Diokno, Salonga and Teehankee
On my column last Sunday, de campanilla lawyer Estelito P. Mendoza commented that, while he agreed with the Supreme Court’s judgment upholding the right to travel of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, he was dismayed at the delay in resolving this “2011 case … now moot for practical purposes.”
Speed-up cases. He also bemoaned other delayed cases which, according to him, show “a dismaying insensitivity to humanity.” He cited one (which I will no longer identify in deference to the sub judice rule) involving a prominent accused who had been detained for “precisely more than 1,400 days” and counting.
I replied that, to be fair, Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr. — who authored the right-to-travel decision involving GMA — assumed office in the Court less than a year ago, on July 12, 2017. Yet, he forthwith wrote it with the unanimous concurrence of his colleagues. This is why I lauded him unconditionally.
Nonetheless, I join Mendoza in his plea for a speedier resolution of cases, especially those, as provided in the Constitution, still pending 24 months after the last pleading had been filed.
On his lament that the decision was “moot” because GMA had been acquitted and was now free to travel, may I respond that there are many other accused and “thousands of names listed in the watchlist of the DOJ” who would benefit from it.
Two other readers compared the “constructive right to travel” with the “constructive resignation” doctrine that the Court used in justifying the ouster of Joseph Estrada from, and the ascension of Arroyo to, the presidency in 2001, and wrongly attributed to me the authorship of the doctrine.
I have said it before and will say it again: The doctrine of constructive resignation should be credited to Justice (later Chief Justice) Reynato S. Puno, who wrote that path-breaking, unanimous Estrada-Arroyo decision. Clear as day, for it is recorded in the very decision, then incumbent CJ Hilario G. Davide Jr. and I took no part in the 13-0 ruling. Thus, any attribution to me, whether mockingly or admiringly, is simply fake news.
Three topnotchers. Also on last Sunday’s piece, two other readers scolded me for repeatedly hailing the late CJ Claudio Teehankee. Yes, I admit to hero-worshipping him since I was a student. After all, he had impeccable academic credentials: summa cum laude in both his bachelor of arts and bachelor of laws from Ateneo de Manila, and numero uno in the 1940 bar exam.
Just a few days ago, during my remarks to close Dean Sedfrey Candelaria’s discourse as a professorial lecturer of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, I invited the Ateneo law professors and students to join me in looking up to CJ Teehankee as our model. We may not reach his intellectual altitude, but we can certainly try to approximate him, who, in my view, is the greatest Ateneo law alumnus of all time.
My equal esteem goes to two other superlawyers, Jose W. Diokno and Jovito R. Salonga, who tied for first place in the 1944 bar exam with an identical grade of 95.3 percent. Amazingly, Diokno did not finish law school. (He also topped the CPA board exam.) On the other hand, Salonga, a UP graduate, earned his master of laws at Harvard and his doctor of laws at Yale, a rare feat only a few in the world have attained.
Legends of the law. Salonga was my mentor at Far Eastern University, my boss at his law firm, and my lifetime guru. He was in awe of only two lawyers, Diokno and Teehankee. Whenever either of them was on the opposite side, he would caution me as his then scrabbling assistant, “Please prepare our trial brief extra well because Pepe Diokno (or Dingdong Teehankee) is our opponent.”
I tried, though unworthy, to emulate these three great masters. In emulation of Salonga who disbanded his law office when he was named chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government in 1986, I dissolved my own law firm (Panganiban, Parlade, Benitez and Africa) upon my appointment to the Supreme Court in 1995.
In sum, readers may from time to time detect my feeble attempts to imitate these legends of the law in my columns. Please bear with me as I humbly try, though undeserving, to live in the penumbra of their great shadows.
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