By the time I reached senior year in college in the schoolyear 1969-1970, I had more or less made up my mind to enter law school for my postgraduate studies.  For my father specially, as well as the rest of the family, the choice was really just between Ateneo and U.P. law schools.  I personally wanted to try a new academic environment, having gone through Ateneo since I was in the grades.  Unfortunately, the so-called First Quarter Storm of the 70s was then unfolding and I preferred a more sedate atmosphere than the rather raucous campus in U.P. Diliman.  The principal reason, however, was that I was a working student in Malacañang which was a good hour and a half away from Diliman while the Ateneo Padre Faura campus was much closer.  Furthermore, the Dean of the Ateneo Law School was former CA Presiding Justice Pompeyo Diaz who taught both my father and my would-be father-in-law in law school and whom both greatly respected and admired.
It has been 37 years since my class graduated from the old Padre Faura campus and it makes me feel good to reminisce about those days.
While I have many good memories there, I am not prepared to state as gospel truth that Ateneo Law School is one of the best law schools in the world.  Maybe that is a conclusion that is not entirely justified, or even reasonable.  I have met and encountered many lawyers, from Metro Manila and the provinces, from the top law schools and the so-called “less known” schools, who are just as sharp, principled and dedicated as we would want all lawyers to be.
At bottom, what matters is the person himself and not the school he came from.  Fancy degrees and even fancier facilities do not really account for much when we talk of a lawyer’s moral values, a balanced grasp of law and reality, the ability to analyse situations and motivations, and a passion for justice, truth and fairness.  And, I might as well add, the courage to stand his ground when he is right.
Our Dean, Pompeyo Diaz, had the greatest influence on me. . . even up to this very day, long after his death.  Dean Diaz was a picture of old-world dignity, civility and gentility.  To those who did not know him, he wore a stern facial expression and a pair of piercing eyes – like those of jurists of yore who held sway over the lives and circumstances of men.  That was deceiving, however, for there was a truth neither arrogance nor self-righteousness in him.  Those who knew him saw nothing but humility, and a kind and compassionate heart.  I have been guided by the sterling qualities of this exemplary jurist, my inspiration and the personification of everything that justice means and stands for.
As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, I make it a point to remind our young court attorneys that their law school education is just a starting point in their career as lawyers.  The reality is that its value diminishes over the years.  Many of the laws I learned in law school do not even exist anymore.  Most of what I know and apply today consists of statutes and rules read and learned on my own.  Life indeed is one grand classroom and one simply should never stop the quest for knowledge and experience.
And talking of these young lawyers in the Court, I am at my proudest every time one of them (and there have been many since I joined the Court in 2002) comes to me with the good news of his or her appointment to the bench.  I would like to believe that they chose to follow my path in the judiciary because of the good example I showed them and the inspiration I gave them to serve others by imparting justice to those who need it.
In the end, this is all that really matters and all I would like to be remembered by: that, in the Corona Court, right always found a sanctuary and wrong never found refuge.
Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, Manila, dated January 28, 2011.