September 15, 2007

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness. . ." (Matthew 3:3)

Jovito R. Salonga, the Best President we never had, Senate President, Senator, Patriot, Nationalist, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, Political Detainee, War Veteran, U.P. Lawyer and Bar Topnotcher--moral force, man of God and Sigma Rhoan no more.

The newspapers today speak of a real man standing for his principles and standing by his word, even when it is unpopular, even when it goes against the grain, even when it is not expedient, for so long as it is the right thing to do: Jovito Salonga resigns from Sigma Rhoa "effective immediately."

I have had the happy honor of not only meeting the man personally many times over but to have worked with and for him. I first met him when he called me over the phone and introduced himself as "Professor Te, si Salonga ito." He asked to meet with me at his home in Valle Verde and there he broached to me the possibility of forming a student monitoring team to look into cases of delay in the courts as well as to be a watchdog for judicial appointments--this was to become Bantay Katarungan. I gave my two cents worth and he listened; he later offered me a job with Bantay Katarungan to be the coordinator; I was flattered no end but had to decline it because my schedule at that time would not allow it--it was still during the reign of the death penalty and my docket was, literally, clogged. I was greatly honored to even be considered and I told him that. And his answer was, "Professor, just continue doing what you are doing; you are doing good work." To this day, he calls me "Professor" or "Attorney", and to this day, it is impossible not to feel greatly honored that this man, Jovito Salonga, would address you with two titles that he, himself, has distinguished and brought great honor to.

Since that time, I have met him many times; I have represented him in two cases before the Supreme Court and have had the benefit of his legal acumen in the formulation of arguments and even the acerbic and dry wit that is rarely seen. Unforgettable for me is his response when we (Senator Bobby Tanada and I) were offering him the "first chair" as it were in arguing before the Supreme Court our petition to declare the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) unconstitutional; he said, with a hint of a smile, "huwag na ako, at baka masigawan ko pa ang Korte. . . (pause). . .alam mo naman ako'y bingi na."

Ka Jovy, as I call him, is a man who knows the right thing to do at the right time. His stand on many things is well-known. Yet, many people were surprised to hear him speak out on the Cris Mendez/Sigma Rho issue; not a few dismissed his "promise" that he would resign if Sigma Rho would be shown to have been involved in Mendez's death. His resignation from Sigma Rho is not surprising, it is simply Salonga.

Today, Jovito R. Salonga has once again shown what it truly means to have honor, to have courage, to have integrity. May he, like John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3) , be a voice crying out to proclaim the good news that is to come but may he, unlike John, not be simply the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" but the first voice in a cacophony and chorus that is to come.

4 comments:

Simoun said...

greetings, professor te. this is simoun salinas, from your criminal law 1 class. I wanted to post this link to one of my blog entries on Cris Mendez. As a member of a fraternity, I know that I have little to no moral ascendancy on speak of this situation. That said, and at the risk of receiving your ire, here's my entry: Of Justice and Teardrops.

Godspeed and keep on fighting the good fight.

Ted said...

If there are more fratmen like you, then there is hope, indeed. This is a courageous stand you have taken, I do hope that many others would think the same way as you.

Anonymous said...

www.newsbreak.com.ph

Thursday, 20 September 2007
I have been asked whether I intend to follow the example of former Senator Jovito Salonga by resigning from the Sigma Rho fraternity.

The short answer is no. But this answer can best be understood in the context of what the Sigma Rho fraternity is.
The Sigma Rho fraternity is not a single institution. In reality, there are two different entities which may, and do, carry the name Sigma Rho.

One is the university-based, U.P. College of Law-centered fraternity composed of residents. It has its own rules and regulations. It is a dictatorship where the basic principle is that the word of the Grand Archon is law. But the election of the Grand Archon is a jealously guarded democratic process.

The other, and bigger, Sigma Rho is not an institution that has well defined rules. Instead, it is a widely dispersed community of Sigma Rho fraternity members who are no longer students of the University of the Philippines. We, in this community, do not necessarily know each other. We are of differing ages, status in life, occupations, professions, and political persuasions.

There are commonalities in the two. Principally that, by and large, Sigma Rhoans help and support each other, whenever they are asked to, and whenever they can.

The Sigma Rho fraternity has been kind to me. The valuable lessons I have learned, as well as the encouragement, assistance, and support from my fraternity brothers, which I have received in school and thereafter, are too many to recount. The deep and abiding friendships I have made with many brods remain. I am convinced that whoever I am now and whatever little I have accomplished are owing, in no small measure, to my membership in the Sigma Rho fraternity.

By far, the biggest lesson I have learned from the Sigma Rho fraternity is the value of friendship. A sub lesson is that I should not desert a friend when he is in crisis, no matter how badly he has behaved.

So, no, I do not intend to resign. How does one resign from a community anyway?

Fulgencio Factoran Jr.
Makati City

Ted said...

This post by anonymous has been on newsbreak for some time (yes, I contribute to newsbreak occasionally and had, in fact, been asked to write about this; because of much work, I have yet to do it) and I have resisted the urge to reply. But since anonymous (I do not think it is Mr. Factoran Jr., whose son was my student and is also SR) has forwarded it to this blog, let me air my views on what he says.

Factoran says:

"The short answer is no. But this answer can best be understood in the context of what the Sigma Rho fraternity is.The Sigma Rho fraternity is not a single institution. In reality, there are two different entities which may, and do, carry the name Sigma Rho.

One is the university-based, U.P. College of Law-centered fraternity composed of residents. It has its own rules and regulations. It is a dictatorship where the basic principle is that the word of the Grand Archon is law. But the election of the Grand Archon is a jealously guarded democratic process."

It is ironic that Factoran Jr. would defend something he himself describes as a dictatorship because he prides himself on having fought the dictatorship. Unless he is saying that he would favor a dictatorship as long as it is convenient to him. I do thank Mr. Factoran Jr. for being forthright enough to describe the SR as a dictatorship; so let me add that to my description--it is a dictatorship of thugs.

Factoran Jr. further explains why he is not resigning:

"The Sigma Rho fraternity has been kind to me. The valuable lessons I have learned, as well as the encouragement, assistance, and support from my fraternity brothers, which I have received in school and thereafter, are too many to recount. The deep and abiding friendships I have made with many brods remain. I am convinced that whoever I am now and whatever little I have accomplished are owing, in no small measure, to my membership in the Sigma Rho fraternity.

By far, the biggest lesson I have learned from the Sigma Rho fraternity is the value of friendship. A sub lesson is that I should not desert a friend when he is in crisis, no matter how badly he has behaved."

As a lawyer, a former government worker and a father to another SR member, Factoran Jr. perhaps should consider the "sub lesson" he has learned from SR--"that I should not desert a friend when he is in crisis, no matter how badly he has behaved." Rather than an expression of admirable loyalty, it sounds to me more like bad witnessing as well as an uncritical and unprincipled slavery to, yes, tradition and that, by now, distorted notion of "brotherhood." My brother, right or wrong.

It is not commitment to stand by your brother if he is wrong, it is plain and simply blind loyalty. As I always tell my freshmen classes (Factoran III was in one of those classes), "loyalty is for dogs, commitment is for people." The difference? Commitment is based on shsred principles, not blind subservience.

If only for this lesson in "loyalty" that SR apparently teaches its members--whether resident or alumni--Mr. Salonga's example becomes all the more admirable.

Factoran Jr. hits the issue right on the head when he tries to justify why he is not resigning from Sigma Rho. It is simply blind loyalty to an organized "dictatorship" based on ideals that may be, by now, very different from those that he encountered when he joined.

Not speaking out in the face of something that is terribly, terribly wrong, simply to remain loyal, is not admirable. Not speaking out in the face of something that is terribly, terribly inhuman, is not something to be emulated. Not speaking out in the face of something that is as senseless as Cris Mendez's death is not something that should be passed on from father to son.

Factoran ends by asking "(h)ow does one resign from a community anyway?"

Easy. One simply decides whether he wants to be part of an organized dictatorship of thugs.