By Ignacio R. Bunye
I MISSED its actual showing on GTV last December 5, but fortunately, a few days later, as a Christmas gift, both an audio and a video recording of “Ageless Passion 3.” “Ageless Passion 3” is a musicale featuring the life and works of Artemio V. Panganiban, the 21st Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
I found the musicale very touching, inspiring and uplifting – a very fitting tribute to an outstanding jurist and patriot.
The musicale captures important milestones in CJ Art’s colorful life – as a newsboy, as a bright and active campus leader (He co-founded the National Union of Students in the Philippines), his courtship and marriage to an equally bright colegiala Leni Carpio, as head of his own law firm, as Primus Inter Pares in the Supreme Court, as a prolific writer, and as a director – post SC – in more than 20 corporate and NGO boards.
“Ageless Passion 3” features 18 original music by National Artist Ryan Cayabyab. The libretto – prepared by rising lyricist Jeff Agustin – very accurately portrays the honoree’s judicial philosophy – Liberty and Prosperity under the Rule of Law.
The musicale was headlined by artists Topper Fabregas, Cris Villonco, Michael Williams, Lynn Sherman, Juan Gabriel Tiongson, Hazel Grace Maranan, Redemptor Nuestro and Raymond Conception. It was produced by Donna May Lina and co-directed by Bart Guingona, Louie Ignacio and Rember Gelera.
Timed to celebrate the 85th birthday of CJ Art, the musicale was introduced with tributes from his peers and members of the academe who had these to say of CJ Art.
“With an optimistic outlook in life, he has not aged a bit in his devotion to safeguard liberty and nurture prosperity under the rule of law.” Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo.
“He extricates the possible from the hypothetical, the emerging from the established, the literature in science and the law in art.” Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
“He leapfrogged the social and economic barriers of Philippine society… (and ) in the Supreme Court, best blossomed for God and country.” Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno
“A renaissance man… a nobly-souled and gifted jurist.” Chief Justice Renato C. Corona
“Undoubtedly the most prolific writer of the Court, bar none.” Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio
“…Chief Justice Panganiban possesses this unique quality to resonate with all kinds of people… (A) beacon of justice on his own.” Senior Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe
“While we may have had our differences regarding some of the cases decided by the Court, he remains a titan in the legal profession.” Senior Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen
“An avatar of Themis herself, CJ Art’s judicial legacy will surely live on through the ages.” Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando
“One book a year and no cases left undecided. This is Mr. Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban’s unsurpassed record. It has also been the best summation of judicial reform.” Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr.
Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez lauded his “pre-eminent judicial craftsmanship, social philosophies and literary style”.
“The way CJ Panganiban writes is a reflection of what he is – brilliant without being flashy, authoritative without being pompous, straightforward without being drab.” Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra.
“He perfected preserving the independence of the Supreme Court, having a working co-equal relationship with the Chief Executive, and getting his own Supreme Court justices to work as a team.” Aurelio Montinola III, Chairman, Far Eastern University.
“One of the best UP law alumni we almost had!” Dean Danilo L. Concepcion, President, University of the Philippines.
“As Chief Justice, he distinguished himself in that he strove as much unanimity as possible … painfully conscious that ‘the least dangerous branch’ speaks loudest when it judges wisely in one voice.” Dr. Raul Pangalangan, Retired Judge, International Criminal Court, The Hague.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle added his own accolade by singing The Prayer of St. Francis, set to music by Ryan Cayabyab and played by the Manila Symphony Orchestra.
I was so glad to have watched a recording of this musicale. Truth to tell, I owe CJ Art a huge debt of gratitude. On May 5, 1999, in a case entitled Bunye v. Sandiganbayan (GR 122058) CJ Art, together with Associate Justices Fidel Purisima (the ponente), Flerida Ruth-Romero, Minerva Gonzaga-Reyes, and Jose Vitug unanimously voted to overturn the Sandiganbayan, a decision which proved life-changing for me and a dozen co-accused. The facts of the case are too long to narrate here. Suffice it to say that had the SC justices voted otherwise, I and my co-accused, including incumbent Muntinlupa city mayor Jaime R. Fresnedi, would now be languishing in jail. When I had the opportunity to thank CJ Art, he replied that he simply did his job of interpreting the law as he saw fit and just.
Years later, our paths would cross again. In 2016, he completed his term as an Independent Director of Bank of the Philippine Islands. I was nominated to fill his very big shoes in the board of BPI.