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The Philippines => Philippine Laws => Topic started by: MIKELIGALIG.com on June 23, 2010, 11:02:07 AM

Title: An Emotional Story of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona
Post by: MIKELIGALIG.com on June 23, 2010, 11:02:07 AM
Written By EDMER F. PANESA - Manila Bulletin

"Behind every man’s success is a father’s dream."

When he took his oath as the country’s 23rd Chief Justice last May 17, Renato Coronado Corona could only recall how his late father, Atty. Juan M. Corona, inspired him to become a lawyer and eventually reach the zenith of his profession.

After all, it was his strict disciplinarian father who pushed an initially reluctant Corona to go to law school and pursue a career in the legal industry.

“Wherever you are, this one’s for you,” Corona said, as if raising a goblet in a toast to his father after he assumed the top Supreme Court post. The statement may sound like a cliché to everyone, but it surely gets the attention of many who have a soft spot for their father.

Sitting down for an interview with the Manila Bulletin, the controversial jurist gave a sneak peek at how he is as a person, most especially as a son.

Who would ever think that someone who looked the part of a cold and detached magistrate and perceived to be fearless is actually sensitive? Corona himself admitted he has always been a very emotional person and would cry too easily every time he talks about his family.

When asked if he could do an interview with us regarding his relationship with his father, Corona immediately agreed and did not think twice. It surely was a respite from his previous interviews that delved mainly on his controversial appointment.

The SC chief said he does not only want the public to know him better as a person but also to inspire and remind them, especially the youth of today, about the values or traits Filipino children are known for – respectful and loving to their parents.

He hopes his story will serve as an inspiration to all fathers and sons whose relationships may not be that easy, but share a deep bond and love for one another.

Truly, Corona became so generous in sharing some of his treasured moments with his father, who, at one point, was apprehensive about his son’s earnest interest in pursuing law considering that he married ahead before finishing his degree.

He also revealed how his father’s strict discipline played a large part in his success that no wonder, he never missed sharing with him every single milestone in his career.

As a sign of gratitude, he would always offer to his father all his achievements from finishing his Bachelor of Laws degree to passing the Bar exams, which the older Corona personally witnessed as he was still alive then, as well as posthumously dedicating to him his Harvard diploma, his appointment to the High Court, and more recently his becoming the Chief Justice.

During the interview, the country’s chief magistrate did not only shed some tears but even asked for short breaks to get a grip on himself, overwhelmed by emotion as he is.

Born to a family of lawyers, Corona said it had always been his father’s dream that he and his two brothers, Arturo and Ruben, become lawyers like him.

“My older brother, Arturo, wanted to pursue another vocation. My father would not hear of it. I wanted to initially pursue a military career, (but) my father wouldn’t hear of it. Then I wanted to become an engineer; he also would not hear of it. My younger brother, Ruben, wanted to do something else. Again, my father would not hear of it. He said all three of us will become lawyers.

“We grew up at the time when children obey their parents 100 percent without question. It’s like father knows best. Since my father said all three of us will become lawyers, then so be it. We got resigned to that idea,” the Chief Justice narrated.

But the dream of his father was threatened of becoming a disillusion when Corona and his girlfriend of three years, now his wife, Cristina Roco, decided to settle down after college. He remembered how angry his authoritarian father was when he sought his blessing on their marriage.

“When I asked permission, I said I wanted to settle down because (Cristina) and I had already been going steady for three years. My father was very angry,” Corona reminisced.

“Not that he did not like my fiancé – because both my parents took a liking of her immediately when they met her – but my father was afraid that I might not go on to law school, that I might not even finish law and of course not become a lawyer. That was the reason he was very angry.”

The disappointed father uttered harsh words that no one would like to hear. But Corona just kept silent and took them all in stride.

Corona talked to his father several times to appeal to him even to the point of saying he was not after his financial support, only his blessing.

But still, the father remained unbendable and insisted he should finish his law degree first.

When he finally realized his father would never ever say yes, Corona told him he would push through with the wedding even without his consent. “He suddenly fell silent; his tone changed and told me, ‘if you want to ruin your life, go ahead.’”

And so Corona and his wife got married. To show his father that he meant business – meaning he was going to stand on his own feet without asking for any help from his father – they rented a small apartment in Sta. Ana, Manila where they lived together as husband and wife, while he went on with his law studies. A promise is a promise, after all, he said.

From 1970 to 1974, Corona was working at daytime as an employee in Malacañang in the office of then Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor and in the evening, he would go to Ateneo Law School , which at the time was on Padre Faura Street . Since he did not have his own car then, he took the jeepney going to office and school.

Corona narrated that from work, he would go straight to his class, which was from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. “As soon as I got home I would eat dinner, rest for a while and take a nap. Then I get up at 11 o’clock in the evening up to 2 am to review my lessons.

That’s my study hours. I wanted to prove something to my father so it was that way.”

After four years of sacrifice, discipline and hard work, Corona finally completed his law degree – with flying colors. He was one of the top graduates of his class, but his father didn’t know this until his graduation rites came on April 6, 1974.

“My father got surprised when he found out I was graduating with honors,” Corona evoked. “It has been a tradition at the Ateneo College of Law that during graduation you give your hood, if you are married, to your spouse. You let your wife put it on you and if you are single it’s your mother, and if your mother is not around, your father.”

But when his name was called, he asked his father to join him on stage and gave him his hood, although his wife and mother were also around at that time. At first, the astonished father was hesitant. He even asked his son why it has to be him instead of his wife and mother, to which, Corona replied: “Because four years ago you were so mad at me and you told me I won’t be able to finish law and become a lawyer. That’s why now I want you to place this hood (on me).”

It was at this point that his father, drenched in tears, finally agreed to put the hood on him. This incident touched Corona very much as he realized that it was one of the few times he ever saw his father cry. Then he hugged his father and told him, “Papa, I fulfilled my promise to you.”

“Being a tough Batangueño, my father doesn’t show any emotion. But in that one instance in my whole life – I’d never seen that before nor did I ever see that since – he showed a lot of emotion. I saw my father while he was putting on my hood, he was crying. I find it very rare. Not rare, in fact that was the only time I ever saw him cry.”

After graduation, Corona went on to practice law and eventually decided to study some more. He enrolled for a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) program in Ateneo. But just when everything was going smoothly on the family front, the family was struck with a tragedy so shocking and heartbreaking that it left deep scars in his heart even to this time.

In the morning of July 16, 1979, his then 69-year-old father was hit by a speeding passenger jeepney and was dragged several meters away, causing his instantaneous death. The older Corona had just finished jogging in Luneta and was lagging behind some buddies when the vehicle, seemingly coming out of nowhere, slammed into him with such force there was no other outcome to it. It turned out that the driver was drunk.

“That was really hard for all of us,” Corona said. “Principally you know my father had always been a strict father and just a few months before he died I was beginning to be close to him.”

He recalled the times before the accident befell his father, when he used to frequent his son’s house to see his first grandchild with him, Carla. Corona said his father was apparently so taken with his first “apo,” always carrying the baby and playing with it, a side of his father – his stern, authoritarian father – which he never expected to see or imagine. The older Corona turned out to be a doting grandfather much as he was a severe father with his own children.

Then there were those light moments that they shared months before his father passed away, bonding with him the way that they have not done before Corona got married. At first, Corona said, he felt unused to the idea. To him, his father had always been a force to reckon with, one whose words he had been taught to respect as law. How could you breach a gap like that? Yet, it came so naturally it amazed even him, how capable his father was of showing his affection to his son, something he has not done in the past when they were still growing up and still wet between the ears.

“I had always been afraid of my father even until I got married,” Corona explained. “I tried to be close to him but I was afraid because we grew up under a system where children would always keep a reverential distance from their father… I had always wanted to be close to him but for some reason or another, it’s either I was afraid of him or I maintained a reverential distance from him.”

That explained why his father’s death really struck a deep wound in all of them, and him in particular. It came to a point that Corona blamed himself for not making an attempt to be close with his father early on, that he should have gone out of his way to make an effort to be close to him sooner, and not just during the last few months of his father’s life.

Corona ’s feelings of regret became more heartfelt when he discovered that his father kept his first pay check as a lawyer all along. He remembered that in 1975, he gave his first salary as a gift to his father. “I gav  the pay slip to him and told him that was really for him. I made that offering. At first he refused to accept it but I told him his accepting it would make me happy,” he said between sobs.

Corona saw that same pay envelop in his father’s drawer right after his funeral. “The money was intact and I noticed my father’s handwritten note on the envelope. It says ‘My son Rene gave this to me. This is his first salary. I am not going to spend it and I want this to be given back to him when something happens to me.’” Since then, he kept custody of the envelope.

A year after his father’s death, Corona decided to apply for a Master of Law program in three famous universities in the United States – Yale, Columbia and Harvard. Eventually, he got accepted in all three but he ended up choosing Harvard. In 1981, he left for the US together with his wife and three children. They rented a small apartment in Cambridge , Massachusetts near Harvard.

In order to support his studies and his family, Corona studied very diligently and became eligible for a scholarship. He also did some odd jobs in Harvard and worked as assistant in the library. Soon after he finished his master’s degree in 1983, Corona and his family returned to Manila.

From the Manila International Airport , Corona did not go straight to their house where relatives were waiting for them and excited to see them as they had been away for more than a year. Instead, he told the driver that they drop by the South Cemetery, his father’s final resting place.

He was carrying with him then his Harvard diploma. “I placed the diploma on his grave and I talked to him,” he recalled. “I told him, ‘This is now your son whom you said won’t finish his law and won’t become a lawyer. I did not only finish my Bachelor of Laws with honors in Ateneo and became a lawyer, now I’m the first member of the family who went to Harvard.’ I told him that wherever he was, my Harvard diploma was for him.”

As a young lawyer, Corona served as special counsel at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He later became senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of the Commercial Bank of Manila. After a few years, he joined the Tax Division of Sycip Gorres and Velayo where he occupied a senior position.

In 1992, he joined the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos as Assistant Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, concurrently head of the Malacañang Legal Office. He was later promoted to Deputy Executive Secretary and subsequently Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and member of the Cabinet. After Ramos’ term, Corona became Chief of Staff of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and joined her in Malacañang when she assumed the presidency in 2001. He served as her Presidential Chief of Staff, Spokesman, and later, as Acting Executive Secretary. On April 9, 2002, President Arroyo appointed him as the 150th member of the Supreme Court.

When he took his oath as the country’s 23rd chief magistrate last May 17, Corona was not able to immediately drop by his father’s grave to offer him his appointment. “Nevertheless in the car ride from Malacañang to the Supreme Court I was completely quiet. I think my wife noticed it but actually I was praying to my father. I told him, ‘Papa, I did not just graduate from Ateneo, became a lawyer and studied in Harvard Law School. Now I’m already the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,’” Corona said while crying.
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