The Alexander aesthetic

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2021 - 12:00am

If Chief Justice Alexander Gahon Gesmundo is to succeed in unravelling the gordian knot of good judicial governance, he is blessed to have a magnificent namesake as his exemplar.

Like the legendary general Alexander the Great, who accomplished immortal feats early in life, the Chief Justice will have the advantage of youth. Though not youngest on the Court, he is the youngest in history to serve as Chief Justice (trumped only by CJ Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno). The martyred Jose Abad Santos was the youngest ever appointed Chief in December of 1941. He was, however, unable to lead the Court as World War II was already underway.

This appointment marks a return to stability for the High Tribunal. The terms of the last three Chiefs combined will not even be half of CJ Gesmundo’s expected tenure of 5-plus years.

When impatience is a virtue. The Chief is known to be a strategist and tactician, just like the illustrious Lion of Macedonia. At his Judicial and Bar Council interviews, he proved that he had already mapped out plans for faster justice and proactive courts. That gordian knot? Like the old Alexander, this new Alexander would slice through it just as quickly.

He is well placed to institute lasting reforms and forge the identity of the Court, especially on the independence spectrum. CJ Gesmundo presides over a young tribunal with an average age of 62+. Only Senior Associate Justice Estella Perlas-Bernabe and Associate Justices Rosmari D. Carandang, Edgardo L. de los Santos and Mario V. Lopez are older. This young core of the Gesmundo court will be around to churn out our next batch of landmark decisions, to include the Anti-Terrorism Act.

This will not be a new leadership perspective for him. However young he is as CJ, he is used to being the kuya. Having first worked before entering law school, he ended up more senior than his classmates.

No nonsense. Even at that time, his hard work ethos shone through. Upon his previous appointment as Associate Justice last 2017, he characteristically rolled up his sleeves and took on additional administrative duties in rules reform initiatives. Prior to that, while at the Sandiganbayan, he chaired the committee on rules. Access to justice will not be a pipe dream under the aegis of this remedial law expert. He was twice a Bar examiner in remedial law and was a law professor in Ateneo and other schools on the subject.

If Alexander the Emperor was a student of Aristotle, Alexander the Chief Justice is a product of the Lyceum, named after the school founded by Aristotle. After completing his economics degree and while working, he earned his law degree from Ateneo.

He is the third Sandiganbayan Justice, after Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Diosdado M. Peralta, to lead the Court. Perhaps it is this anti-graft court background that explains his position on the SALN, the bête noire of justices in the impeachment milieu. Among the short-listed nominees for Chief, he was most advocative of transparency in making public the SALNs of the Court.

His serious and soft-spoken aspect lends to the gravitas he naturally wields. The Chief hails from San Pablo City, Laguna which is proving to be a hotbed of great additions to the Court. The eminent Justice Arturo D. Brion, Ret. is also a proud San Pablo native.

Other young lions. We’ve written about the explosion of talent in women’s tennis. Of late, focus has been on homegrown Alexandra Eala and her prodigious development on the world junior circuit. The 15-year-old “phenom” debuted last month in her first “big school” WTA singles match at the Miami Open. She gave a gritty account of herself in a failed, first round effort against world No. 104 Viktoria Kuzmova, age 22. Just this week, at the W60 ITF tourney in Switzerland, with her world rank No. 715 newly minted, Eala proceeded to toy with much older opponents. No. 323 ranked Frenchwoman Margot Yerolymus, age 23, fell to her in the first round and in the second, 32-year-old Laura-Ioana Paar of Romania, world no. 206. Yesterday, she lost in three sets to 20-year-old hometown favorite Simona Waltert, world no. 284.

We also celebrate the accomplishments of other exceptional players who represent different nations but are as Filipino as Eat Bulaga. 18-year-old Filipina-Ecuadorian Leylah Fernandez plays for Canada. Last month, she won her 1st title on the WTA at the Monterrey Open in Mexico. She is ranked 72nd in the world. Lizette Cabrera is aged 23. She is full blooded Filipina but an Australian citizen. She plays on the Australian national team alongside World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. Cabrera is ranked world no.148.

El rompe redes. Paulino Alcantara, the “net breaker,” is suitably the first football player inducted into the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame. He is in this year’s incoming batch together with living legend Robert “Sonny” Jaworksi. Alcantara represented the Philippines in the Far Eastern Championship Games in Tokyo in 1917, leading his team to a 15-2 thrashing of powerhouse Japan.

Alcantara may be unheralded here but in Spain he is revered. He even coached the Spanish national team. He was a star for FC Barcelona, one of the top five football clubs in the world, where his exploits are surpassed only by the great Lionel Messi in the record books and in the hearts and minds of Camp Nou. The FC Barcelona organization, as well as the Spanish La Liga, have sent their statements applauding the enshrinement of Alcantara in the Hall.

He is the breakthrough first Asian player to ever play in Europe. No less than FIFA named him Asia’s greatest football player in history in 2007.

Alcantara, born in Iloilo, was the son of a Spanish military officer and an Ilongga. He studied medicine here (UP, UST or University of Manila) and completed his degree, in between playing stints, at Barcelona University. At the 1920 Olympics, he begged off from the Spanish National Team due to scheduling conflicts with his final medical exams.

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