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
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
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
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
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