“It always is harder to be left behind than to be the one to go…”
― Brock Thoene, Shiloh Autumn
By Ernesto C. Perez II
Yesterday I received sad news that my former Dean at the University of Perpetual Help – Rizal (UPHR) in Las Piñas City, Mr. Justice Isagani A. Cruz had passed away.
When I filed and was granted my Honorable Dismissal at the Ateneo De Manila School of Law in the summer of 1996, I planned to pursue a career outside the ambit of the legal profession. But fate pulled me back in because my father wanted me to become a lawyer like him.
When I heard that Mr. Justice Isagani Cruz was the current Dean of the Law School of UPHR, I lost no time in applying because he is my favorite Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Nobody wrote decisions or resolutions like him. Every ponencia was a literary piece in the sense that it was not so legalistic. It was easy to read and had rhythm to it.
The interview with him went well and I was accepted. I told Justice Cruz that he was my favorite Associate Justice and I will make him proud by passing the bar examination in one attempt. He smiled and said “We’ll see about that.”
I was scheduled to take the 1998 Bar Examinations. But, as fate would have it, the yearning to work for a Senator of the Republic was too tempting to pass up. Hence, I took the job as Legislative Staff Officer and visited my Dean to tell him that I will be taking the 1999 Bar Examinations.
Justice Cruz just asked me who I will work for and said to do my best and keep my promise to take the bar examinations the next year. I did. And, I passed the bar examination in one attempt.
Justice Cruz and I share several things. First, we married the love of our lives, who are 7 years younger than us.
I remember Justice Cruz telling me during the testimonial at the University of Perpetual Help – Rizal (UPHR) in honor of our passing the 1999 Bar Examinations, that I am lucky to have someone who is 7 years younger than me because that is the perfect age of compatibility between man and woman. That is when he shared to me that he was also 7 years older than his wife. I was delighted to hear that.
Second, we are extremely devoted to our wives. K knows that she is my emotional anchor. While, I know that Justice Cruz cannot be without his wife for a single day.
I remember that Mrs. Justice Cruz – Ms. Salvacion – was always with him in special occasions at the UPHR Law School. And, you can always tell that they loved each other so much even at their advanced age at that time.
And third, I know that we share the same deep love for our country. This was confirmed when I read early this morning the article in Inquirer News about his death.
In that article the only daughter of Justice Cruz shared what her father wrote in his last will and testament. Justice Cruz wrote: “Love our country despite its faults and always remain Filipinos.”
He was a great Filipino by my standard. He was a devoted husband. As a law dean, he was demanding and exacting. You have to watch your grammar and tenses when writing your answers to his exam questions. But, he was a father to us his law students.
I remember several days after passing the 1999 Bar Examination Justice Cruz suddenly appeared at the office in the Senate of the Philippines. You can imagine the thrill and excitement I felt at that time when I saw him inside the office and asking for me.
I remember saying to myself, “who I am to deserve a visit from my Law School Dean and an imminent former Justice of the Supreme Court.”
I immediately asked him what I can do for him. He said he was following up a matter in another office and decided to drop by and personally congratulate me for passing the bar. For some reason, I felt like the prodigal son at that moment.
He told me that 5 out of the 8 candidates passed. Even though he was praying for a 100% passing rate, he was still happy for us who made it through. I was so ecstatic and at the same time so proud that Justice Cruz cared for us dearly – like a father pleased with the accomplishment of his children.
He said our passing rate that time was one of the most lowest in the history of the Bar Examinations. I thanked him so much for taking time to visit me at the office. It was an experience that I will never forget.
My favorite Associate Justice was cremated yesterday afternoon. This is my eulogy for a man who inspired others to give their best. His personal convictions may sometimes be controversial but they always add an insight – a separate opinion, if I may say – that must be looked into and examined carefully.
We got used to the idea of not reading his column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the last 3 years. I guess we will have to get used to the idea that he is no longer with us, but in a more peaceful and serene place.
The legal community lost an erudite and intellectual legal luminary. He will be physically missed. But his legacy is intact.
Adieu Mr. Justice Cruz.
According to the Supreme Court, only 16.59 percent or 660 out of 3,978 hurdled the 1999 Bar Examination given on September 5, 12, 19, and 26, 1999 at the De La Salle University in Manila.