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The Law Professors Hall of Fame

Arlet Coronado

On the night of November 19, 2012, those who inspired and dedicated themselves to teaching law to young minds were honored. The Legal Education Board (LEB), the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) and the Ateneo de Manila University Law Schools (ALS) all collaborated and formed the first “Professors of Law Hall of Fame.”

This event intended to give recognition and honor to those who ignited passion for the law in the hearts of the students. Moreover, it aimed to inspire law students to attain scholastic excellence. Hence, these awardees were called “they who set our hearts on fire.”

Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas SJ was a seminarian in the middle of his masters in Philosophy when he began his studies in law. Being a priest and a lawyer may seem two contradicting profession to do, but for Fr. Bernas, it made him a better teacher and lawyer. He used his legal knowledge to promote Church values with the public. Fr. Bernas was a law professor, became dean for two separate terms, became the President of Ateneo de Manila University, Provincial Superior of the Jesuits and Member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. Now he is dean emeritus of Ateneo Law School.

In 70 years of imparting the knowledge of law, Justice Ricardo C. Puno, Sr. believed that he chose the right profession. Justice Puno gave tough lessons to his students. Known as strict and challenging, he motivated his students to strive for the best.  Teaching for him was a mutually beneficial relationship. It was not a one-way street. “Learning is the activity that never ceases as long as you are in the practicing career and the teaching career of law” said Justice Puno. He has served in the judicial, legislative and executive branches of the government, yet he still managed to find time to teach and be a husband and a father to his 13 children, five of whom are lawyers.

A true Atenean, Justice Lorenzo Relova took his Jesuit education very seriously. Consistent, dignified, honest and with strong principles, there are few words to describe Justice Relova and his wish to impart the same attitude to his students. He had been teaching for 45 years and his lessons have been legends in Ateneo. Even when he was in public service, he never gave up his teaching career. He never missed one of his classes except when he was needed as a Justice of the Supreme Court. He took public transportation to get to his classes. His service as Justice and Court Administrator during the Marcos period was embodied with his Jesuit education. In the darkness of the country’s situation, he was the light of the Lord. He went against the wishes of then President Ferdinand Marcos in at least two critical cases.
“Let justice be done though the heavens fail.” These were the words that Justice Pompeyo Diaz lived by. He fought for the just in and out of the courtroom. He convicted his friends and colleagues even if it was heartbreaking. He fought for students who he felt deserved to graduate. Without using wealth and power, he worked his way up. As a law professor and dean, he pushed his students to be the best. Under his term, the Ateneo College of Law placed first and second in the bar exams. But what he is most proud of was that all his students passed the exams.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Edgardo Paras defined the civil law of the Philippines with his book Civil Code of the Philippines that was first released in 1959. Law schools up to this day still use this book. His book is reader-friendly for it is meant to communicate not to impress. As a professor, he was known for his wit and associating his lectures with showbusiness.  He taught his students that law practice is not limited to the walls of the court. It starts with the drafting of legal documents. It shows how diligent he was in making sure that everything was in order. He showed that law is not static—it constantly changes in order to serve the needs of the people.

Justice Jose Benedicto L. Reyes was a man of honor and virtue. He was appointed by President Manuel L. Quezon as Assistant Solicitor General in 1940. In 1954, President Ramon Magsaysay appointed him as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  In his 18 years of service to the high tribunal, he was known for his incisive decision making marked with balance of understanding law and humanity. He did not take advantage of his position and refused to accept any gifts and tokens. Law experts recorded Justice J.B.L. Reyes as the best authority on Civil Law, the brightest of local legal luminaries. He was a law professor at the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, Far Eastern University and Manuel L. Quezon University.

Justice Isagani A. Cruz, Justice Oscar M. Herrera Sr., Justice Vicente V. Mendoza, Chief Justice Andres R. Naravasa, Justice Florenz D. Regalado. Senator Jovito R. Salonga, Justice Jose C. Vitug, Associate Justice Vicente Abad Santos, Justice Irene R. Cortes, Justice Jose Y. Feria, Justice Desiderio P. Jurado, Dean Rodolfo C. Palma, Senator Lorenzo M. Tañada and Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, were also honored in the law professors hall of fame.

All of these law professors juggled and set time to hone the future lawyers of our country. Their undying passion and knowledge of the constitution and justice have moved their students to pursue their law careers and become the next generation of protectors of rights. 

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