Teachers who affect eternity

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Uncle Jovy Salonga turns 94 on June 22. He is not likely to be aware of the milestone, a fate we all dread.

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The end should be near, says son Steve, my cousin (for the nth time, Uncle’s mother, Dinang, was the first cuz of my Lola Talia, barren of milk, so my Daddy sucked from the breasts of Lola D, in San Miguel, Pasig).

Awareness-wise, an askal is better off as Holmes said that even a dog would know the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked.

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Last Monday, I said my final goodbye and thank-you to Ms. Virginia “Baby” Pagulayan, 94, in Loyola, in Guadalupe. In May 2010, we honored her—she inspired us in Pasig’s Rizal High—when she turned 90 in 2010. Uncle and I, Rizal Hi alums, spoke in an oral festschrift’s functional equivalent, in Rockwell. I was a high school nobody, an ordinary Sec.1 kid, making bulakbol, getting suspended, and enjoying life. “With a boy’s will to turn somersault,” the school organ’s grad issue said of me. Galawgaw daw.

Miss Baby and my Makati Elem and Rizal Hi teachers validated what Henry Adams Brooks said, that a teacher affects eternity, he never knows where his influence stops. Here, we owe our overcriticized, overworked, underpaid and underappreciated teachers better working conditions, starting with their pay.

Also gone is Fr. Silvestre Lacson of San Beda, who was never my teacher, I don’t think. But his fine diction I remember. He was one of the first Pinoys to enter San Beda’s Benedictine Order. The first might have been Fr. Anselmo Sison, who in our religion class, would welcome us late afternoons, sweating freshmen who had just played basketball in the sun (covered a long time ago, even air-conned). He would characterize me as “smiling, beguiling.” I know not why.

Last Tuesday morning, I was on Zobel-Roxas on my way to San Beda for Fr. Lacson. Traaaaffic. I assumed traffic would be bad all the way at 7:30 a.m. so I turned around for a case in Parañaque, which, thru the patient and creative handling of Judge Brigido Artemon Luna II, finally got settled, after a marathon back-and-forth and some tears. Our client was not fully satisfied but that is in the nature of the beast.

Un mal areglo es mejor que un buen pleito (Better a bad settlement than a good litigation.)

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Judges are much better paid now. In Makati, cum a car plan yet. Taguig is supposed to be even better. So we restart laying down the economic foundation of honesty by paying people above the level of corruption. A gutsy woman judge in Vigan (Cecilia Corazon S. Dulay-Archog) dismissed Chavit Singson’s libel case against Ninez Cacho Olivares, instead of reflecting the local power situation. In Imus RTC Judge Gloria Gutay Aglugub just dismissed a case where mother and daughter had languished in jail for more than two years. Provisionally, but good enough for Medico-Legal Teresita Sanchez, head of the Women Lawyers Association of the Philippines, and me.

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Gone with Ms. Baby and Fr. Lacson also is Bedan footballer Carlos Ortoll. If his likes had endured and prevailed, we might be in Brazil today for balompie, instead of focusing on balon cesto, for which Manny Pacquiao seems to say he is qualified to play, in the PBA. It should not allow the Pretender Congressman aspiring to be a Pretender Senator in 2016 to be a Pretender-Playing-Coach. Michael Jordan shone in basketball but bombed in baseball, accepted his limitation, and returned to the NBA and again scintillated.

What would it have been if we had developed more Eddie Pachecos and Eddie Ocampos? Discipline was their middle name, but, I should not really keep looking for the dark cloud behind every silver lining. Noynoy’s quick 2010 win would not have been possible sans the teachers doing poll duty, among other people to thank.

Ateneo Law has good teachers, no doubt. Am I glad to have dealt with very young Ateneo alums who may make government their career. Sec. Leila de Lima and Sandigan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang are Bedans, the type who would move power-grab plotter Jacke Cade to blurt, “first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers!” – the highest paean to attorneys, by Shakespeare. Macoy should have eliminated the lawyers right off in 1972. He did not and we unceasingly asked the foolish questions of the day.

I had a good constitutional law teacher in Felix V. Makasiar, Macoy’s classmate. In 1972 we had a star-studded Supreme Court. He would call me early on after martial law was inflicted by UP’s criminal geniuses. “’Ne, you hit us again!” “Sir, eh ‘yan po ang itinuro ninyo sa amin.” Yes, teachers affect eternity. Thank you, Ms. Baby. Thank you, Fr. Lacson. Thank you, Chief Justice Makasiar.

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In 1967, I wrote an article in the San Beda Law Journal on the Ombudsman. Last June 11, enterprising Francis Earl Cueto wrote in this paper an article here on charges being filed there against many persons, two of whom are my clients. I wrote to the Office of the Ombudsman, attaching a clipping on the report. My man was told that he needed a specific authorization, aside from the letter-request. Done. But again, nothing. That Office was created to help reduce red tape as I wrote in the San Beda Law Journal article in 1967. Instead it is compounding the problem.

I hope Ombudsman Morales will remedy the situation. We first met in an ocular inspection on Neptune St. in the late 90’s when the MMDA wanted to break down what separates Neptune St. from St. Andrew’s Church. The inspection required long walks; an offer was made for her to ride in a party’s car. She refused and that spontaneous ethical position on propriety bit deeply into my memory.

She has her work cut out for her given the number of criminal geniuses we have. Macoy was not the last.

But, I do believe in the presumption of innocence and even at a time when it seems it is more important to know the judge than the law, many still go by the fixed stars of ethics and propriety.

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