By Dale Q De Vera, News5
October 21, 2019 – As a tradition, blue used to be the color that court employees wear during a retiring justice’s last attendance to a flag ceremony.
But, on Monday morning, they chose the country’s national color – red, white and blue – acceding to what the most senior member of the high bench, Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, wants to see, an act that showed his genuine love for the country.
Carpio, known for defending the country’s sovereign rights in the South China Sea, also wanted the ceremony to be simple, unlike last week’s when Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin who was given military honors. No brass band played loud enough for everyone in Padre Faura street to know a very important person is the area.
He was the chief justice the country never had, a former top magistrate, Artemio Panganiban, described Carpio, paying tribute to the self-effacing legal giant who had enriched the court with his writings which became canonical.
“Regardless of the unceremonious way he was deprived of the official and legal title of chief justice, the Filipino nation represented by all of us gathered in this hall, hereby proclaim and acclaim as our esteemed and beloved CJ,” Panganiban told an earlier testimonial lunch for Carpio, saying he did not mind missing five opportunities to become the highest judge of the country.
Panganiban said Carpio never wanted title honors and testimonials. “it is more important to be correct, to be honor-bound than to be titled grandiosely than to be damned in history.”
All but one of the so-called “gods of Padre Faura” showed up on Monday’s flag raising to bid Carpio an appropriate good bye. Only Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. missed the event for undisclosed reasons as the well-respected and most-loved justice received plaques of appreciation for his services.
Carpio’s legal “opinions reflect the consistent scholar: clear, erudite, strategic, and always with a perspective towards a just result that should benefit the Filipino people,’ said Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, reading the citation in his award.
Carpio’s writings “usually served as the platform that elevated discussion for all his colleagues.” Leonen added.
Carpio, who hails from Davao City, is the longest serving justice, earning his law degree from the University of Philippines and undergraduate studies from Ateneo de Manila University. He began his public career as chief presidential legal counsel during the presidency of Fidel Ramos in 1992 and was appointed to the high bench in 2001 by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. On five occasions, he served as acting chief justice but was bypassed by two presidents – Benigno Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte.
He has written 935 decisions, 79 dissenting opinions, 30 concurring opinions, 13 separate opinions, a testament to his integrity and independence as a member of the high tribunal.
As he walked toward the podium to address the court, he was welcomed by a thunderous applause, a sign of how well-loved. Acknowledging the crowd’s gesture, Carpio recounted the years he spent in the Judiciary, “18 years ago I stood here on this very spot to introduce myself as the newly appointed justice of the court. I then asked for your support to help me dispense justice to our people,” he said.
“After 18 years I stand here on this same spot to thank you for your unselfish support and to bid you farewell as I retire midnight of Friday this week,” when he turns 70 years old, the mandatory retirement age for court officials. Carpio is the 148th associate justice of the Supreme Court who had served as acting chief justice for total of eight months.
“You want your idea to prevail over the ideas of others, it’s a constant intellectual battle,” Carpio said, adding he will continue to serve the country in other capacity, giving talks and lectures on the West Philippine Sea as he continues doing research and write books.
“I am always available to defend our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. I don’t have to have any formal position. they want my opinion my recommendation, I will give it willingly and gladly.” (MM)
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