RAMON Q. AVANCENA
Ramon Avancena, patriot and eminent jurist, was born in Molo, Iloilo on April 13, 1872 to Lucas Avancena and Petra Quisay. After finishing his secondary education at Jaro College in Iloilo, he studied at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree. He transferred to the University of Santo Tomas and in 1891, was granted the title of surveyor. Seven years later, in 1898, he completed his law studies at the same university which granted him the title Licenciado en Jurisprudencia.
During the Revolution, he was one of those who formed the comite conspirado whose main objective was to drive the Spaniards out of Panay and the neighboring Visayan islands. On November 17, 1898, a revolutionary assembly met in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo to organize a provisional revolutionary government. The assembly elected him secretary of state. On December 12, when the revolutionary government was converted into the Council of Federal States for the Visayas with all the Visayan provinces subordinated politically to the central government of the First Philippine Republic, Avancen'a was named secretary of state of the Council and concurrently representative of Iloilo. With the seat of the Council transferred to Cabatuan on July 16, 1899 he was chosen vice-president.
What transpired in that conference, however, could not be put into action, for while embarking on a vessel bound for Iloilo, he and his comrades were taken prisoner by the Americans. They were held hostage in Iloilo and it was not until March, 1901 that he was set at liberty.
However, during all that time when he was under strict surveillance, first in Guimaras island, then in Dumangas and finally in Molo, he continuerl to give moral support to the revolucionarios and the assurance that he was with them in their struggle to attain national freedom.
When peace came to Panay, Don Ramon practiced his profession and opened a law office in Iloilo. He also followed the steps of his sisters, Doņa Jovita and Doņa Ramona Avanceņa, founders of the Colegio de Santa Ana, by founding the Institute de Enseņanza Libre in Molo.
Don Ramon found it hard to maintain the school. True, he was practicing law but cases were few and far between so much so that he had to depend largely on his meager savings. A rich man once asked him to handle a case for a substantial amount but he declined it, saying, "I need money for my school but I cannot earn it by taking charge of this case." The case involved a family whom the rich man wanted to disposses of property it had occupied for many years. Avanceiia knew that by means of a legal technicality the family could be so dispossessed. But he was not one to stoop to such a method and profit from the sufferings of the poor.
He began his career hi government career service on January 17, 1902, with his appointment as assistant attorney general. He would have been promoted to attorney general in 1905 but, feeling that he was not fully qualified for such a high position, he politely refused and instead proposed that he first be appointed judge-at-large for the provinces of Surigao, Misamis, Iligan and Dapitan in order to gain more experience. In 1901, he was appointed judge for the provinces of Leyte and Samar. While holding this position, he married Proserfina Abad of Leyte in 1913. They had six children: Jesus, Martin, Alberto, Emilio, Jovita and Miguel.
In 1914, he finally acceded to become the attorney general. As attorney general, he was gentle in manner but firm in his decision. A big politician once happened to be interested in a case that fell to him for a decision. The politician's interest had been drawn by the fact that his henchman was involved in the case. The attorney general received the politician cordially and made him feel at ease. The politician supposed that his influence would insure the desired favorable ruling. But Avancena courteously refused. No amount of persuasion or argument could sway him.
On October 4, 1917, he was designated associate justice of the Supreme Court. After the death of Chief Justice Manuel Araullo in 1924, Avancena assumed the position of Chief Justice on February 28, 1925. He held this position for 15 years until his retirement at the outbreak of World War II.
He garnered high praises from his colleagues. His thoughts were analytical, extensive, thorough and profound. His decisions were concise, clear and easy to read but dignified, serious and wise as to their substance. They were marked with fairness, sympathy, compassion, humaneness and broadness of vision.
Avancena was made chairman of the committee to formulate the code of ethics implemented by Executive Order No. 214 issued on August 14, 1939 by President Manuel L. Quezon. The committee acknowledged the importance of ethics and recommended its teacing in schools.
On June 18, 1943, while President Quezon was maintaining the Commonwealth Government in Exile in Washington, D.C., the Japanese High Command ordered the Executive Commission to prepare a constitution for the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines. A convention composed of members of the KALIBAPI (Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas) met in Manila on June 19 and elected twenty members of the PCPI (Preparatory Commission for Philippine Independence). Avanceņa was elected its first vice-president.
Despite his advanced age, he was prevailed upon by President Elpidio Quirino to return to public service. He chose to be a member of the Council of State, the highest advisory body of the Republic. Later, President Ramon Magsaysay named him one of his advisers.
He died on June 12, 1957. a victim of cancer. In his honor, a public secondary school in Quiapo, Manila was named after him.