rich and powerful and metamorphose into a rival, an enemy, or worse, a master. Such fears of possible misjudgments may indeed happen some of the time. Human arrogance, greed and avarice lurk in all undertakings. But they are the exceptions rather than the rule. We must never stop dreaming for fear that reality may shatter our dreams. We must admit that risks and challenges form part of the interesting reality of being human.

On the other hand, I respectfully believe that the goal of governance and of law is to provide guarantees and incentives to help the fisherman prosper, to create the institutions to support him, and to promulgate minimal regulations to prevent him from appropriating all the fishing grounds, from keeping all the earnings to himself and from forgetting his obligation to pay reasonable taxes to the government. Indeed, government must inspire him to share his consequential wealth with the rest of society.

Validating the truth

Let me take you briefly around the world to validate this simple truth. The United States, the most powerful country in the world and the great promoter of liberal democracy, attained affluence because of the pioneers who defied monarchical tyrannies and started a new nation that unleashed the inventive, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of people like Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, and lately of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, as well of great government leaders like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama who provided them with the encouragement to attain their dreams and the good governance to contain their greed and share their wealth.

Then, let us go to China, the second most powerful economy in the world and the prime promoter of the communist system. True, Mao Zedong led the masses in a revolt that dislodged the corrupt and inefficient government born of an outdated monarchy. But it was Deng Xiaoping who led this nation to unparalleled economic prosperity by unleashing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the Chinese under his “One-Country-Two-Systems” philosophy.

Finally, let me bring you to Korea. As a result of World War II, this country was divided into North and South, which unfortunately could not accept their division and engaged in a terrible war that ruined their economies and impoverished their people. Rising from the ruins, South Korea relied on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Korean people and built on their private initiative as well as on the notion that innovation, creativity, freedom and hard work would enable them to conquer their poverty, provide for their family’s well-being and attain affluence.

In contrast, North Korea – despite its technological and military bravado – wallows in abject poverty as a result of its tight grip on creativity and inordinate fear of the entrepreneurship, education, freedom and prosperity of its people.

Entrepreneurship in the Philippines

I believe that given the same climate of free enterprise, our people can rise to the challenges of innovation, creativity and ingenuity and free themselves of extreme poverty, disease, malnutrition and disability. All they need is a government that affords opportunities for education instead of habitual mendicancy, fosters free competition instead of suffocating regulations, and rewards talent and hard work instead of sycophancy and connection.

The best proofs of this assertion are our overseas Filipino workers. Our engineers, technicians and house helps are treasured in Europe and the Middle East. Our professionals, doctors and nurses, succeed much better than many natives in the United States, Canada and Australia. In fact, the average Filipino professionals earn more than the average Caucasians in those countries. Moreover, they are law-abiding, they observe strict traffic rules simply because these rules are enforced evenly and fairly.

Yes, I conclude this response to Dean Largo with the firm belief that if our Filipino brethren are accord liberty, prosperity and the rule of law, they will use their entrepreneurial ingenuity to uplift themselves from destitution, disease and disability. Our responsibility – as leaders of the academe and the legal profession – is how we can harness the rule of law to enable them to form and enjoy a happy, free and prosperous society.

Maraming salamat po.

Wanted Writ of Prosperity

* Transcript of the extemporaneous Closing Remarks delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN after the Public Lecture of Polytechnic University of the Philippines Law Dean Gemy Lito L. Festin held on May 12, 2018 at the Bulwagang Bonifacio, A. Mabini Campus, PUP, Anonas Street, Sta. Mesa, Manila.

 

I have three points to share tonight. First, let me congratulate Dean Gemy Lito L. Festin, our featured chair holder of the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity, for his innovative and well-researched piece titled “Tutelary Rules Principle as Legal Tool for Easing Economic Rights’ Access to Justice in the Philippines.” I think it is one of best lectures I have heard since the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (FLP), in cooperation with the Metrobank Foundation (MBF), started this Lecture Series.

Appreciation and Honorarium      

To show our appreciation more concretely and beyond mere words, may I hand over to Dean Festin his honorarium for P100,000, via this check for P90,000; the balance of P10,000 constitute the withholding tax which will be remitted directly to the Bureau of Internal Revenue in accordance with law, and which remittance the good Dean may use when he files and pays for his income tax returns early next year.

So too, may I advise you that Dean Festin’s piece will find a prominent place in the Coffee Table Book that FLP and MBF will be publishing soon to feature our outstanding professorial lectures. This is not an ordinary book. It will be a big multicolored tome that everyone concerned would be happy to place in their living rooms, not just in their libraries.

I also felicitate the three “reactors,” (in the order they spoke) Atty. Rosalie J. De la Cruz-Cada (Deputy Director for Projects of the IBP Center for Legal Aid), Judge Joselito C. Villarosa (of Branch 66, Regional Trial Court of Makati), and Atty. Arnold C. Bayobay (Graft Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman) for their interesting feedbacks and questions. My admiration too goes to Companero Carlos S. Cao Jr., former Labor Undersecretary and POEA Administrator, for being an insightful and funny Master of Ceremonies.

Truth to tell, this is my first time to hear of the word “Tutelary.” Indeed one is never too old to learn. I may be a retired chief justice now at 81 years, but I think I am not “retarded.” One is never too old to learn new treats.

Political vs Economic Rights 

We have always known in law school that most of our economic rights, even those defined in our Constitution, are not self-executing in nature and cannot, by themselves, be the subject of justiciable controversies. To be enforceable, they need enabling legislation. In several decisions, our Supreme Court – citing the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission – has held that economic and social rights cannot, by themselves, be enforced by the judiciary.

This line of decisions finds support in constitutional history, starting from the United States where we adopted our own Constitution. Remember that the more than two-century-old US Constitution was crafted during the American struggle for freedom and independence from British colonial rule when political and civil liberties were the battle cry. And so it is with us. All our basic laws, starting from the Malolos Constitution to the present 1987 Charter, were also drafted at a time when our people fought for political and civil freedom from foreign conquerors, Spanish and American. This is reflected most specially in the Bill of Rights which centered on political and civil rights.

In the present age, while we still treasure our political and civil liberties, our people’s focus is more on their economic needs and wants. This is clear in many recent credible polls and surveys showing that the most urgent concerns of our people relate to poverty, jobs and high prices. They long for liberation from the bondage of poverty. Of what use indeed is the freedom to travel if we cannot fill our stomachs? Of what use is the freedom of information, if we cannot quench our thirst for potable water?

This is why – since I was a student mired in destitution to my professional life as a lawyer and later as I jurist – I have always advocated for justice and jobs, freedom and food, ethics and economics, nay, liberty and prosperity; one is useless without the other. My major decisions starting from Tanada vs. Angara in 1997 have espoused this doctrine. That is why even in retirement, I organized the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity as a way of celebrating my 75th birthday in 2011.

Writ of Prosperity

In his lecture, Dean Festin ably tackled this jurisprudential difficulty of enforcing economic rights. But he has moved further by proposing a solution – by referring to the “Tutelary Rules” which the Columbian Supreme Court has drawn precisely to enforce economic rights.

I will no longer repeat his many cogent arguments why we must encourage our Supreme Court to follow the Columbian example and promulgate new Rules of Procedure – a power our Constitution has endowed on the Court – to authorize the enforcement of economic rights. But may I add that one good way of doing that is to create the Writ of Prosperity, in the same manner that our Court has promulgated the Writ of Amparo, the Writ of Habeas Data and the Writ of Kalikasan.

The last Writ was issued to provide a legal way to enforce the right to ecology which is arguably an economic right that does not normally find the same traditional constitutional treatment as the self-executing political and civil rights.

May I suggest that Dean Festin take the initiative of bringing this matter to the Philippine Association of Law Schools to the help of his colleagues there in molding this idea and preparing the detailed Rules of Procedure for this new Writ of Prosperity. I am sure PALS President Sedfrey Candelaria of Ateneo would be sympathetic to this proposal.

I am sure also that both the FLP and the Metrobank Foundation will support this endeavor to give birth to the Writ of Prosperity.

May I also suggest that concurrently with the effort to convince the Supreme Court to institute the new Writ, we make a similar endeavor to amend the Constitution to include the right to prosperity and the corollary right against poverty? This would be timely because of the current national effort to amend the Constitution. Again, both the FLP and the MBF, and I personally, would be happy to support this worthwhile venture.

Polytechnic University of the Philippines

The second topic of my closing remarks would be about PUP. I must confess that this is my first time to visit your school. But I do know about it since it was the old Philippine College of Commerce founded in 1901 up to its transformation into a university by a group of avant garde educators led by my activist friend, the late Dr. Nemesio Prudente. PUP is also kind of nostalgic for me, because I located my first law office here in Sta. Mesa, at the Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard very near the vehicular bridge crossing the railroad, less than one kilometer away. Back then, I was intending to run for Congress in this congressional district that includes the University Belt, until the idea was vetoed by my dear wife who did not want any partisan political post for me, or for our children.

To be sure, I am sentimentally attached to PUP, because it was, and still is, the hotbed of activism. Activist student leaders are close to my heart because as you may know, I organized the National Union of Students of the Philippines more than fifty years ago, which was, and still is, the largest student organization in the country. Incidentally, at that time, the Catholic colleges like Ateneo, La Salle, St. Theresa and St. Scholastica did not participate in non-Catholic student organizations. But the NUSP crossed the cloisters and got the collegialas into the mainstream student movements. This historic turn was a bonus for me — it was because of the NUSP that I met the gentle Scholastican, Elenita Carpio, who later became my wife.

I am thus happy that PUP chose to be an active participant in FLP’s programs. Aside from the professorial chair that FLP awarded to Dean Festin, it also awarded full scholarships, including tuition, books and monthly stipends, to three FLP law students, Jun Dexter Rojas, Ma. Vida Malaya Villarico and Rexlyn Anne Evora. They won three of the 21 scholarships awarded for this school year, with only Ateneo de Manila surpassing the count with four. Ms Evora was also chosen as one of the six finalists in the FLP Dissertation Writing Contest.

May I also announce right now that additional cash prizes await them should they graduate with Latin honors? FLP will also award P100,000 to each FLP scholar or dissertation writing contest winner/finalist who make it to the Top Ten in the coming Bar Exam, and double that, or P200,000, for the numero uno.

I have no doubt that PUP graduates are capable of achieving this feat. After all, your bar exam track record is enviable. Your first batch of graduates in 2016 had a 100 percent passing record, while your 2017 grads had an 88.88 passing rate. It is time for you to top Bar Exam this year. I will be there in 2019 to celebrate and hand out FLP’s checks for the Top Ten achievers among our scholars or dissertation winners/finalists.

Why I Am Who I Am

Now, for the third and final topic of my closing remarks. I was very touched by the Invocation that started our program. I was reminded of my speech titled “Why I Am Who I Am Now” delivered in 2007 when I was the guest speaker to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Canossian Sisters (the speech can be accessed in my personal website, cjpanganiban.com).

By way of backgrounder, like many of you in the audience, and yes, like many of PUP students in general, I belonged to a very poor family when I was young. My father finished only high school and was a government clerk. My mother did not finish elementary school. My father supported not only his four children, of whom I was the youngest, but also his seven siblings who were all younger than him, because his own father passed away even before I was born. As the youngest in our impoverished family, nothing was left for me. I had to sell newspapers, peddle cigarettes amongst jeepney passengers, and shined shoes to support myself. In college, I had to maintain my scholarship and sell textbooks to my classmates to be able to own one as my commission.

I studied in public schools, at Juan Luna Elementary School and Mapa High School. I wanted to enroll at the University of the Philippines for college where I was granted a tuition scholarship as an honor graduate of our high school batch of 1,200. But my impoverished father could not afford the then 15-centavo bus fare from our small rented “entresuelo” in Cataluna Street, Sampaloc, Manila to the UP Diliman Campus. He advised me to enroll instead at the then nearby University of Santo Tomas or Far Eastern University.

At UST, I was interviewed by an old Dominican priest. “So, you want a college scholarship. Since you come from a non-Catholic high school, I will ask you three questions. If you can answer them, I will grant you a scholarship. First, how many Gods are there?” “One,” I readily replied.

“How many persons in one God?” he followed up. “Three,” I gamely answered. Then came the final question, “Name them.” Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, I did not know the answer, so I muttered, “Susmariosep!” “Wrong,” he boomed with finality, ending my hope of entering the oldest university in the country. At FEU, I was granted a scholarship without any question, but I had to maintain it with high grades throughout my stay.

That incident I considered as a challenge for me to learn more of my faith. At FEU, I met the chaplain, the late Fr. Michael Nolan, who recruited me to the Student Catholic Action. After college, I continued my Catholic learning, attending many seminars and reading the Holy Bible back to back a few times, plus tens of volumes of commentaries on Catholicism. I embraced the Lord Jesus as my savior and master.

In 1991, I was invited to be a lay member of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, where I (together with about 50 Catholic lay leaders) met and dialogued with all the Catholic bishops and leading priests here in forging new regulations to implement the reforms of Vatican II in the Philippines.

My ascent to Catholic leadership was capped by my appointment by the late Pope John Paul II as the only Filipino lay member in 1996-2002 of the Pontifical Council for the Laity based in the Vatican City. This 30-member Council is the highest advisory “dicastery” advising the Pope “on all matters regarding the life of the Catholic faithful worldwide.”

So, from being a Catholic ignoramus who did not know the three persons of the Holy Trinity, I graduated to the highest lay advisory council of the Pope in the Vatican. I relate this story to inspire you, my young friends in the audience, that we should take disappointments and defeats as opportunities and challenges to achieve victory later in life. Poverty and ignorance are not barriers to success. They can be overcome. Looking back, maybe if I were not as poor and as ignorant as I was, I would not have struggled and worked as hard as I did to become “why I am who I am today.”

Maraming salamat po and magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.

Dean Mikhail Maxino

No Right is inherently superior to another Right

Silliman University College of Law Dean Mikhail Lee L. Maxino’s “Right to Life, Liberty, Property: A Seamless Trilogy to Prosperity” public lecture was the first FLP-sponsored event held in Mindanao. A Master of Laws in Environmental Law (Dalhousie University, Canada) graduate and environmental law expert, Dean Maxino organized his lecture on November 26, 2014—a year after the super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda devastated the south of the Philippines.

Dean Maxino’s lecture threshed out the principle of indivisibility of human rights, and put forward the main argument that “no right is inherently superior to another; they are all of equal importance.” In other words, a hierarchy of rights would only lead to “prioritized protections”. Thus, the Silliman Dean offered guiding principles: (1) one must respect the importance of rights involved; (2) one must acknowledge the limitation of rights; (3) one must look at the factor that limits a right (only actual burdens on rights trigger conflict); (4) one must understand that the core of a right is more protected than its periphery; and (5) one must consider rights within the the framework of other principles, such as social justice.

Ultimately, the goal is to curb the risk of enabling a select few— the rich, the powerful, or the privileged—to forcefully invoke their liberty and fundamental rights to legitimize their actions that marginalize the less privileged, especially in terms of socio-economic rights.

Quoting Frederick Bastiat, Dean Maxino pointed out that: “Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was that life, liberty and property that existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

He capped his lecture with a statement in reference to the book of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created property, then humans, then bestowed upon them the freedom to use and dominate property, then He exhorted them to multiply, be fruitful, be prosperous. Property, Life, Liberty – one seamless Right on the road to Prosperity.”

“It is curious that God created property first before humans” he added, “He designed property to be humanity’s source of food, even source of life. It is also curious to note that of the values that both the constitutions of the United States and the Philippines so sacredly protect, it is only property–the two being life and liberty– that people cannot be deprived of without due process of law and just compensation.”

Among the dignitaries present were Retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban and Mr. Nicanor L. Torres, Jr., Executive Director of the Metrobank Foundation.

Dean Maxino was instrumental in the establishment of the Dr. Jovito Salonga Center for Law and Development, an active social-advocacy arm, of the Silliman University College of Law. He has also been extensively involved in critical development projects in the areas of marine and costal resources and protected areas management, funded by international organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).


26 November 2014
Dean Mikhail Lee L. Maxino
Silliman University College of Law (Dumaguete City)

“Right to Life, Liberty, Property: A Seamless Trilogy to Prosperity” (download PDF)

Dean Mikhail Maxino

Dean Mikhail Lee L. Maxino responds to questions from the audience