Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Florentino P. Feliciano, legal scholar, lawyer, jurist exemplar, and great Filipino | Business, News, The Philippine Star |

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Few Filipinos can match the stature and quality of Florentino P. Feliciano’s accomplishments in one brilliant career. Several distinguished lifetimes could have fitted to produce his many achievements.

In his own country, he excelled among the best. In the international sphere, he was considered a major figure.

Man of many outstanding achievements. Justice Feliciano, who died last week at 87 years, was at work on important issues even as he approached the illness that cut him down.

His former firm, SyCip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan, summed up his achievements succinctly in the press announcement cum obituary last week. (I quote these below, adding only paragraph breaks.)

“Justice Feliciano was a partner of the firm from 1962 to 1986, when he withdrew from SyCipLaw to serve as an associate justice of the Philippine Supreme Court. He was the firm’s managing partner at that time.

“As a Supreme Court justice, he decided numerous cases involving significant commercial law and tax law issues.

“He served on the Highest Tribunal until 1995 when he retired early to accept an appointment as one of the first seven members of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization. He served on this body with distinction from 1995 to 2001, the last year of which he was chairman.

“He then rejoined SyCipLaw as senior counsel. In 2003, he chaired the Fact Finding Commission created by Administrative Order No. 78 (2003) on the military rebellion of July 2003. He was counsel to the Republic in several significant cases. He considered it a duty and a privilege to serve the Republic as its advocate.

“Throughout Justice Feliciano’s remarkable career, he was a lawyer with an international reputation for the highest level of excellence and integrity, and widely considered, in the words of his peers, a “towering scholar in international law.”

“He was a prolific writer and lecturer, an arbiter, an adviser, a teacher, an inspiring mentor, a patriot, and until his passing, and despite all of his achievements and learning, an avid and curious student of the law.”

Legal genius. His flash of genius was revealed during his studies at the University of the Philippines, finishing summa cum laude (bachelor of arts) and magna cum laude (law).

Serving early in the faculty of the UP law, he went on to study at Yale University’s famed law school, where he excelled and finished his master of laws and doctor of jurisprudence degrees.

He co-wrote with his international law scholar-mentor, Professor Myres McDougall, a book that was to become a classic in the field, Law and Minimum World Public Order: The Legal Regulation of International Coercion (Yale University Press, 1961).

Memorials honoring Justice Feliciano were recited during the week by famous and important people and by younger professionals whom he has mentored in his long life.

In a solemn ceremony at the Supreme Court, three justices (Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno, former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. and Justice Flerida Ruth P. Romero) heapdd praise on him along with distinguished lawyers, including former Ambassador Lilia Bautista to the World Trade Organization and the current dean, Danilo Concepcion, of the UP College of Law.

Messages also came and were read from around the international legal community.

I will extensively quote from Professor W. Michael Reisman ‘s essay, “A Judge’s Judge: Justice Florentino P. Feliciano’s Philosophy of the Judicial Function,” to convey the measure of the man.

Professor Reisman is the Myres S. McDougal Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and a former editor of the American Journal of International Law. He wrote the lead essay in a hefty festschrift in honor of Justice Feliciano in 2005,

“Justice Feliciano,” Reisman wrote, “is a towering scholar in international law. He has written authoritatively in virtually every area of international law and legal theory, from the law of the sea and, especially, the problems of archipelagos, to human rights law, where his work on refugees and coerced movements of peoples is remarkable for its insights, to environmental law, international economic law, and the law of war, in which his magisterial work with Myres S. McDougal continues to be the essential [regular reference on the subject] for practitioners and students.

“A student who knew Feliciano only from his extraordinary corpus of written work would have expected a scholar, stockaded behind books in some corner of an ivory tower, jealous of every minute that should be devoted to even more scholarly inquiry. That student would be surprised to encounter quite a different person, for Feliciano has been anything but retiring.

“He has been an outstanding teacher, practitioner, diplomat, citizen of his country, region and the world, and, above all, judge.“

Further in this essay, Professor Reisman noted that in 1990, Justice Feliciano delivered the distinguished Sherrill Lecture at Yale Law School:

“I had the privilege of hearing [Justice] Feliciano deliver the lecture and, like everyone else in the packed hall, realized that I was witness to a major event in legal scholarship.... Justice Feliciano’s lecture ranks with (Justice Benjamin) Cardozo’s The Nature of the Judicial Process in its ambition, but goes far beyond it in depth of analysis. “

“The Justice and I.” When I was a young faculty at the UP, I only heard of him as a legendary whiz-kid of one the brightest postwar classes at UP Law.

In my public career, I saw him perform with supreme confidence discussing the problems of a client.

Fate would connect the two of us by a thread of life -- a son of mine married a daughter of his. So we got to know each other, up close and personal.

I learned a lot from him and am in awe of him. When he was in private practice, he mastered the rules that enabled many investors to invest in the country. He found legal ways to enable many major foreign investors to navigate constitutional, legal, and regulatory restrictions with beneficial economic outcomes for the country.

I urged him to devote less time to his many international and national commitments that relied on his knowledge and talents and to give more time to write about his legacy. He simply could not, would not, ignore the demands of the nation and the world on him.

Reference: Steve Charnovitz, Debra P. Steger, and Peter van den Bossche, editors, Law in the Service of Human Dignity: Essays in Honor of Florentino Feliciano, Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Author Gerardo P. Sicat. - My email is: Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary:

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