Sunday, October 24, 2004

Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando

Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando

Updated 00:46am (Mla time) Oct 24, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 24, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I WAS desolated to learn of the death of former Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando last week at age 89. He was one of the most erudite members of the Supreme Court, which he headed from 1979 until his retirement in 1985. An uncompromising libertarian and a staunch defender of the democratic ethic before, he impaired that image when he sided with Ferdinand Marcos during martial law and, as he put it, "legitimized" the dictator's abuses. Many of his admirers, including me, were disappointed and felt betrayed.

Until his confinement in the hospital this year, he often visited the high tribunal and attended its programs and functions. He was proud to say that many of its members were his students in the UP College of Law during his early years as a professor, along with Ambrosio Padilla, Vicente Abad Santos, and Ramon Aquino. His students on the Court during my time included Teodoro Padilla, Florentino Feliciano, Hugo Gutierrez, Marcelo Fernan, Flerida Ruth Romero, Camilo D. Quiason, and others.

I was one of them, in his class in Political Law in the first year. As I teasingly told him many years later in the presence of his wife Emma, I did not learn much from him because he was then obsessed with his future bride, who was then in the senior year. When lecturing to us, the young professor often lost his train of thought every time his lady love passed by on the corridor. The couple smiled at the recollection because it was true. Despite his shortcomings, and mine, he gave me a grade of 2, which was respectable enough for me.

When I was on the Court, he often visited me for a few minutes of conversation. I thought earlier that he must have some request or suggestion to make in connection with some case, but I learned later that all he intended was a short social visit. I think he was that way with the other justices he had taught in college. Once he invited Teddy Padilla and me (we were classmates) to lunch at a Japanese restaurant and we had an amiable time discussing not law but current political issues.

I will have to say now that when I was the dean of the Lyceum School of Law, Sotero H. Laurel, our president, sounded me off about the possible appointment of Fernando to the faculty. I objected because of his rather tyrannical manner in the classroom and predicted that his students (in the Lyceum, not UP) would protest and strike. I thought that was the end of the matter but was surprised later to learn that Teroy had appointed him just the same without my previous knowledge and consent. I resigned. Fernando knew about this but did not hold it against me. Later he called me up to ask me to take over his class when the students struck as I had feared.

Iking, as his friends called him, specialized in Constitutional Law in his teaching and practice. He was more knowledgeable than many American lawyers in their own jurisprudence on the subject and could quote from memory Justices Holmes, Cardozo, Brandeis, and other eminent jurists, as well as our own Justice Laurel, for whom he had a special admiration. He co-authored a book on the Constitution with another esteemed colleague, Lorenzo M. TaƱada. He was an active member of the Civil Liberties Union, together with Jose W. Diokno, Claudio Teehankee, and other libertarians. Except for his lamentable defection in support of the despot during the martial law era, he was peerless in the defense of human rights.

In my book, "Res Gestae," I made some uncomplimentary remarks about his disappointing tolerance, even active justification, of the martial law regime. I quoted a concurring opinion of his (to Justice Barredo's slavish adoration of Marcos) in which he praised "the impressive performance of the President and the First Lady in improving the quality of life of the Filipinos, reviving our valued virtues and traditions, and enhancing the dignity of the nation." Many people, especially his students, were perplexed by his volte face. His advocacy of republicanism and individual liberty had earlier earned him much popular acclaim.

Yet for all my open disapproval of his espousal of the discredited Marcos regime, Fernando exhibited no displeasure or hostility toward me. We remained friends and he made no mention at all of my adverse commentaries on his mistaken loyalties. Looking back now, I feel some remorse over my impatient criticisms. I am consoled, though, that he would have understood and defended my freedom of expression, which he regarded as an article of faith.

Fernando was first and foremost a consummate academician. He graduated magna cum laude and valedictorian from the UP College of Law and earned his masteral degree in Yale as the first Filipino Sterling Fellow. He was later conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by the Centro Escolar University and by a university in South Korea. He truly deserved to be acknowledged as an estimable and superior Scholar of the Law.

Enrique M. Fernando had his imperfections, like all of us, especially when he strayed from the path of freedom during the Marcos misrule. But he was a cherished friend for all that frailty, and I deeply grieve over his passing.


Blogger vividkathy said...

Thank u for posting this about my lolo I miss him so much. - Katherine Fernando Reyes

April 9, 2012 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Ramon Tinio, Chief, USN (Ret.) said...

He was an awful teacher both detestable and tyrannical. I shall never miss him.

July 17, 2014 at 10:04 PM  
Blogger Ramon Tinio, Chief, USN (Ret.) said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 17, 2014 at 10:05 PM  
Blogger Ramon Tinio, Chief, USN (Ret.) said...

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July 17, 2014 at 10:05 PM  

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