2006 - The Hon. Hilario Davide
Retired Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice
Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. has always been a leader by example. His professional life has been, for the most part, devoted to public service. He is known to maintain his professional competence and integrity amidst attempts to influence his official action and judgment. His service record stands as proof that a public servant can make a difference, without being beholden to no interest other than the public’s.
“Jun,” as he is known to his relatives and friends, was born on December 20, 1935 in the remote barangay of Colawin, in Argao, Cebu.
He went to Argao Elementary School and Abellana Vocational High School for his primary and secondary schooling, respectively. In college, he went to the University of the Philippines. He initially took up Associate in Arts in 1955. In the same year, he entered the U.P. College of Law as an entrance scholar. A year later, he became a member of the Order of the Purple Feather, the College’s honor society. He also became a member of the Student Editorial Board of the College’s legal publication, the Philippine Law Journal. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Jurisprudence in 1958, and his law degree in 1959. In his last year in the U.P. College of Law, he became a member of two international honor societies, the Phi Kappa Phi and the Pi Gamma Mu.
He was thrust in the government service early on in his professional career. From 1959 to 1963, he became the Private Secretary to the Vice-Governor of the Province of Cebu, and then to its Governor. And, like his parents, he also became involved with the academe. From 1962 to 1968, he was a faculty member of the College of Law of Southwestern University in Cebu City. This university would later confer upon Chief Justice Davide his Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) degree (1999).
He was later elected as delegate of the 4th district of Cebu to the Constitutional Convention (CONCON) in 1971. He became Chairman of the Committee on Duties and Obligations of Citizens and Ethics of Public Officials. He was among the three delegates to the CONCON who introduced the most number of reform proposals.
The reforms adopted under the CONCON were, however, short-lived. Public unrest over deteriorating economic conditions and the suppression of political rights, as well as the desire of the Marcos regime to perpetuate itself in power, heralded the declaration of martial law in 1972.
Chief Justice Davide became one of martial law’s staunch critics. In 1978, he was elected assemblyman for Cebu in the Interim Batasang Pambansa. An oppositionist in the ruling party-dominated legislative body, he was its first Minority Floor Leader. As assemblyman, he filed the most number of bills of national significance, as well as resolutions to lift martial law. He also sought legislative investigations of graft and corruption in government and reported violations of human rights.
Shortly after the overthrow of the Marcos regime through the “People Power” revolt in February 1986, then President Corazon C. Aquino convened the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) of 1986, and appointed Chief Justice Davide one of the fifty Commissioners. He was the Chairman of the CONCOM’s Committee on the Legislative Power, and a member of the Committees on the Executive Power, the Judiciary, Style and Public Hearings.
As Chairman of the Committee on Legislative Power, he was the principal author and sponsor of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution on the Legislative Department. He was also the sponsor of the Ordinance appended to the 1987 Constitution providing for the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. He submitted the most number of resolutions, a majority of which were incorporated in the Committee reports.
In February 1988, President Aquino appointed Chief Justice Davide as Chairman of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). He was the principal sponsor of COMELEC’s rules of procedure. While serving in the COMELEC, he was designated as Chairman of the Presidential Fact-finding Commission created pursuant to Administrative Order No. 146. It was a task to conduct an investigation of the 1989 rebellion and the involvement in it of military and civilian officials and private persons. On the basis of a bill which was certified by the President to Congress and which later became Republic Act No. 6832, this Commission was superseded by a Fact-finding Commission to conduct a thorough investigation of the failed coup d ‘etat of December 1989, and recommend measures to prevent the occurrence of similar attempts at a violent seizure of power. Chief Justice Davide was appointed as Chairman and he was deemed resigned as Chairman of the COMELEC.
He was appointed as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on January 24, 1991. From January 2, 1996 to August 30, 1997, he sat as a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. He was also the Working Chairman of the Court’s Third Division from January 2, 1996 to September 7, 1997, and Chairman of the House of Representative Electoral Tribunal from September 1, 1997 to November 30, 1998.
Chief Justice Davide was appointed by President Joseph Ejercito Estrada on 30 November 1998 as the 20th Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court. Forthwith, he took his oath of office at the new Bonifacio Shrine in the City of Manila.