Farewell to a great statesman: Former Senate President Arturo M. Tolentino




ARTURO M. Tolentino was born in Manila of humble parentage. Despite such humble beginnings, however, he strove and subsequently garnered a string of accomplishments that started when he was a student. He was valedictorian of the Mapua High School (1928), valedictorian (cum laude) of the University of the Philippines College of Law (1934), and a bar topnotcher (1934). He obtained the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy (cum laude) with a gold medal from UP in 1938, and received his Master of Law (meritissimus) and Doctor of Civil Law (meritissimus) from the University of Santo Tomas. As a student, he excelled as a debater and orator, winning seven gold medals (including the Quezon Medal) and two silver loving cups. He held the title of “Inter-Collegiate Oratorical Champion of the Philippines” in 1934. He successfully debated with American students from the University of Oregon in 1933 and from the University of Washington in 1934. He did not only excel in academics for he subsequently engaged in sports, specializing in weightlifting.


From 1934, he distinguished himself in the law profession, initially through private practice and teaching in various schools of law at the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, University of the East, Arellano University, Far Eastern University, Manila Law College, Philippines Law School, San Beda College, the University of Manila, and Quezon College. As a law professor, he authored several books on civil, commercial, and constitutional law. He was awarded the title of Most Outstanding Alumnus by the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas.

In 1948, he served as a member of the Code Commission before getting elected as a member of the House of Representatives for two terms, from 1949 to 1957. In 1957, he was elected as a member of the Senate, serving for three terms until the institution was dissolved in 1972. He capped his legislative record by serving as Senate President from 1965 to 1967. As a legislator, he authored or co-sponsored over 2,000 bills and was the principal author of landmark legislation such as the Anti-Graft Law, the Civil Service Law, and the Philippine Archipelago Doctrine. He succeeded in having the doctrine recognized by the United Nations when he subsequently served as chief of the Philippine delegation to the first, second, and third meetings of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

From 1978 to 1986, he served as a member of the Interim Batasan Pambansa and was subsequently appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs serving from 1984 to 1985. Just as he was recognized as an outstanding legislator in his earlier service as a member of the House and the Senate, he was also acknowledged by the media and other organizations as the Most Outstanding Member of the Batasan Pambansa from 1978 to 1983. After the political transition in 1986, he ran and won a new term as a Senator, serving from 1992 to 1995.

In his passing away, the country has lost a great statesman who played a key role in our political life and history. He was a courageous dissenter who never hesitated to speak up and confront the highest authorities in the name of the law.

On August 2, 2004, legal scholar, writer, diplomat, and outstanding legislator Arturo M. Tolentino passed away. As we condole with his family and relatives, we acknowledge his immense contribution to the building of our nation, the epitome of a consummate public servant.

May he rest in peace and reap the harvest of a life guided by conviction and the law. In his own words, a hero is one who does not seek to die for his country but strives to live for it.

(from Manila Bulletin)