Joy in writing for the Inquirer
Ten years ago, on Feb. 11, 2007, my first column was printed, with these opening sentences, “One of the ringing joys of my life is my journey from hawking newspapers in the backstreets of Sampaloc, Manila, to becoming president of the most widely read newspaper in the country. Now after more than eleven years in the Supreme Court, I am happy to be invited back to the Inquirer, this time as a column writer.”
Hesitant columnist. Today, as I celebrate my decade of opinion writing, may I say that, frankly, I accepted the kind offer of Inquirer chair Marixi R. Prieto to write for this paper with a bit of hesitation.
For one thing, my esteemed guru, Dr. Jovito R. Salonga, now deceased, advised against it, saying “chief justices make history, they do not write it. I do not know of any retired chief justice who had penned a column.”
For another, I have never written a regular column in my life. Though I was a minor staffer of the FEU Advocate and managing editor of the FEU Law Review during my student days six decades ago, I have absolutely no background in opinion writing.
For a third, I really wanted to rest after authoring over 1,200 full decisions and opinions (and many more thousand short shrifts of petitions which, on their face, had absolutely no merit), plus one book a year, during my over 11 years in the Court. But Marixi was insistent. As a compromise, I agreed to write once a week, instead of three as requested by her.
And since then, I have faithfully written every Sunday, 100 percent, without fail for 10 consecutive years, regardless of my own time constraints, occasional illnesses, carpal tunnel of my two hands, business commitments, speaking engagements and travel abroad.
Enjoy writing. In all humility, I must say that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) writing for the Inquirer. Why? First, I am given complete freedom to dwell on any subject of my choice without interference whatsoever from the owners and editors, except minor editing of grammatical and typographical errors, adherence to the Inquirer style book and sticking to the pre-agreed space limitations.
I had the same kind of freedom in the Supreme Court, where I wrote my opinions freely, guided only by prayer, the Constitution, the law, and ultimately, by what is just and fair in every circumstance.
Second, writing a column forces me to be updated on the latest news, on what is going on in our country and in the world, especially in the judiciary. As I personally encode it, I hone my computer skills.
At my advanced age, I have no more ambition for myself or my family. By writing my opinion, I am able to contribute my humble thoughts to the molding of unfettered policy and polity.
Keeping up. To do this, I have to dig into newer and faster methods of research to keep up with the Information Age—to learn how to google, to take advantage of computer data and to sift facts from fiction in social media. I also enjoy my large, curved “smart” TV set with HD, internet and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Indeed, writing a column regularly requires keeping abreast with the exponential growth of knowledge. I had to pivot from analog to digital technology and from the old Nokia mobile phone to the “smart” iPhone 6-plus. With it, I can send and receive free texts, photos and videos on iMessage, Telegram, Signal and Viber, take quality pictures that I can edit on the spot, receive and answer e-mails instantly, listen to music, watch movies, use it as an alarm clock and calculator, download the digital edition of the Inquirer, and appreciate artificial intelligence.
Truly, I have many reasons to thank Marixi for, not the least of which is the very recent publication of a brand-new book compiling my 2011-2016 columns, titled “With Due Respect 2.” This is a sequel of the original “With Due Respect” that captured my 2007-2011 columns, which was published in 2011 in time for my 75th birthday.
I am honored and humbled that the new book, which has not been launched formally, merited a foreword from Dr. Raul C. Pangalangan, former Inquirer publisher and now a judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and a preface from Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno.
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