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With Due Respect

Thanksgiving for new careers (1)

After ending my term in the Supreme Court on Dec. 7, 2006, I was prepared to lead a quiet life of retirement, rest and relaxation. Little did I know I would be embarking on new multiple careers as (1) a column writer, (2) an arbitrator or expert witness in international arbitrations, (3) a director or adviser in publicly listed and large nonlisted corporations, and (4) a trustee and officer in several foundations.

From these unexpected journeys, I find contentment and renewed vigor, mentally, socially and physically, and learn many new lessons. Along with my favorite sports (tennis, golf and gym exercises) and foreign travels five times a year, they keep me busy and buoyant every day.

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In thanksgiving for my exhilarating new careers, I wrote in advance today’s and next Sunday’s columns. As you are reading this first part, my family and I, including our grandchildren, would be in Florida visiting Disney World and, later on, boarding a Royal Caribbean Cruise liner to celebrate this merry season. (Even last Sunday’s piece was written in advance and got printed when we were already in NYC.)

On Item 1, former Inquirer chair Marixi R. Prieto asked me to write three times a week. However, I respectfully declined because I had no journalistic background, except as a fledgling reporter in the FEU Advocate and managing editor of the FEU Law Review during my student days. But she was insistent. So, we compromised on once a week.

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I thank Marixi for her insistence, because writing in this paper forces me to be updated on current events, to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, and to ponder deeply about our country’s malaise. But I do not spoon-feed readers. Neither do I stupefy them with grand opinions and holier-than-thou sermons.

Rather, I prefer to provide the background, the facts and the law. Then, I let them (as I did with my students when I was still teaching) analyze, find their eureka moments and derive their own conclusions. For that is the best way to be independent and responsible citizens.

Also, I had to learn to google and to double-check events, quotes and citations. I had to adjust to the Inquirer style of writing. For example, abbreviations in this paper are capitalized only when they cannot be pronounced. Thus, Comelec and Metrobank are written in caps and lower case, but DOJ, DTI and BPI are written in caps only.

I have been sued for libel despite my care in quoting verbatim from a Supreme Court decision. Nonetheless, the prosecutors, on reconsideration, still filed the case in court and the judge still issued a warrant of arrest without first taking sufficient time to “personally” determine probable cause as required by the Constitution and settled jurisprudence.

To correct these glaring lapses, I went up to the Court of Appeals, which issued the proper injunction, correction and relief. So, too, did the Department of Justice later on reverse the prosecutors. In the process, I personally experienced the harrowing sagas that befuddle courageous opinion-molders. With this lesson learned, I can truly empathize with them amid the hazards and risks they take.

However, my biggest challenge is how to be clear, concise and precise in my limited space of about 4,100 characters (including spaces). Often, I would write continuously and consume double the limit. Thereafter, I had to work back wearyingly and edit excess verbiage without diminishing clarity or shortchanging facts, logic and truth.

Since beginning this column 12 years ago, I am happy to say I have been 100 percent with my output. I have never missed a single Sunday. And though I went abroad often, I wrote my columns in advance, as I said earlier, and left them with Christine Ang Buban, our reliable Inquirer coordinator.

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On Item 2, I was, after my retirement, chosen chairman (and thereafter, chairman emeritus) of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, the only private arbitration outfit in our country, and later on, as one of only four Filipino members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. I have been invited as an expert witness in international arbitrations requiring knowledge of Philippine law. But I have respectfully declined offers to rejoin the government.

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

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