Your Honors, my former colleagues in the Supreme Court; Your Excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps, especially Ambassador Mario Schuff of Argentina who is one of my favorite golf partners; other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. May I say that Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno has written a letter expressing his inability to attend our launching today due to a prior commitment.
I am very happy to be back at Far Eastern University, the best school in the world – - according to the FEU Alumni Association and me. Do you agree? (applause) I am happier that the audience, composed mostly of FEU professors and students, unanimously concur!
Recently, an incumbent senator-friend wrote that graduates of the University of the Philippines – supposedly the better university – constitute a majority of former Presidents of the Philippines, cabinet members, senators, congressmen and even justices of the Supreme Court. If that were so, how come the Philippines is still plagued by rampant corruption, unmitigated violence, grinding poverty, and extralegal killings? Aha, because not all the UP graduates became FEU deans, like Sen. Salonga, or members of Kilosbayan and Bantay Katarungan like Dr. King Doromal and Dr. Raul Pangalangan, or sang during our book-launching like Dean Ramon
Acoymo and Professor Eileen Cura, both from the UP Conservatory of Music. You know I have to pay tribute to the UP College of Music because our only son, Artemio III, finished his Bachelor of Music there as the 4th Summa Cum Laude in the history of that institution.
Anyway, wait until the FEU graduates dominate our government. And I assure you that all these plagues of corruption, violence, poverty and killings would be solved. Do you agree? (applause) Totohanin ninyo ‘yan. Kayong kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.
Levity aside, after hearing our esteemed guest speaker, Mr. Justice Antonio T. Carpio; our hosts during this launching, represented by FEU President Lydia B. Echauz and Bantay Katarungan President Raul C. Pangalangan; and the book authors, Sen. Jovito R. Salonga and Mrs. Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano, what can I really say except thank you and maraming salamat po for your kindness.
Thank you to the generous chairperson of the Far Eastern University, Dr. LOURDES REYES MONTINOLA, who, according to Forbes Magazine, is among the 40 richest Filipinos. But who, if I may be permitted to add, has risked her fortune, time, effort and name in elevating the FEU to new educational heights. And I say she is grandly successful in doing so. I met Dr. Montinola when I was still a student leader in FEU and she was the corporate secretary of the University. Maraming salamat po Chairperson Montinola for making us all proud to be Tamaraws.
Salamat po Dr. LYDIA B. ECHAUZ, the dynamo partner of Dr. Montinola in energizing and electrifying the deans, faculty and students of FEU. She put to intelligent and maximum use the resources provided by the FEU Board of Trustees in parlaying the FEU into what it is today, on its 80th founding anniversary. I am sure, hovering above all of us, Dr. Nicanor Reyes Sr, the far-seeing FEU founder, smiles in contentment because his vision of a high quality institution of learning for the great masses of our people, is now a grand reality.
Salamat po Dr. RAUL C. PANGANLANGAN, chair of Bantay Katarungan, former UP law dean, favorite exchange professor of Harvard Law School from where he finished his doctorate in law, perceptive column writer and who I believe should have been named to the Supreme Court many years ago. That he has not been so appointed yet is not a reflection of his lack of credentials for the job; rather, it reflects the lack of ability of the appointing authority to recognize talent, intellectual gravitas, and courage in a truly outstanding lawyer and academic.
Salamat po my COLLEAGUES IN THE PANGANIBAN COURT, who had been introduced earlier and who I believe share equally the accolade of having been tested in courage. I give special tribute and thanks to Justices Conchita Carpio Morales, the gutsy writer of the Supreme Court decision on Executive Order 464; Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna, the writer of the Decision invalidating the so-called Calibrated Response Policy, who sent his regrets for his absence today since he had to attend a wedding in which he is a principal sponsor; Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, the valiant author of the Decision nullifying Presidential Proclamation 1017; and of course our guest speaker, Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the ponente of the decision rejecting the so-called Peoples Initiative of the Arroyo government. Even if he is a graduate of UP, palakpakan po natin siya. Matapang na, marunong pa. Since he was appointed to the Court in 2001, he had been, up to now, the youngest member of the present Supreme Court. I first met Justice Carpio in 1992 when he was the presidential legal counsel of President Fidel V. Ramos. May I also especially greet Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, the newest member of the Supreme Court and who has demonstrated courage in penning the Sandiganbayan decision convicting former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada of plunder.
My most profound thanks go to the authors, Mrs. EVELYN MIRANDA FELICIANO and former Senate President JOVITO R. SALONGA. As I wrote in my column in the Inquirer last Sunday, I first met Mrs. Feliciano on August 14, 2007 during the launching of Sen. Salonga’s “Not by Wealth or Power Alone.” Earlier, I had admired her from afar after reading her book, “Enjoy the Sunset, Living Fully and Aging Well.” She writes in very readable style. Deeply spiritual, she is able to correlate the theology of the Bible with mundane, daily life and thus give Scriptures immediate relevance to day-to-day happenings. As those of you who have read the book we are launching today, Mrs. Feliciano was able to connect the Good Book with the good life. The result: a book on the judiciary with a non-incursive theological tone. Maraming salamat po Mrs. Feliciano. Palakpakan po natin siya.
As I also mentioned in my column, I met Senate President Salonga more than fifty years ago when he was my professor and dean at the FEU Institute of Law. Since then up to the present, he has become my lifetime mentor and guru not only in the labyrinths of the law but more important, on how to enjoy a life worth living. Let me tell you some instances on how he had influenced my life over the last 50 years.
First, as already mentioned by Dr. Echauz, I was an active student leader in FEU and in other schools. During my sophomore year in the Institute of Law, I became president of the FEU Central Student Organization and in my senior year, president of the Student Catholic Action. More than those, I organized and headed the National Union of Students of the Philippines or NUSP 50 years ago in 1957 when I was a third year law student. If I may be permitted to say, the exclusive Catholic girl schools like St. Scholastica’s, Mirriam (then known as Maryknoll), and Holy Spirit got out of their cloisters for the first time in history and joined the NUSP. Naturally, if I may say so myself, I became popular not only in FEU but in many of these exclusive schools. In fact, I met my wife Leni who was then the editor of the Scholastican during our NUSP functions. She was allured by this lamok (mosquito) from FEU. (That’s how the collegialas called me because I was then very thin. I weighed only 95 pounds.)
But Dean Salonga was not impressed by campus popularity. He required me to recite during the height of my extra-curricular activities. He stressed that my first duty as a student was my academic studies. Extra-curricular activities came only second. So to maintain his esteem, I had to study hard and made girl-watching only a secondary activity.
Second, I got sick and was hospitalized for flu and diarrhea when I took the bar examinations in 1960. Because I thought I fared badly during the first day of the examinations, I saw him and ask his permission to discontinue with the rest of tests. But he pressed my hand and said, “Kaya mo yan. Continue taking the exams.” I did and managed to place sixth among the bar topnotchers.
Third, he invited me to join his prestigious law firm. After three years, I got his blessings to form my own law partnership with three other bar topnotchers from FEU, Agustin O. Benitez (no. 1), Custodio O. Parlade (no. 4) and Leopoldo L. Africa (no. 11), who were my colleagues at the Salonga law firm. After he was reelected senator and Senate President in 1987, he invited me to be his personal legal counsel as well as legal counsel of the Liberal Party (of which he was president also) and of the Senate of the Philippines. I was overjoyed and at the same time awed by this responsibility. Indeed, few are favored with the exuberant feeling of serving as counsel to one’s most esteemed mentor. That was an honor greater than being conferred an honorary doctoral degree in law.
Fourth, during my quest for a seat in the Supreme Court, especially when the Judicial and Bar Council initially and repeatedly rejected my nomination, Sen. Salonga was always beside me, consoling and inspiring me with Biblical passages. He would quote Romans, Chapter 8, Verse 28, “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” He would advise me to be patient. He assured me that God would make all things good and beautiful in His time and in His own way. And when I finally landed in the Court, he was the first to congratulate me.
And now, after I had retired from the Supreme Court, he inspired, co-wrote and published this new book, this wonderful work of love and passion. It is an honor and accolade I do not deserve especially from someone as great and as awesome as Senate President Salonga.
For this undeserved honor, I can only say “Maraming, maraming salamat po,” Senate President Salonga at sa inyong lahat na naririto ngayon sa FEU Auditorium. Mabuhay po kayong lahat.