(Article published in the June 27, 2007
issue of Manila Standard Today)
chapter of that edition sounded a clarion call for simple living, by which
he meant “a return to the simplicity and lack of hypocrisy as well as
the love for the rewards of honest labor”, as an antidote to what he
observed all around as “the breakdown of our traditional values, the
erosion in our family and community relationships, the blatant defiance of
our laws and the rejection of our time-honored customs and tradition.”
He ended, like every lawyer does after his oral argument, with “I
now respectfully rest my case.”
But rest the retired justice definitely did not.
And last Saturday, 23 June 2007, on the occasion of his 80th
birthday, a new edition of his autobiography was given to the guests at
the dinner-party given by his family at the Ballroom of the Mandarin
Oriental Hotel in Makati City. On
its third printing, the book has 8 additional chapters, a sequel of sorts,
consisting of updates, flashbacks, further reflections, and bits
and pieces he frankly calls “trivia”, all in all baring all the more
clearly the heart and mind of the man his family is rightfully very proud
As what is expected of a lawyer who almost all his life was in the
practice of law, there was no way the justice would retire from the legal
profession. “During the
last few years,” he confesses, “I still managed to give legal advice
and counsel to a few retainers, aside from some relatives and friends.
They oftentimes prevailed upon me to provide them with a lawyer of
impeccable credentials and unimpeachable honesty because I make it a
condition that I will not appear personally in court, except probably as
collaborating counsel in the pleadings.”
That was a bit of an understatement.
He was, at one time or another after his retirement, consultant,
among others, to Engineer Vicente Ponce in the latter’s legal tussle
with the Alcantaras, to the Philippine Sugar Corporation, and to Oriental
Tin Can Corporation. He was
also collaborating counsel in the prosecution of the kidnapper of the
daughter of the owners of CDO Corporation. He was bar examiner twice, in
2001 and 2006.
When his first born Celia, who had chosen to carry the surname of
her husband, Sandejas, nevertheless opted to carry on the family tradition
of being lawyers, the justice had his mentoring work cut out for him. One
year before he retired, Celia graduated from UP and, in 1996, passed the
bar with a grade of 83.6%. She
became a lawyer like one that took too long a borning: by the time she
took her oath, she was aged 45 and grandmother of two.
Father and daughter immediately set up office at Madrigal Building
in Escolta, Manila; the Justice doing unto his daughter what his own
father did unto him, around 45 years earlier in a place not too far away
at the Roman Santos Building in the district of Sta. Cruz.
The justice and Celia worked on a variety of cases. They secured the reversal at the Supreme Court of the
conviction of policeman sentenced to imprisonment for life for murder.
A South Korean student, who was apprehended at the NAIA departure
area with nine bullets in his backpack, was saved from prosecution when
they were able to convince the Department of Justice that the kid was
carrying the ammunition only as amulets. A cavan of rice and some native chickens constituted their
attorney’s fees for winning the acquittal of a hotel waiter charged with
raping of his housemaid three times in his residence.
The collaboration ended when Celia joined the Securities and
Exchange Commission in 2000.
Revealing of his person are Chapters 37 and 38 containing his
reflections on issues of life and living.
Chapter 37 is his recollection of what he saw two and half decades
earlier on a television show broadcast during the Holy Week by the Voice
of America through its TV satellite: the legend of “The Fourth Magi.”
Legend has it that a fourth king also saw the star of Bethlehem and set
forth to bear the Child Jesus his gift.
But he got derailed by one event after another and was able to
catch up with the Christ only at Golgotha just when He was about to die.
By then, the fourth magus has “squandered” all the gifts he had
intended to give to the Boy doing good to his fellow men.
And he too was then at the point of death.
But, recounts the Justice, “at the precise moment that Jesus
Christ breathed his last, the pilgrim-physician followed suit but not
before a vision of Jesus Christ appeared before him and said, “Whatever
you have done for the least of my brethren, you have done for me.”
The Justice’s telling is not as compelling as Edzard Schaper’s,
but the drift is the same. “To
my mind,” says the Justice, “this story should be told and retold
because of its unique message—that is in our acts of service that we
best serve and show our love for God…”
In Chapter 38, entitled “The Four (4) Horsemen of the
Apocalypse”, additional 5th and 6th are the
politicians and the press…” Many I am sure will agree without too much
The rest of the sequel is just as interesting but, as we ask our
students, should be read in the original. Let me skip to last paragraph:
“I write finis to this autobiography of mine with heartfelt gratitude to
those who had come into and touched my life and, having given me the
satisfaction of their friendship and
respect, allowed me, in turn, to reciprocate these favors and
virtues. Thank you and may
God bless all of you.”
To the sentiments of gratitude, I concede. But “finis’? I will not bet my money on it. The Justice still plays two to three games every Sunday at the Club Filipino pelota court, teaming up as back player to Jimmy Gabihan, wielding his “E-FORCE” racket. With the number one player teamed up with the oldest one (I will not say who is which), the tandem, claims the Justice, is “running roughshod” over its opponents. The final score, I am sure, is still to be written in The Sequel-Part 2.
For he has already invited all of us to his 85th birthday celebration. And, God willing, I intend to be there too, sharing the same table, as I did last Saturday, with Justice Escareal’s better half Amelia (whom the young Romeo convinced to get married to him secretly in a civil ceremony in Paombong, Bulacan fifty seven years ago) as well as with Justices of the Sandiganbayan Ma. Christina Cortez-Estrada and Francisco Villaruz; Justices of the Supreme Court Consuelo Inarez-Santiago and Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez; and SEC Chairperson Fe Barin, who was escorted by a young man whom she claimed was a relation. I did not ask any further.