Commencement Ceremony of the U.P. College of Law
23 April 2012, Monday, 4:00 pm
U.P. Film Institute, Diliman, Quezon City
FOND RECOLLECTIONS: MY DAYS IN THE U.P. COLLEGE OF LAW
Last February, I got a call from your Dean, my godson Dean Danilo Concepcion, to greet me on my 88th birthday. He also extended the invitation for me to be your guest speaker for today on the momentous occasion of your graduation. Lately, I have turned down many speaking engagements on account of my heavy work load and schedule, and partly because of some difficulty I have with my eyesight. My doctor calls my affliction “age-related macular degeneration”. Whatever that is, I don’t know, but it is there. Well, at 88, I understand why it is “age-related”. I am probably one of the oldest graduates of the college. To be honest, as I am now presiding over the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice, I silently hoped that I would not be made to speak on the matter which is now before us in the Senate. Yet, I could not possibly say no to a rare opportunity to address this young batch of upcoming members of the Bar from my Alma Mater, the University of the Philippines College of Law. This College has produced some of the best and the brightest stars in the legal profession. It has also produced some of the most colorful and, if I may add, controversial figures in our nation’s history. I would think that I belong to this last category. To say that my life and career as a public servant has been “controversial” is, perhaps, an understatement to most. To be candid and honest, it does not come to me as a surprise that U.P. Law or the U.P. community has not always considered Juan Ponce Enrile as a source of pride. It is but natural and expected that my role in the Marcos era and the martial law years, and my stand on many critical and passionate political and social issues, have invariably caused what may have been perceived as some sort of “estrangement” between this University and me. Far from feeling estranged, however, I have always looked at and understood the U.P. community as both a marketplace and an advocate of varied ideas and causes at different times in our nation’s life. Lawyers are, in essence, advocates. Debates, no matter how passionate and heated, and at times personally bruising, are always healthy for democracy as long as the debates are over ideas, beliefs and issues that matter to and affect the nation and the lives of the people. In fact, I think it would be sad if the University of the Philippines were to ever cease to be the bastion and fountainhead of academic freedom and of social and political activism that it has always been known to be. I have always maintained that we who are in public service must be open to criticism, or even reproach, and public judgment for our acts and decisions. We must be open to criticism and divergent views, even as we are prepared to defend our own positions. In truth, all through the many differences of opinions, heated political debates, and severe criticisms, I have always regarded and held the U.P. College of Law dear to my heart for the fond memories of the years I spent in this campus, and for the deep debt of gratitude I owe this College and my professors for setting me off prepared to tackle the rough road of law practice and public service which lay ahead for me. Thus, this occasion is also, in a greater and deeper sense, a homecoming for me. I consider my admission to the U.P. College of Law as something designed by Providence. Actually, after my pre-law studies, I was all set to take my law course at the Ateneo de Manila. But when I was in my last year as student at the Ateneo de Manila during my pre-law years, Father Thomas Cannon, S.J., who was the dean for student discipline, summoned me to his office. In a stern tone, he asked me why I failed to attend dutifully the Saturday morning holy masses in school. I explained to him that it was...