Jose Abad Santos, eminent jurist and patriot,
was born in San Fernando, Pampanga, on February 19, 1886, to Vicente Abad
Santos and Toribia Basco.
He took his segundo enseñanza at the private school
of Roman Veler, in the neighboring town of Bacolod. During the early part of
the American regime, he studied in the public high school established by the
American soldiers in San Fernando.
In 1904, he was sent to the United States to
complete his high school studies at Santa Clara College in San lose,
California. He studied law in the University of Illinois and later transferred
to the law school of Northwestern University, where he received his Bachelor of
Laws on June 4, 1908. He pursued graduate studies at George Washington
University and received his Master of Laws on June 19, 1909.
Back in the Philippines, he worked as
temporary clerk in the Archives Division of the Executiye Bureau. Later, he was
appointed clerk in the Bureau of Justice and was, subsequently, promoted to
court interpreter after passing the Philippine Bar on October 12, 1911. On July
31, 1914, he was appointed assistant-attorney at the Bureau of Justice. On July
16, 1918, he became a special attorney for the Philippine National Bank. He
later went into private practice, while the PNB retained him as its counsel. In
1919, he was reappoint-
assistant attorney in the Bureau ofJustice and served concurrently as one of
the six technical advisers to the First Parliamentary Independence Mission to
the United States. Upon his return he resigned as assistant attorney and
counsel of PNB.
In January 1922, Abad Santos was appointed
Undersecretary of Justice and later Secretary of Justice under Governor-General
Leonard Wood, a position he held up to June 28, 1932. On December 5, 1938, he took his oath as Secretary of Justice for
the third time and served the position untilluly 16, 1941. On December 24,
1941, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
At the outbreak of World II, in addition to
being Chief Justice, he was named Secretary of Justice and Acting Secretary of
Finance, Agriculture and Commerce in the Quezon War Cabinet. Left behind by Quezon who was evacuated to
Washington, D.C., Abad Santos became the virtual head of the government. He
performed his duties with amazing zed and dedication, prompting Quezon to
describe him as "one of the noblest, purest and ablest men in the
Abad Santos was captured by the Japanese near
Carcar, Cebu. He was subjected to gruelling investigations for three weeks and
was asked to contact General Manuel Raxas and to renounce his allegiance to the
United States of America. He replied with dignity and courage: I cannot accede
to the things you ask of me. To obey your commands is tantamount to being a
traitor to the United States and my country. I would prefer to die rather than
live in shame."
He was brought to Parang, Cotabato, and
finally to Malabang, Lanao del Sur, where he was told of his impending
execution. When his son learned of the verdict, he bust into teen, but Chief
Justice Abad Santos confronted him, saying with sincere tenderness: "Do
not cry Pepito. Show these people that you are brave. It is a rare opportunity
far me to die for our country. Not everybody is given that chance."
After kneeling down together and reciting a
brief prayer, Abad Santos and son embraced each other. Shortly after, a volley
of shots was heard. It was two o' clock in the afternoon of May 2, 1942.
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