“A Brother who happens to be the Chief Justice”

June 25, 2008

There was excitement in the air. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines was coming to give the keynote address at the Men’s Conference.

I got the sms from his staff indicating that the Chief Justice was near our conference venue. When it was time, I signaled our National Director to go down with me to welcome the Chief Justice.

https://compassionateconsiderations.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/how-great-is-our-god/

This was the answer to this prayer I blogged about last month. Finally, the Chief Justice was here.

“how are you Rex?” – he asked as I shook his hand to welcome his arrival.

It has been more than 4 years since I was with him in Singapore

We climbed the 5 level stairs of the Christian Development Centre while we engaged him in small talk.

“Justice Puno, you don’t know how this means to all of us…” I told him.

“I get invited to speak to a lot of conferences but I like to address the churches more…”

The brothers gave him a standing ovation when he entered the conference room. What an awesome privilege. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was about to give his keynote speech.

I went straight to the podium and had to catch my breath for awhile. I pulled out the 9-page Curriculum vitae emailed to me by his staff. I pre-selected the things I read and what an honor to introduce the Chief Justice himself.

I included in my introduction the powerful lesson in humility that the Chief Justice taught me. He was the Senior Associate Justice at that time. I was privileged enough to attend the same batch of leaders who attended the Haggai Leadership Institute in Singapore, back in 2004.

Haggai ASPAC presentation with then Senior Associate Justice Reynato Puno

Haggai ASPAC presentation with then Senior Associate Justice Reynato Puno

We were required to surrender our passports to the organizers. I was very hesitant to do that because the passport was the only valid international form of identification that I had. I turned behind me and saw the Chief Justice standing in line, a couple of people behind, nonchalantly holding his passport to surrender to the organizers. I approached him and asked about the “validity” of this requirement and he just simply said “it is okay, we can surrender our passports.”

If the highest ranking government official of the batch was willing to do that, how much more should I be willing to do the same?

The men at the conference stood up and gave him another ovation as he stood up and went to the podium.

He acknowledged the lengthy introduction and really inspired us when he said “I would have preferred to have been introduced simply as… he is a brother who happens to be the Chief Justice…”

Our relationship with him is not because of his high government position, but by the precious blood of our Savior jesus Christ.

He talked about the need for righteousness in the country, righteousness for the leaders who govern and more importantly, righteousness for everyone. And that begins with our individual hearts.

After his talk, Ptr Eugene Guzon gave him our certificate of appreciation, the fruit basket prepared for him. Afterwards, Dan Rogers, Director of WCG -USA Administration blessed him with a prayer.

Dan Rogers praying over the Chief Justice after his keynote address

Dan Rogers praying over the Chief Justice after his keynote address

I whispered to the Justice that we were taking him to dinner. But he whispered back that he needs to be in UP to receive the Centennial Award as the MOST DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS.

Ooopss, I worried about my 15-seat reservation and pre-ordered dinner at Josephines!

Justice Puno telling me he needed to go to UP right after

Justice Puno telling me he needed to go to UP right after

We all clapped our hands and acknowledged him for that honor.

Being applauded as the UP Alumni Centennial Awardee

He indulged us for pictures to be taken. I was the one calling for people to join in the group and the participants quickly assembled themselves around him. After the second picture, he turned to me and said “Rex, you should come and join us…”

He needed to leave soon but clearly he was in no rush. “We have the siren anyway so we can move through the traffic” On the way out of the hall, I introduced to him my wife “Justice, this is my wife Sheila”.

What a magnanimous man. He stopped, shook the hand of my wife and leaned over to give her a kiss and a hug. ( Wifey would later brag that she was the only one hugged by the Chief Justice…!)

We accompanied him downstairs. He briefly asked about the Haggai batch in 2004 and I told him that I am still in communication with one of our batchmates. He shared his Haggai-related trip to Australia this August and I could not help but be amazed at the humility of this man.

His security detail and driver and other staff met us downstairs. One staff opened his car. He shook my hand for the last time and said “mauna na ako…” (I’ll go ahead)

His security detail also smiled and waved their hands as the two vehicles drove off.

I was really blown away by his humility. He was a very gracious man. His voice sounded older now but the same friendliness he has shown while we were in Singapore was still there. I could not help but smile because of the awesome grace he has shown us. They drove through the traffic from Manila to address our conference, and then drive through the traffic all the way to the University of the Philippines. I was very conscious about all these but he reassured me by saying “meron naman kaming wang-wang, mabilis lang yan” ( we have the siren, it will be easy to get through the traffic.)

I headed back upstairs to present the Leveling of Expectations to the participants. I could not seem to erase my smile as I thanked God again and again for the favor He has given us.

“A brother who happens to be the Chief Justice of the Philippines…”

I could almost hear another great and awesome brother, whose humility and obedience is beyond what we have ever seen or heard.

I could hear Jesus say “I am not just a brother. I am your Savior and Lord!”

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