Last 14 April 2021, the legal profession lost one of its most cherished and beloved luminaries, Atty. Teresita Cruz-Sison, who passed on to the great legal forum in the sky after 70 years in the service of the Philippine Bar and the Filipino people.
Atty. Sison belongs to the Cruz family known in old Pasig, then a municipality of Rizal Province. Her happy childhood was marked by simple joys of treats at the town’s famous soda fountain, movies at the now gone Cine Victoria, and the annual feast of the Immaculate Conception at the nearby church of the same name.
Likewise, Atty. Sison was a proud product of the public school system of her time. She went to the Pasig Elementary School (1931-1938), and then on to Rizal High School (1938-1941; 1943-1944).
Atty. Sison obtained her Associate in Arts diploma and Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines (UP). She belongs to UP Law Class of 1951, which includes Aquilino Bonto Jr., Romeo Escareal, Jose Suarez and Jose Oledan, all important figures during their prime, and her best friend, the late Ester Sison-Cruz. People quipped that the best friends simply exchanged surnames after law school.
In 1952, Atty. Sison married Dr. Antonio J.M. Sison. Dr. Sison’s father and namesake, Dr. Antonio Sison, was the seventh president of UP (1943-1945) and at the same time Dean of the UP College of Medicine. The appointment given to UP President Sison was the first by Dr. Jose P. Laurel, President of the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines. Sison’s wife, Honoria Acosta-Sison, is the first female physician in the Philippines.
The marriage of Dr. and Atty. Sison was blessed with four children, all of whom are professionals today. Like their father, two sons are physicians and like their mother, two daughters are lawyers.
After balancing her time raising a family and practicing her profession, Atty. Sison decided to get involved in the activities of the Philippine Bar.
Atty. Sison became the national treasurer of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in 1974, a year after the IBP was established. Her competence, integrity and industry led her to hold that post for an unprecedented 17 years (1974-1990;1991-1992).
In 1977, Atty. Sison and her close friends put up the law firm of Luna Puruganan Sison and Ongkiko which, in 1983, became the law firm of Luna Sison & Manas.
Atty. Sison left private practice in September 1992 when President Fidel Ramos appointed her to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to represent the private sector. Her appointment to the JBC was later renewed by President Joseph Estrada, and she held the post until July 2004.
The JBC is the constitutional body that screens and processes nominations for all judicial posts in the country. It regularly submits to the President of the Philippines lists of nominees from which the President chooses his appointees.
Atty. Sison’s crowning glory came in 1991 when she was elected the first female President of the Philippine Bar Association (PBA), the oldest private association of lawyers in the country.
Throughout her professional life, Atty. Sison held posts of distinction in many organizations associated with the legal profession, and received countless awards and citations, too many to individually cite in this essay.
I had the pleasure of first meeting Atty. Sison in 1981 in a function of the IBP which I attended when I was still a law student. Despite her being an icon in the legal profession, Atty. Sison was nice and friendly to me that early on. She never hesitated to lend me a hand during those occasions I needed her help.
Once, she even arranged for me to interview the reclusive Atty. Potenciano Illusorio about the history of the UP Oblation, and legal giants like Supreme Court Chief Justices Enrique Fernando, Roberto Concepcion and Marcelo Fernan.
This dear lady treated me like a member of her family, and I will always be grateful for her kindness and affection.