This will be my last column. In the same way that I had my last lecture as a full-time academic at the Malcolm Hall, UP College of Law last Monday, let me share here my reflection on being a full time academic. I never intended to be one. This is because my mother was a full-time academic, initially at the University of the Philippines. I saw how despite the prestige, my mother was doomed to a life of poverty. This prompted her to seek greener pastures abroad, even at a very high social cost of being separated from us. She retired as an academic from the University of Chicago and, as fate would have it, we were finally reunited by reason of her sickness during her final four years.
Much as I was attracted to a teaching career, inspired by the likes of Perfecto Fernandez, Justice Cuevas, Justice VV Mendoza, Merlin Magallona, and Dean Pacifico Agabin, all of whom taught law in a truly “grand manner,” I suppressed this attraction.
It was not until my 10th year of specialized law practice in WTO Fair Trade litigation when I finally succumbed to the seduction of legal education. The invitation to teach international law was made by then Dean and now Judge Raul Pangalangan who, until today, remains one of my mentors.
Fifteen years later, I end my career as a full-time academic. I do so with sadness, even if I am certain that it is for the correct reasons. I am most thankful for the link between my teaching and my scholarship. I have today no less than 30 journal articles, 2 books off the press, and a further two, which will be submitted under the UP Centennial Book series.
It was my teaching too that inspired my filing of many public interest litigation before the Supreme Court. It was my pioneer class in 2001 that was responsible for the case of Pimentel vs. Executive Secretary that unsuccessfully sought to compel the submission of the certified true copies of the ICC Rome Statute to the Senate for the latter’s concurrence. While the students and I lost a battle when we lost the case—where CJ Puno, with all due respect, erroneously ruled that treaty making was an exclusively executive function—we have since won the war since all the grounds which we invoked as basis for the ministerial transmittal of the Rome Statute to the Senate were also the exact same reasons why the Philippines acceded to the Rome Statute, albeit nine years later, in 2010.
Likewise, I am happy to note that the entire corpus of judgments that the SC has promulgated on the meaning of a “treaty” in the context of whether foreign funded projects should comply with our government procurement act, specifically on its provision on public and competitive bidding, were cases arising from my class discussion on Treaties as an element of statehood. I am even happier to note that the most recent ruling on Northrail, where the Court ruled that a treaty is a written agreement entered into by states in connection with a sovereign function, finally corrected the erroneous ruling of the Court in my first case on this topic in the case of Abaya vs. Executive Secretary which the GMA administration invoked as legal basis for the anomalous contracts of NBN-ZTE and Northrail.
It was also my teachings in Constitutional Law two that gave rise to landmark jurisprudence such as David vs. Arroyo, Cacho-Olivares vs. Arroyo, and the UN Human Rights Committee View in Adonis vs. Republic of the Philippines.
Which brings me now to why I say goodbye to this opinion column. Perhaps the best reason is by citing one of the most important case that I argued and lost in the SC representing my greatest mentor in public international law: Dean Merlin Magallona. In the case of Magallona vs Executive Secretary, we impugned the constitutionality of the 2009 Philippine Baselines Law for violating Article I of the 1987 Constitution, which classified our archipelagic waters as internal waters. The 2009 Baselines Law re-classified our constitutional internal waters as archipelagic waters under the UNCLOS subject to innocent passage, over flight and the regime of straights passage. SC Justice Antonio Carpio, in dismissing the petition, said that the matter was not justiciable since it involved an issue of wisdom of the law. It was an issue of policy and hence, the constitutional domain of Congress.
To my dear readers, I say goodbye to you today precisely because policies—such as whether to do away with 220,000 square kilometers of territorial seas, which we abandoned when Congress enacted the 2009 Baselines Law—should be made with full knowledge of the law and with utmost nationalism, rather than on the basis of political accommodation. Further, economic, social, and cultural rights can never be implemented by jurisprudence, but by policies crafted by Congress.
And so I formally announce that I am seeking a congressional seat as the first nominee of the party list KABAYAN that stands for Kalusugan Pabahay at Kabuhayan. I offer myself to our people as a member of Congress on a platform to promote and protect not just political and civil rights, but more importantly, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
I am blessed to have served Philippine society with the view from Malcolm Hall. It is my fervent hope that our people grant me the privilege to serve them with a seat and a view from Batasan Hall.
Please continue to follow me at my blog (harryroque.com), twitter (@attyharryroque), and FB accounts.