YR 47 Issue 1 2011
Fate born out of serendipity
Loving the law, academe
By KATHLEEN T. DE VILLA amd RANDOLPH B. LEONGSON
“Justice is immortal, eternal, and immutable, like God himself; and the development of law is only then a progress when it is directed towards those principles which, like him, are eternal; and whenever prejudice or error succeeds in establishing in customary law any doctrine contrary to eternal justice.” - Louis Kossuth
COURT of Appeals Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente never thought that running late for an entrance exam could change her life forever.
Unlike most students who were given the freedom to choose their course in college, Vicente gave in to her father’s request to take up a pre-medicine course. But as she arrived late to take the entrance test, she ended up earning a degree in Sociology at the then College of Liberal Arts (AB).
“It was only pre-medicine courses that had entrance tests before. Unfortunately, I ran late and [the exam for science courses] was closed already,” she said. “The dean of Liberal Arts advised me to take AB first, and then shift to the College of Science after a year.”
With the new friends she found in AB, she decided not to shift and to just finish the course she took.
Resentments of a father
Vicente graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1964, but despite this achievement, her father still resented her decision not to pursue a pre-medicine course. She later entered the College of Education for it was always her dream to be an educator. Still, this did not please her father. It was then when she finally decided to put things in perspective.
“I realized that maybe, my father wanted me to have a professional title,” she said. “If I could not become a doctor, I could become a lawyer and it may finally give him a breather.”
Despite that perception, Vicente admitted that entering law school never occurred to her. During her stay in AB which was then housed at the Main Building, she would pass by the Civil Law classrooms where she would see, observe, and later bash law professors for their pedagogical style of teaching.
“I would make fun of them because I hated memory work and I could hear from behind the open doors and windows students reciting in verbatim long sentences. Such method sounded dreadful to me,” she said. “I was really more of a note-taker who would just jot down important notes and study them after.” This habit was put to test when she lost all of her notes just a day before a scheduled exam.
“I was not used to not having any notes to study and it just made me too anxious,” she said. Vicente may have initially criticized the culture of law classes but she later realized that the severity of the professors was just a training for aspiring lawyers to be tough in any legal battle. “In court, there are judges who are also terror,” she said.
A former desk writer for the Supreme Court, Vicente admitted that being an introvert reflects the traditional philosophies she believes in.
Graduating Cum Laude from the Faculty of Civil Law in 1968, she proved that having a gentle disposition was monumental in her days as a law student.
“I was not active in extra-curricular activities because my classes were my priority and I did not really like to socialize,” Vicente said. But during her spare time, she and her friends would find pleasure wandering around the botanical garden in campus. “Schoolwork first before other things” was her mantra.
In her 42 years as a practicing lawyer, Vicente said that solving problems in accordance with the law was the best thing she encountered in her profession. In deciding cases, she meticulously reads all the records and clearings submitted by the party and weighs them thoroughly.
She said that it was the case between the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and a father in Tondo that is most memorable for her. She added that her value for integrity, fairness, and impartiality were put to test when she sought for the simple detail needed to award the case to the plaintiff.
“In this case, a father in Tondo accused the company of negligence for the death of his two sons due to electrocution,” Vicente said.
“Meralco said that whatever happened to the children was outside their jurisdiction because they used the electric wires as clotheslines. Apparently there was already something wrong with the electric box in the post that needed immediate attention, and it was the deciding factor in the case that made Meralco pay the just compensation to the father, as provided by the law,” she said.
Badge of honor
The glorious year came for Vicente in 1991 when she started teaching at the Faculty of Civil Law. “After 23 years, my dream as an educator was finally fulfilled,” she said. As a professor, she wanted her students to be at ease with her in order for them to appreciate and absorb all the lessons she would impart to them.
“I never wanted to be a terror teacher because it would just cloud them in fear and would consequently make them stutter or forget their answers,” she said. Vicente always tells her students to uphold truth and the rule of law because that is the badge of a Thomasian lawyer. “To those students who want to keep up with the pressure of establishing a career in the future, just study hard to succeed in any career you want to pursue,” she said. “It is your obligation to your parents, family, and God.”
Despite her father’s resentments on the course she pursued, Vicente does not regret her decision. “[In his deathbed], he said that if I listened to him, I could have taken care of his illness. But I have no regrets,” Vicente said. “I am able to contribute to the cause of justice and to show the mercy of God. I become a reflection of the Lord through this little way.” Through the years, Vicente brings with her lessons of Thomasian education sealed with humility. Her emphasis on values that is rooted on work—instead of awards and recognitions—is truly a humbling feat.
She may not have planned her career straight out but it was her dedication, diligence, and trust in God’s will that made her not only a part of the notable roster of Artlets alumni, but a model to students who remain uncertain with the path they will take. “A Catholic education in the Liberal Arts made me a very conscientious professional,” Vicente said.
“Whatever happens to us is God’s will. Whenever I lose track of my life, I just pray to God for enlightenment,” she said as she recalled the day when a small decision changed her life forever. F
Year 47 | Issue 3 | 2011
Year 47 | Issue 4 | 2012