Testimonial for Hon Artemio V. Panganiban, Chief Justice of the Philippines (Manila, 22 Apr 2006)

TESTIMONIAL ADDRESS FOR CHIEF JUSTICE ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

By Chao Hick Tin, AG, President, ASEAN Law Association

The Honourable Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban and Mrs Panganiban, The Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, The Honourable Avelino Cruz, Chairman of ALA Philippines and our most gracious host. The Honourable Chairmen and Heads of Delegations of national committees of the ASEAN Law Asssociation.

I would first of all wish to extend my gratitude to Atty Avelino Cruz and the ASEAN Law Association of the Philippines for inviting me to be part of this happy and historic event. Coincidentally, just this morning I delivered another testimonial on the appointment of the new Chief Justice of Singapore in my new capacity as Attorney-General of Singapore. For this reason, I was not able to join you for the testimonial golf game this morning. But as you know, my lack of skill in golf and singing are my major “handicaps” in ALA. Nevertheless, I am in the happy position of being able to deliver testimonials to both the Chief Justices of the Philippines and Singapore in a single day!

I believe that I am speaking on behalf of all national committees when I say that the ASEAN Law Association is indeed happy that one of our very own founding members has been appointed the 21st Chief Justice of the Philippines in December last year. Chief Justice Panganiban has been closely involved and associated with ALA , having been active in its Working Committee since the inaugural General Assembly held in Manila in 1980. It was in Manila where I first met Chief Justice Panganiban. Over the years as we continued to meet at ALA meetings, our ties and friendship grew. I am grateful that he took time off his busy schedule to be present at the Singapore General Assembly in Dec 2003 where I was elected President of ALA.

Among the ALA’s main constitutional objectives are firstly, the study of and research in the laws of the ASEAN countries with a view to harmonization of laws in ASEAN, secondly, the dissemination of the laws, legal systems and legal development of the ASEAN countries and thirdly, the publication of journals etc and the organizing of conferences, meetings, symposia and seminars. It is no overstatement to say that Chief Justice Panganiban is a living model of the ideals and constitutional objectives of the ALA.

A brilliant and respected jurist, and a prolific writer, he is in the words of Justice Hilarion L. Aquino, “ like a concert artist … [who] has rendered one masterpiece after another: his ponencias and separate opinions are examples of artfully written and forcefully argued judicial literature and his books .. dissect, with clinical accuracy, often tangled legal problems while affording the reader the pleasure of unpretentious prose and a warm glimpse at the High Court’s seldom-seen side !” Justice Aquino goes on to observe accurately that “everything he offers is a masterpiece, not really because he is set on creating an impression, but because he shares of himself without reserve in all that he writes.”

I have always been amazed by the Chief Justice’s astounding ability to write book after book, year after year. Justice Antonio T. Carpio, who is another strong supporter of the ALA, has described the Chief Justice as “undoubtedly the most prolific writer of the Court, bar none,”. The Chief Justice has during the last ten years penned more than 1,000 full-length decisions and ten books plus several thousand minute resolutions disposing of controversies. Some of these books, personally autographed by Chief Justice Panganiban, are proudly displayed and treasured in my Chambers in Singapore.

Chief Justice Panganiban’s life story is an inspiration to every young person who dares to dream dreams. It is also a testimonial to his amazing courage and determination and his character and humility. He rose from humble beginnings to the highest judicial office in the Philippines. According to his official biography, he was so poor that in order to support his studies, he hawked newspapers, peddled cigarettes and shined shoes in the streets of Sampaloc in Manila. During his college days, he sold textbooks to his classmates and bibles to his professors and university officials. The youngest of four children, he was born from impoverished parents who passed away while he was still in school. But he finished his studies with the support of his elder siblings. Despite these difficult circumstances, he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree cum laude in 1960 and he was placed sixth in the bar examinations in that year.

Anyone who knows Chief Justice Panganiban will testify that he stands for steadfastness, honesty, dedication and progress. In his book, “A Centenary of Justice”, he proposes 3 E-Values for lawyers: “Excellence, Ethics and Eternity”. These values have become the cornerstones of his professional and personal life. I can do no more than to describe his strong belief in ethics in his own words:

“The value of ethics, which proceeds from personal integrity, motivates us to act in accordance with what is true and honest regardless of personal consequences. To act with integrity is to act with moral courage.”

Upon his appointment as Chief Justice, he was quoted as having said: ”Thus I see my appointment as Chief Justice as an opportunity to be of even greater service to God and country”. He also vowed to “safeguard the liberty of the people and to nurture their prosperity, while upholding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary”. He vowed to do this “in an atmosphere of integrity, transparency and accountability”.

This statement reveals the measure of the man - his humility and his deep religious faith and a heart that placed service to God and nation before self. He has also not forgotten his humble beginnings and has toiled to better the lot of the down trodden and poor. It is indeed the hallmark of a great man and a greater Chief Justice.

Although a firm believer in traditional values, the Chief Justice is a progressive visionary and no stranger to modern technology. I am told that he is much more adept at manipulating computers and the new information technology than I am. As early as Jul 2001, he had the vision to suggest that the Philippines Supreme Court could meet the challenges of biosciences and biotechnology by inter alia “promulgating rules on DNA fingerprinting, the use of genes as evidence, and the admission of biotechnology and genetics as evidence”. He further suggested that it could prepare rules of procedure in cases involving genetics and biotechnology.

May I on behalf of the ALA extend to Chief Justice Panganiban our warmest congratulations and wish him every success in fulfilling this high calling.

 

 
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