The Supreme Court today honored the late Justice Jose “Pepe” Portugal Perez, with eulogists highlighting his humility as they paid their last respects to the Court’s first “homegrown” Justice.
Justice Pepe passed away on August 12, 2021, after a two- year battle with cancer.
He served the Supreme Court for 45 years. From working as technical assistant in the Court in 1971, he was promoted to various posts—court attorney, Chief of the Office of the Reporter, Assistant Court Administrator, Deputy Court Administrator, and Court Administrator—until he reached the apex of his legal career with his appointment as the 167th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on December 26, 2009. Justice Pepe retired from the Court in 2016.
Those who gave their eulogies during an online necrological service were Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, retired Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice and incumbent Judicial Integrity Board Vice Chairperson Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez, Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva, Second Division Clerk of Court Atty. Teresita Tuazon, Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees President Atty. Rene Enciso, and Supreme Court Employees Association President Mr. Erwin Ocson. The said necrological service was livestreamed via the Court’s official YouTube channel.
All extolled Justice Pepe for being humble and his genuine love and concern for the Judiciary and its workers — from the Justices down to the rank-and-file court employees.
Atty. Tuazon recalled Justice Pepe’s “gift of humor” as well as his “good and vivid memory.” She also narrated the times when Justice Pepe would talk fondly of his childhood memories and his days at the University of the Philippines College of Law (U.P. Law). “A big man with an even bigger heart,” she said.
DCA Villanueva shared how down-to-earth the late Justice was, even disclosing that the former was a certified “Popster,” having been a die-hard fan of singer-actress Sarah Geronimo. He said that he would miss Justice Pepe’s infectious smile and
laughter which became the latter’s trademark in the Supreme Court. “He loved the people in the Supreme Court and the trial courts, and he was loved back,” said DCA Villanueva.
Justice Sandoval Gutierrez marveled at the “unparalleled humility and generosity” of Justice Pepe. She mentioned that she and Justice Pepe had many things in common—both were natives of Batangas, both were alumni of St. Bridget’s College in Batangas City, and both served as legal researchers in the office of then Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro.
For his part, retired Chief Justice Puno celebrated Justice Pepe’s academic achievements. “He was no intellectual pushover, given his academic credentials,” he said. Justice Pepe took up Political Science as his pre-law and graduated among the top ten of his batch in 1971 at the U.P. Law. Justice Pepe’s outstanding academic performance merited him induction into The Order of the Purple Feather, U.P. Law’s Honor Society.
Chief Justice Gesmundo called Justice Pepe “a man of honor, integrity, decency, and the nobility of a profession that cautiously and conscientiously grew, with the support of past and present members, in the same manner and equal measure of colleagues, staff, and the entire community of co-workers adding to the ponencias of the Court presently.”
Both Chief Justice Gesmundo and retired Chief Justice Puno mentioned some of Justice Pepe’s landmark ponencias, citing in particular the 2016 case of Poe-Llamanzares v. Commission on Elections, where the Court tackled the issue of the citizenship of a foundling running for the Presidency of the country. The Court, through Justice Pepe, ruled that petitioner Senator Grace Poe was qualified to be a candidate for president in the May 9, 2016 national elections.
They also mentioned his ponencias such as the relocation from Pandacan of the major oil companies and the constitutionality allowing the Anti-Money Laundering Council to inquire into an examine certain bank accounts.
“His legacy will never perish,” said retired Chief Justice Puno.
Speaking for the Perez family, Justice Perez’s children, Dr. Donnabelle Perez-Yoro and Mr. Zernan Perez, thanked everyone for the outpouring love and support for their father. Justice Perez is survived by his wife Expedita, his children Jerico, Zernan, and Donnabelle, and his grandchildren.