Most Precious Gifts

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Their father, a school  teacher, required him and his siblings to gather regularly the seeds in the town plaza, and plant them. Back then, trees were in abundance. Mother Nature was protected. Their young minds could not make heads or tails of the practice.

When their father  was promoted and the family transferred to the city, he thought it would be the end of an “unusual” chore. But, he was grossly mistaken. The collection and sowing of seeds continued, with Carbon market providing the supply of rotten fruits such as lanzones that were also planted.

The habit, initially imposed by their father, which they grew to love, and the timeless values that nurturing brings, paved the way for  Ret. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Hilario P. Davide, Jr. to be a lifetime passionate ally and steward of Mother Nature. He considers his time in the garden as one of the most treasured. His close connectivity with the elements of life perhaps partly explains his deep spirituality, humility, patience and simplicity, qualities that we dream and hope embeds the crop of leaders in our midst, as well.

It is certainly not a coincidence that the  two sons of  Hilario P. Davide, Sr., who retired as Schools Division Superintendent, and Josefa L. Gelbolingo, a former public school teacher, brought honor to us and our nation when they won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay (RM) Award. It is certainly another source of pride for Cebuanos and all Filipinos, to know that it is a first in the history of the RM Award for siblings to be given the distinct recognition.

In 2002, Chief Justice was the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay (RM) Award for Government Service. Ten years after, it was the turn of his older brother, Dr. Romulo Davide, to accept the RM Award. He is an agriculturist and UPLB professor emeritus who is equally loved by the farmers and the people and who pioneered the Farmer-Scientist Training Program.

Then Associate Justice Davide became  known as the Green Justice when he penned the globally admired Oposa v. Factoran Ruling in 1993, which enshrined the trust doctrine of intergenerational responsibility or intergenerational justice. Our Supreme Court was the first in the world to do so.

The Oposa Doctrine has since inspired citizens here and in other jurisdictions to assert and claim their sovereign right to a healthy and balanced ecology, which is the right to life and its sources – land, air, water (LAW)  without which we, humans and other life forms, could not possibly exist. Filipino citizens no longer need to prove standing to sue when instituting environmental suits. Congress enacted more statutes to protect our environment. In 2008, Supreme Court created the green courts and became the staunchest defender of the environment and our rights to life and a healthy environment in more landmark rulings such as the Manila Bay case, where the writ of continuing mandamus was first applied. In 2010, it promulgated the first-ever-in-the-world “Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases”, now availed of by more citizens to protect fragile and devastated ecosystems or threats of their destruction.

In his speech last Saturday at the University of Cebu Banilad campus, under the ‘Learning from the Experts’ Lecture Series of the UC Law Students Society (UCLASS), Chief Justice Davide acknowledged that his ponencia in the Oposa Ruling was given heavy weight by the RM Award Foundation in the grant of the award, which is Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.

His sterling achievements as a magistrate was not only in the field of environmental law. When he became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1998, he instituted the  much-needed reforms in the judiciary. To make the judicial system more efficient and effective, respond to the challenges of the centennial and the millennium, and gain the trust of the  people, the Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR) under the Davide Watch was launched. I understand now Chief Justice Sereno, then with the academe, helped  in the institutionalization of the APJR. Hopefully, the program will soon be re-invigorated.

The unforgettable event at the UC Banilad campus rejuvenated students  to take on the cudgels to protect the integrity of our ecosystems. Most of them met, for the first time, Chief Justice Davide and his number one fan and supporter, the charming and ebullient Mrs. Virginia Davide.

We at UC are immensely thankful to them and to our panel of reactors whose words and passion touched the minds and hearts of the second generation of nature’s defenders: the young and lovely Mayumi Maghuyop, likely the Tony Oposa of her generation who bravely asserted the rights of children and those yet unborn; Judge Meinrado Paredes, whose love for our mountains, waters and biodiversity knows no limit and who exhorted the audience to tread lightly in this planet; Vice Mayor Al Arquillano, Jr., whose stirring leadership for grassroots empowerment is worthy of replications and who emphasized the importance of education; the reliable partner, in the advocacy and at home, Dante Ramos, who inspired action by challenging students to apply their knowledge of the Law; Aaron Pedrosa,  who, young as he is, knows the challenges and sense of fulfillment  in human rights advocacy;  Elson Homez who brought in the perspectives of the business sector in sustainable development and, CDN’s  Ms. Eileen Mangubat, who shared her thoughts on the role of media and the lawyers in bringing information to the people and in the protection of the environment.  Your sharing, presence and care are unforgettable and most precious gifts to our young leaders who were privileged to be part of the assembly.

Congratulations to the UCLASS and the officers led by John Menguito for the innovative ‘Learning from the Experts’ Lecture Series. May the event become an annual tradition at the UC College of Law, similar to the Youth for Environment Summit (YES) which John and his batchmates likewise initiated in 2010.

UCLASS and the students and I are likewise most grateful to UP Law Faculty president Judge Jocelyn Uy Po, Dean Baldomero Estenzo of the UC College of Law and Atty. Augusto Go and Chancellor Candice Gotianuy for the much-appreciated support and inspiration for the enriching activity.

Have a mindfully green Valentine’s celebration, everyone.

Happy 15th Anniversary to our CDN family!

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