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With Due Respect

Negative versus positive

Throughout October, the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (FLP) celebrated its 10th anniversary on the themes “theory versus practice, dreams versus realities, negative versus positive, slogans versus philosophies.”

When I was a pre-law student, my political science professor repeatedly challenged me to refute the Marxist slogan, “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need.” To a dirt-poor student like me, it was difficult to refute this slogan for it seemed to fulfill my longings and needs.

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But I also knew that the masses under the yoke of the then communist regimes were maltreated and impoverished. Communism was appealing in theory but appalling in practice. As a lawyer and later as a jurist, I forged my legal philosophy of safeguarding liberty and nurturing prosperity under the rule of law. However, I was bothered that the Bill of Rights was written mainly in negative language. For instance, let me quote our most basic right, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law…” Even the Ten Commandments were mostly worded in the negative, like “Thou shall not kill” and “Thou shall not steal.”

I felt, and still feel, that negatives— what we are against — are not enough, and that positives — what we are for and how we achieve them — are indispensable. A search elsewhere in the Constitution yielded assuaging positives, like “The goals of the national economy are a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income, and wealth…”

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And a parallel search of the New Testament produced the two positive commands of our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples, “Love God with all your heart… and love your neighbor as I love you.”

During elections, the mantras were/are also mostly negative. To defeat Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos jeered,“Alis diyan!” In turn, Cory Aquino shooed away Marcos with “Tama na! Sobra na! Palitan na!”

The problem has always been that slogans and tweets rarely transformed into fulfillment because they are not backed up by sustainable philosophies, implementable programs, and realistic timelines.

Modesty aside, I was happy at my tenure in the Court. And yet a yearning throbbed deep in my heart that I have not done enough. Mostly, my decisions and orders were negative in language by commanding the parties to stop their irregular behavior, or by dismissing petitions, or by ordering obedience to the negatively-phrased constitutional rights. I had only a few decisions on the positive provisions.

I am fortunate that after my retirement, I was invited by our country’s tycoons, most of whom I had not met before, to join their companies as an independent director or adviser. In these positions, I learned of their own yearnings to set aside a part of their corporations’ earnings to philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. To complement their efforts, I organized, together with my dear friends, the FLP on Oct. 13, 2011.

During its first decade, from 2011 to 2021, the FLP focused on its sustainability, purchased an office condo as its HQ in the center of Makati, and sponsored four projects: professorial chairs, legal scholarships, dissertation-writing contests, and educational assistance for the poor.

(I regret that due to lack of space, I cannot list our many partners and friends who, together with my family, donated over P164 million to the FLP during the last 10 years; however, they were acknowledged during its 10th anniversary fêtes.)

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Through these projects, the safeguarding of liberty has been transformed from a mere dream to a sustainable reality because the professors, scholars, dissertation winners, and education-assisted poor will continue and expand the reach of our philosophy in the future, beyond my lifetime. Our ultimate project for the “liberty side” of our overarching philosophy is an “Interactive Museum of Liberty and Prosperity” to be built in partnership with the Supreme Court.

During its second decade, from 2021 to 2031, the FLP will enlarge its focus to help eliminate extreme poverty, initially by sponsoring scholarships and dissertation-writing contests among MBA students majoring in economics, sustainability, business law, and entrepreneurship.

The FLP’s ultimate project for the “prosperity side” is an “Entrepreneurship Fund” of a billion pesos which will be used to invest in and help manage small enterprises that have no access to banks and to profit-seeking investors, but have social impact by providing employment to the poor or by producing food and other necessities.

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TAGS: Artemio V. Panganiban, Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, With Due Respect
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