The Law of the Sea

Arturo M. Tolentino: I wish people will remember me for The Law of the Sea

Noted constitutionalist Arturo Tolentino diesWednesday, August 4, 2004

Born of humble parentage, Tolentino rose to become one of the leaders of the Congress before President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

He was appointed foreign secretary during the Marcos administration and eventually ran as his Vice President in the 1986 snap election.

The election, however, was marked by fraud, giving rise to a “people power” revolt that sent Marcos into exile in Hawaii. He died in 1989.

Tolentino at first refused to relinquish power and declared himself president after Marcos left. But he later gave way to Corazon Aquino, Marcos’s main rival.

Tolentino also served as a member of Congress from 1949 to 1957, before being elected to the Senate until 1972. He was the Senate president for three years until 1966.

President Arroyo issued a statement saying: “On behalf of the government and the entire nation, we would like to express our sense of deep loss on the demise of former senator Arturo Tolentino.

“Tolentino, also a former congressman, member of the Batasang Pambansa, foreign affairs secretary and Senate president, was the epitome of a great public servant, having been in government service for most of his adult life.”

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday expressing its sympathy and condolences on the death of Tolentino. “His passing away is an immeasurable loss not only to his family but to the whole nation, which has lost an image of what a legislator should be,” read the Senate resolution introduced by Sen. Ralph Recto.

The resolution also noted that even in his sunset years, Tolentino was still looked up to by the people as a legal luminary who had always upheld the rule of law, and who was at hand to unselfishly enlighten them on complex legal issues, especially on international law and the Constitution.

Senate President Franklin Drilon cited Tolentino was a “self-made man who became one of the best leaders of the premartial-law Congress.”

“The late Senator Tolentino was one of the country’s best lawyers and was a shining star in the Senate. He was a scholar, writer, diplomat and distinguished author of law books. ‘Turing’ Tolentino was not only brilliant, he was also a man of integrity and high principles,” Drilon added.

Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. paid tribute to Tolentino as “the embodiment of a true statesman.”

“Senator Tolentino shall always be remembered not only as a brilliant mind in Philippine politics and law but as a highly principled man who put a premium on his good name,” Magsaysay said.

Tolentino was a scholar, writer, diplomat and distinguished author of law books aside from being a legislator.

He topped his class from high school to law school. He was valedictorian of Mapa High School (1928), valedictorian (cum laude) University of the Philippines College of Law (1934) and a bar topnotcher (1934). He obtained the degrees of Master of Law (meritissimus) and Doctor of Civil law (meritissimus) from the University of Santo Tomás.

He served as congressman representing Manila from 1949 to 1957, and as senator from 1957 until 1972, when Congress was abolished with the declaration of martial law.

He was foreign affairs secretary during the administration of then-President Ferdinand Marcos, and ran as Marcos’ running mate in the February 1986 snap election.

As foreign secretary, he led the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, where he pressed for the adoption of the archipelagic doctrine, which benefited the Philippines and other country-archipelagoes.

“As foreign affairs minister, he ably represented the country’s interest abroad, provided succor to its citizens in foreign lands, and courageously upheld our territorial integrity by leading efforts to rectify the oversight in the delineation of our boundaries,” the Senate resolution pointed out.

In accordance with tradition, the Senate adjourned without tackling any matter on the agenda after adopting the resolution.

Drilon said the Senate has tentatively scheduled necrological services on Thursday morning.

-- AFP, Sammy Martin and Efren L. Danao