Viray: Lawyering is in their blood: The Abad Santoses

In and Out of Court

THEY were baptized Pedro and Jose. These first names are dime a dozen in Philippine families but these two persons are special and extraordinary.

They have many things in common. They have also many differences.

Both are lawyers. As the eldest in the family, Pedro helped support his mother, his siblings and his nephew. He began his legal career as Justice of the Peace in San Fernando where he served from 1907 to 1909. He became a Councilor of the town from 1910 to 1912 and was twice elected as Congressman of the Second District of Pampanga from 1916 to 1922. (Honor, by Desiree Ana Cua Benipayo, page 100).

While in Congress, he and brother Jose set up a small law office at Recto, then he went back to his hometown to serve the people of Pampanga.

His law office would be full of poor peasants coming for legal advice -- to file or defend these indigent-litigants. Never did Don Perico (Pedro) charge legal fees.

He lived a simple, frugal life. He never married because he knows he was a marked man because of his ideals. Pedro was an activist.

Jose Rizal template refilled. Jose Abad Santos is a hero of the nation and we remember with special his life and works that have "shaped the national character" -- Bernard L.M. Karganilla, Professor, University of the Philippines, Manila.

"While employed at the Executive Bureau, Abad Santos took the Bar Exams in 1910 and flanked! He retook the Bar in 1911 and passed. In 1913 to 1928, Jose became a Faculty Member of the UP College of Law.

Do you know who worked originally for a law, integrating the Bar?

Yes, it was Jose. All along I thought Chief Justice Fidel Rey Castro was credited for this feat. Now, I know.

He severely condemned the use of vitriolic language directed against the members of the law profession and equally discouraged the use of strong language and assumption of a direct attitude towards the courts of justice. In short, he was respectful to his peers (Honor, page 53).

In 1922, Jose succeeded Quintin Paredes as secretary of Justice. After one year in the Justice Department, he returned to a lucrative law printed in one of the most prestigious law office at the time -- Abad Santos, Camos, Delgado and Recto. It was during this time that he had "hefty earnings" from lawyering.

In 1928, Jose together with another Pampangueño (Honorio Ventura) was named to the Cabinet anew by the Governor General, Henry L. Stimson.

In 1932 at 46 years old, Jose was appointed as the youngest Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

In 1941, he was elected as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, succeeding Justice Ramon Ancheta.

In December 1941, he became a member of the War Cabinet of President Quezon.

On March 17, 1942, Jose was not only the Chief of Justice of the Supreme Court, he was acting Secretary of Finance, Agriculture and Commerce -- with broad power given by President Quezon.

He was practically the Acting President of the Philippines, using Presidential Car License Plate No. 1 when President Quezon left for the United States.

On April 12, 1942, Jose was arrested in Cebu City by the Japanese forces. The Japanese ordered the execution of Jose Abad Santos.

On May 1, 1942, Jose talked for the last time to his son Pepito "Do not cry Pepito. Show these people that you are brave. It is rare opportunity for me to die for our country. Not everyone is given the chance."

He was shot under a tall coconut tree near the river back in Malabay, Lanao del Sur.


The shadows of his two uncles -- Pedro and Jose -- loomed large in Vicente Abad Santos. He earned his Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of the Philippines before earning a Master's degree from Harvard Law School.

He was a trial court judge before he returned to his alma mater, UP to teach law. He would serve as Dean of the school from 1958 to 1969. In 1970, he was tapped to serve as Secretary of Justice and would serve the post until, January 1979. He was subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court.

In 1986, President Corazon Aquino retained only two justices of the Supreme Court -- Claudio Teehankee and Vicente Abad Santos. Vicente retired in July 1986 reaching the mandatory compulsory age.

Other lawyers in the family

We ascertain from the book "Honor" that the following siblings of Jose and Pedro are lawyers - Quirino Abad Santos of the Philippine National Bank; Salvador Abad Santos, a Provincial Fiscal and Estrella Abad Santos, a court of First Instance Judge.

I know personally Judge Quirino Abad Santos of Angeles City who rose to become Justice of the Court of Appeals. A simple man with the "Abad Santos intellect."

Any book on Lawyers of Pampanga would not be complete without the inclusion of the Abad Santos lawyers.


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