Sunday, March 13, 2016

118. Sen. Jovy Salonga and his Three Chairs

Sen. Jovy Salonga was the commencement speaker when I graduated from the Ateneo School of Law twenty years ago. Coming out of law school with  a dream of starting a rather late adult life -- I considered law school as a leave of absence from life -- I left the graduation rites that afternoon with the images of three chairs in my memory. Sen. Salonga was quoting Henry David Thoreau, who said, "I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society." The images never left my head, and I have lived trying to set my life in this frame that Sen. Salonga had suggested from Thoreau. Sen. Salonga died a few days ago and I realized most of us only know him from his third chair.  In 1991, I read an essay by Conrado de Quiros on why the Salonga-Pimentel team deserved the presidency and the vice-presidency because they earned it from their work fighting martial law, and I decided to spend the summer of my second year in law school campaigning for Salonga-Pimentel. I also remember Sen. Salonga beaming with pride as he displayed a copy of the Foreign Investments Act before a television crowd. The law was passed while he was the Senate President.  

He claimed that it was a landmark legislation that would propel the Philippine economy. I must say that I regularly refer to it as our office advises foreign investors in the Philippines. It is a well written law that allows the President some leverage on directing investments to specific industries through the Negative List.  If we whispered thank you for every dollar that was brought in through that law, it would probably be louder than the loudest rock star crowd one could ever gather. But nobody ever did and Sen. Jovy never asked for anything in return, except that we vote for him so he can serve us more. Sen. Jovy Salonga did not become president, but I would never forget our graduation day when he came to speak about the three chairs. It is a special reason to be forever grateful for this great man from whose wisdom as a leader the Filipinos have all benefitted. Thank you Sen.Jovy Salonga. May you rest in peace. 

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