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Constitutionalist Father Joaquin Bernas dies

Noted constitutionalist Father Joaquin Bernas, SJ, died on Saturday, March 6, the Ateneo Law School confirmed.

He was 88.

“The Ateneo Law School community mourns the passing of its Dean Emeritus, Father Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, in the early morning of March 6, 2021,” Ateneo Law School Dean Jose Maria Hofileña said in a message to the Ateneo law community on Saturday.

“We take solace in the knowledge that his was an earthly life dedicated to service, to standards or excellence, to the greater glory of God. Indeed, a man, an excellent man, for others,” Hofileña added.

Bernas was president of the Ateneo de Manila University from 1984 to 1993, and served as Dean of the Ateneo Law School twice. Upon his retirement in 2004, he was conferred the position of Dean Emeritus.

“He has contributed immeasurably to keeping the Ateneo Law School true to its identity and calling. The Ateneo Law School’s debt of gratitude to Father Bernas can never be truly repaid,” Hofileña said.

The Jesuit Philippine Province said in a statement on Saturday afternoon that Bernas died in the Lucas Renewal Center of Loyola House of Studies in Quezon City.

"Father Bernie, 88, had serious heart ailments and was in quarantine after discharge from the hospital on Thursday evening," the Jesuit Philippine Province said.

Because of the pandemic, Bernas' remains were cremated on Saturday morning and the ashes were brought to the Ateneo de Manila Jesuit Residence for in-house memorial Masses there and in other communities on campus.

"They will then be kept in the Jesuit Health and Wellness Center until, in mid-March, a proper funeral Mass and inurnment in the Province cemetery at Sacred Heart Novitiate can be scheduled," the Jesuit Philippine Province added.

'St Thomas More, reborn'

Bernas, who obtained his law degree at Ateneo in 1962 and ranked 9th in the Bar Examination that year, was a member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution.

Bernas' colleagues, students, and government officials paid tribute to him on social media, thanking him for his service and contributions to the nation.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an alumnus of the Ateneo Law School, described Bernas as "the epitome of the classic Jesuit scholastic."

Bernas' "masterful work on constitutional law is a must-read for all Ateneo law students. To this day, Fr Bernas continues to mentor me through his masterpiece," Guevarra said.

"Yet like many Jesuits he was a man of the world. He did not live in an ivory tower. He was accessible and accommodating to everyone, could engage in a lively discussion on any topic (especially over a glass of Scotch), and with a great sense of humor. As a lawyer, he was St Thomas More reborn," he added.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Saturday that Bernas “ left a legacy of legal excellence and passion for humanity and the rule of law to the nation.”

“A great Jesuit educator, he mentored generations of Filipino students, lawyers, legal academics and researchers,” Roque said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan described Bernas as an "amazing patriot, constitutionalist, and man for others."

"Because of him and his fellow post-People Power ConCom delegates, we have a Constitution that is pro-God, pro-Filipino, and pro-poor. We have a Constitution which specifies our duties as public servants, a Constitution by which we take our oath of office, a Constitution which we swear to preserve and defend. We have a Constitution that promises social justice for every Filipino family," Pangilinan said.

"His death reminds us the urgency of delivering on this promise," he added. – Rappler.com