Justice Cecilia MuA[+ or -]Oz Palma Advocate of Peace & Social Justice
YESTERDAY, the nation buried a great lady. We are privileged to have had her in our midst during turbulent times a" the political turmoils which accompanied the change in government during Edsa 1 and 2 and in recent times when the country was again at the crossroads. The few statements she had made before she passed away showed her unwavering conviction towards Constitutional processes and the protection of peopleas rights, especially their authentic participation in governance.
Last Friday, members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, together with the trustees of the Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Foundation (AAQPA) and the Concerned Women of the Philippines (CWP) paid tribute to Justice Palma at a necrological service. Of the 23 surviving members, 14 had come to honor her memory. The others had paid their respects earlier or were out of the country. The 10 commissioners a" Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, Atty. Napoleon G. Rama, SC Justice Adolf S. Azcuna, Atty. Rene V. Sarmiento, Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas, Mrs. Teresa F. Nieva, Bishop Teodoro C. Bacani, CA Justice Regalado E. Maambong, Atty. Chito Gascon, and myself who gave the opening remarks a" shared recollections of their experiences and personal interactions with Justice Palma during the drafting of the Constitution.
Former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., who was also present, had earlier delivered a eulogy at the Supreme Court necrological last Thursday. Ambassador Howard Dee, speaking as co-president of the National Peace Conference, Dr. Jose V. Abueva, as former chairman of the AAQPA, and Ms. Rizalina Boncan, trustee of CWP, recalled her contribution in the pursuit of peace and human rights, especially in the fight against the forces of the Marcos regime. Some recalled her brilliance as shown by her having excelled in many fields of endeavor where she was a "first" and a trailblazer, her integrity, and her being true to her ideals of public accountability.
Fr. Bernas recalled her moral courage and her "trying" moments. One was when she was about to be appointed to the Supreme Court and was informed that the appointment was made on condition of her showing "absolute loyalty." After a talk with Fr. Bernas, she decided to accept the appointment as a call to perform a mission. The second crisis was when she produced a draft of her dissenting opinion on the habeas corpus petition of Jose W. Diokno. She felt compelled to go into hiding because of the tremendous pressure from her colleagues. The draft was leaked and Diokno was released before the decision was released. SC Chief Justice Zaldivar joined in her dissenting opinion and Justice Fernando called her the "heroine of the hour." Of her leadership, Atty. Rama describes her as a great leader not only in the country but of the entire world, citing many of her sterling virtues and accomplishments. If the Constitution has given centrality to the family, it is because of Justice Palmaas advocacy, Dr. …