In our primary and secondary school, some boys had surnames like Aquino, Araneta, Arroyo, Cojuangco, Laurel, Lopez, Roxas, Tañada, Tuazon, and the like. These are names of the highborn. And I should include on this short the list the name Soriano.
We had a classmate in high school named Andres Soriano. Quite a few asked whether he is related by blood to the Andres Soriano who owned big companies like San Miguel Corp., ANSCOR, and Philippine Airlines.
But this is a different Soriano, a commoner so to speak. Incidentally, we have in our class an Ayala, not related to Soriano and likewise a commoner. This Ayala is mighty proud of being a commoner and a musician, and describes himself and his band as Bagong Lumad. He recently staged a series of concerts at the Ayala Museum.
But back to Soriano. Because of his first and last names, he gets attention for all the wrong reasons. Hence another classmate, Dalandan (a very indio name; friends teasingly call him Orange) gave Andy Soriano a piece of advice. Keep a low profile because he could be mistaken for the big-time Soriano, which could lead to bad consequences like being kidnapped for ransom or being bullied by school toughies.
Andy was a high school seminarian at San Jose Minor Seminary before transferring to the Ateneo de Manila high school. He then obtained degrees in economics and philosophy at the Ateneo. Upon completing his undergraduate studies, he entered law school and passed the bar exams with flying colors. He worked for several Justices at the Supreme Court, and later moved to the private sector, including having solo practice and teaching law, before getting appointed as Regional Trial Court Judge.
Dalandan, also known as (a.k.a.) Orange or Meong, describes Soriano as a quiet, simple, and unassuming guy. Meong’s impression of Andy then was one who was comfortable being alone. Another school chum, Posadas, a.k.a. NoyP, had a moniker for Andy: Wonder Boy. NoyP observed Andy being often in a state of rumination and wonder.
Andy has always kept a low public profile. Keeping a low profile is a desirable trait for Judges and Justices. It is a way of maintaining independence and impartiality and having an arm’s length relationship with different parties.
Andy has gained the spotlight upon handling the controversial case that the Duterte administration has filed against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. The Duterte administration claims that Trillanes failed to comply with the amnesty requirements. Thus, through Proclamation 572, it has sought the revival of the coup d’etat case and the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Trillanes.
The Judge was most circumspect in penning the decision. Unlike the other Judge who immediately issued an arrest warrant against Trillanes, Judge Andy deliberated on the matter for a number of days. He listened to several witnesses presented by the opposing parties, and gathered the evidence.
In the end, his decision was nuanced and complex but coherent and solid. On the one hand, he upheld the legality of Proclamation 572, saying that it does not violate due process and the equal protection clause. On the other hand, Judge Soriano pointed out that Proclamation 572 has no factual basis for the issuance of a warrant of arrest and a hold-departure order and that the “case has long been dismissed as per the Court’s Order dated September 21, 2011,” In conclusion, “the Court finds no reason to disturb the doctrine of immutability of a final and executory judgment.”
The decision is even-handed. It does not have a trace of partisanship; it is the triumph of the rule of law.
In the aftermath of his ruling, Judge Andy has gained praises for his courage in defying the administration. The opposition to Duterte treats him as a hero. Indeed, in the worst of times, in desperate times, the nation is in need of heroes.
Methinks, however, that Andy does not think of himself as a white knight in shining armor. For him, he is just being true to his job description. The task of any Judge is to be a trier of fact, and Judge Andy does it assiduously, painstakingly, with a lot of rumination and discernment. Thus, my friend NoyP’s description of Andy is thus apt: Andy is Boy Wonder.
On the question of hero, I recall a passage in a play that my mom, sister, and I recently saw — Ang Buhay ni Galileo, a Filipino adaptation done by the late Alan Glinoga of Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo. The passage goes: Kapus palad ang bayan na nangangailangan ng bayani. (Unhappy is the land that needs heroes).
The character of Judge Andy gives life to the meaning of Brecht’s saying.
In the same play, another passage struck me: Ang kamangmangan sa katotohanan ay katangahan lang ngunit ang sabihin mong kasinungalingan ang katotohanan ay krimen. (A man who doesn’t know the truth is just an idiot, but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook).
Judge Andy is the seeker of truth. But who is the idiot, if not the crook?
Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.