Press Release
March 8, 2021


March 8, 2021

There are a lot of impressions, or should I say misconceptions, people have about lawyers. Whether these were caused by television shows, movies, or sometimes first-hand experiences, there are some negative opinions about them.

(Story about a man's tombstone) I'm reminded of a story of a man happened upon a tombstone that read: "Here lies John Smith, a good man and a lawyer." The man read it and asked: When did they start putting two people in one grave?

However, this was not and had never been the case for Father Joaquin Bernas. He had a strong sense of morals and ethics. He was humble. He was calm. He exuded authority even in his silence. How could someone so endearing - because of his gentleness, and kind and empowering words - can be conceived as unkind? Surely not Father Bernas.

Father Joaquin Bernas was a Jesuit priest, a Doctor of Juridical Science, lawyer, professor, writer-columnist, and author. He was a lawyer first before he became a priest. He had a passion for learning as he devoted his time and effort in advancing his knowledge and understanding of the law and other disciplines. Fr. Bernas obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Latin, and Greek Classics and Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from Berchmans College in 1956 and 1957, respectively, Bachelor of Laws degree from Ateneo de Manila Law School in 1962 and placed 9th in the bar examinations given that year, Licentiate of Sacred Theology from Woodstock College in 1966, and Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science from New York University in 1965 and 1968, respectively.

He was never selfish. All of the knowledge he acquired from those revered institutions he willingly and openly shared not only to his students and his community but to the entire nation by being a member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution. But his impartment of his expertise did not stop from his membership in the Constitutional Commission, in fact, it just intensified after that. A bar topnotcher and a known constitutionalist, he authored and published several books and articles dealing with the Constitution, such as, "The Intent of the 1986 Constitution Writers (1995)", "The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary (1996)", "Constitutional Structure and Powers of Government: Notes and Cases (1997)", "Constitutional Rights and Social Demands: Notes and Cases (2004)", among others. Fr. Bernas's Commentary and Comprehensive Reviewer on Constitutional Law are must-haves for any law student and lawyer alike - Atenean or not.

As an "amicus curiae" or a friend of the court, Fr. Bernas's views and arguments on some important cases of national significance and interests were usually sought by no less than the Supreme Court, particularly on the "Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor in the Philippines", the "Indigenous People's Rights Act of 1997", the "Impeachment case against Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.", the "Oral Arguments in the FPJ citizenship case", and the "Oral Arguments in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD)."

In all these cases, he had consistently persuaded the Court, orally or in writing, with clear objectivity based on the fundamental principles of justice and humanity but humbly reminding his Colleagues and followers that "when it comes to the interpretation of the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court always has the final say".

Sui generis, legendary, nonpareil - these are how the people who have worked with him and those who were under his wings had to say about Fr. Joaquin Bernas. Truly, he was all that and more.

He was a great Servant of the Church and the Law who had always responded to the call of legal and moral duty to protect democracy and human rights unmindful of his own physical well-being and whose unblemished devotion and faith in God and the Rule of Law had helped rebuild the country through his teachings, writings, and leadership. His death is great a loss not only to his Atenean family and to the legal profession but to the Filipino people and the nation as well.

We salute you for a life of service and devotion to God, the Rule of Law and your countrymen, Fr. Joaquin Bernas.

Thus, I seek the support of my dear colleagues for the adoption of PS Resolution Number 674, taking into consideration PS Resolution Number 675.

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