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Former UP law dean is Inquirer publisher.

Byline: Rosario A. Garcellano, Opinion Editor

IN AUGUST, Inquirer columnist Raul C. Pangalangan wrote about a 35-second video taken by a motorist and posted on Facebook, of an episode under the Edsa-Timog flyover in which a young woman took off her coat, wrapped it around a street urchin, and then hurried on as Typhoon "Gener" raged.

The early-morning episode gave Pangalangan pause. The former dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law found the young woman's act quite special in that it "seemed like one of those quiet acts of kindness--unrehearsed, unplanned, spontaneous and real, a moment solely between [her] and the child she was helping --to which we, the officious public, are at best a cheering squad and at worst kibitzers."

Writing thus, Pangalangan, who assumes the post of Inquirer publisher today, appeared to show a side to him quite different from the man of law who would perhaps raise a quizzical eyebrow at, instead of (like the motorist who shot the video and many others who had viewed it) be touched by, "the magic of meeting kindness in the most unexpected places."

It will certainly complement the critical eye that he will bring to bear on his new job, and that, through his weekly column "Passion for Reason," helped the reading public keep tabs on, make sense of, and possibly formulate a judgment toward certain controversial issues, such as the reproductive health bill, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's petition to travel, or the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Pangalangan takes the post long held by newspaperman Isagani Yambot, who passed away after a heart bypass operation in February.

Inquirer president and CEO Sandy Prieto-Romualdez announced in a memo issued yesterday to her officers and staff that the appointment of Pangalangan was made after a "careful and thorough search."

She said that ensuring the credibility of the Inquirer vis--vis the rule of law, the journalist's code of ethics, and company policies would be part of Pangalangan's objectives. The new publisher's credentials are impeccable. He is a product of UP, Harvard Law School and The Hague Academy of International Law.

He is a professor of constitutional law and public international law, focusing on human rights law, at UP. He has taught at Harvard Law School and The Hague Academy, as well as at Melbourne University (spring 2009 and fall 2005) and Hong Kong University/Duke University (2008).

He has lectured at the Irish Centre for Human Rights (2003), Japan Society of International Law (2002), Thessaloniki Institute of International Public Law (2001) and International Committee of the Red Cross. He was a Philippine delegate to the Rome Conference that established the International Criminal Court.

He is an Asian Public Intellectual Fellow (2012-13) and recipient of the Secularism and Reason Award from the Filipino Freethinkers organization.

Pangalangan was one of the nominees for the post of Chief Justice in place of Corona. The Supreme Court appointed him amicus counsel during the impeachment of then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and in a case regarding revenue-sharing from the Malampaya natural gas field in Palawan.

He was also lead counsel before the high court in successfully challenging then President Macapagal-Arroyo's proclamation of a state of emergency in February 2006.

He chairs Bantay Katarungan (Sentinels of Justice), a lawyers' organization to strengthen the rule of law. And that's only a partial listing of his engagements, achievements and awards.

It would seem that Pangalangan's full immersion in law and the academe as well as a weekly engagement with the Inquirer could not but lead to his decision to plant both feet in the nitty-gritty of journalism.

This is what the man has to say about taking on his new post in these heady days where information hurtles along in the speed of light: "I began writing my column 'Passion for Reason' eight years ago, and have never ceased to be amazed at the broad and diverse reach of the Inquirer.

"Our post-Edsa democracy has shown the importance of a robust and trusted press, and the Inquirer has played a central role in that story.

"I recognize the challenge of taking over the post of publisher from an institution like Isagani Yambot, but I also consider myself lucky that I come in during a populist turn in our post-Edsa democracy (as shown in the Corona impeachment), with a reinvigorated public space aided by social networks and new technologies (as shown by the mobilization of public outrage over the cybercrime law)."

Indeed, the possibilities of the press in this digital era remain limitless, particularly as they pertain to what Nadine Gordimer calls the impossible refusal: "We may refuse to write according to any orthodoxy, we may refuse to take any party line, even that drawn by the cause we know to be just, and our own, but we cannot refuse the responsibility of what we know." "Passion for Reason" turns the page on Oct. 26.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Oct 23, 2012
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