A great Filipino, a remarkable public service career
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-02-19

Because of the Information Gap, many Filipinos do not know the great men in public service – who they are and what they silently accomplish for our country. We suffer from a leadership crisis because most Filipinos are prevented from knowing the very people who could best serve them.

This occurred to me last Friday when I attended the retirement ceremony of Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna. Hearing the highly-esteemed Chief Justice Reynato Puno extol the legacy of the retiring Adolf Azcuna, as if in awe, narrating Adolf’s landmark decisions and initiatives – I could not help feel that here we have a great Filipino bowing out of public service and only the cognoscenti will know what we all owe him.

Among the many landmark ponencias that Adolf Azcuna contributed which improved tremendously the administration of justice in our country are the Writ of Amparo, the recent decision that Cpl. Daniel Smith, the US soldier found guilty of raping a Filipina, should be held under Philippine custody and the decision that slapped down the CPR (Calibrated Pre-emptive Response) edict of the Arroyo regime.

It is no coincidence that the promulgation of the Writ of Amparo and the slapping down of CPR were major contributors to the popularity of the Supreme Court in the last two years. That popularity plummeted somewhat when the high court rendered that highly controversial decision on executive privilege which hid the truth on the ZTE Broadband overprice scandal. To highlight his patriotism, Adolf Azcuna dissented from that decision on executive privilege.

In a country where utang na loob (debt of gratitude) weighs a lot, Adolf Azcuna proved that he could resist favoring the Malacanang Palace resident who appointed him to the Supreme Court if doing the right thing called for it.

Unless you are naïve, you’d do well to regard as friends of convenience those who you meet whilst walking the corridors of power. Although I maintained that sober attitude during the Cory Aquino administration, I must admit to being fortunate to have made lifelong friends. Adolf Azcuna was one of them.

I met Adolf through Elfren S. Cruz, former PMS (Presidential Management Staff) Secretary and Metro Manila Governor. Elfren and I worked together under the wings of Jimmy Ferrer during the 1984 Parliamentary Elections and the 1986 Snap Elections that led to the People Power Revolt. Adolf and Elfren are sterling examples of the kind of leadership that Cory Aquino wielded – recognizing the effective, technically equipped, strong, silent workers and trusting them with some of the most sensitive positions in the Office of the President.

What immediately struck me about Adolf Azcuna was his unaffected manner of occupying the powerful and sensitive positions that Cory Aquino entrusted to him. He was at one time Presidential Legal Counsel, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman and Chairman of the PCGG (Presidential Commission on Good Government). He was so unaffected by power that one could mistake him to be some lowly legal assistant who carried the briefcase of a legal eagle.

From those Malacanang Palace days up to now, Adolf and Mariazun Azcuna (Azun is Adolf’s bitter half, oops I mean better half) still reside in their BF Homes Alamanza house. Have we not seen many others who occupied much lesser positions and who now live in the posh villages of Forbes Park, Dasmarinas in Makati and Ayala Alabang?

I can never forget one unusual situation that took Adolf to resolve during the Cory years. There was this commercial aircraft that aborted takeoff and crashed on the South Expressway. Naturally, a mammoth traffic jam was caused on both the northbound and southbound lanes – caused by curious passersby whose vehicles slowed to a crawl in order to get a glimpse of the plane on the highway.

Then Metro Manila Governor Elfren Cruz was being harassed to get the traffic flowing. To his consternation, Elfren could not get his own personnel to move the plane simply because nobody could ascertain who had the jurisdiction to move it. Because it was an aircraft, there was the view that the AVSECOM (Aviation Security Command) had jurisdiction. Because the aircraft was on the expressway, there was the other view that the Metro Manila Commission had jurisdiction.

Desperate to resolve the issue, Elfren ran to Adolf for help on how to decide which government agency had jurisdiction. Adolf finally resolved it and the clearing operation got underway. The aircraft being on the expressway, the Metro Manila Commission was tasked with its removal.

I was surprised and felt privileged when Adolf deviated from his prepared speech during his retirement ceremony and talked about me and the memories we shared during the Cory years. What to me was help which I’ll gladly extend to a friend, Adolf never ceased appreciating the help I gave him when he was Press Secretary, Presidential Spokesman and PCGG Chairman. Adolf needed my advice on how to avoid the landmines that naughty media men can plant along the route of public officials.

Many of us were touched when Adolf acknowledged that he followed the advice of his former law professor to pray first for the Lord’s guidance before he pens a decision. To us who know Adolf Azcuna, there was no doubt that he did just that.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo