Justice Isagani Cruz, Great Constitutionalist

The country mourns the passing of a great constitutionalist, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Isagani Cruz who died Thursday morning. He had not been well for sometime and over the past five years or so, we would get news on his health from mutual friends, and lately from his daughter Candy.

After his retirement and while writing a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Justice Cruz, was often referred to as the "16th member of the high court" because of his erudite handling of on issues of justice and the law.

Justice Cruz who was appointed by President Cory Aquino in 1986, served as associate justice of the Supreme Court until his mandatory retirement in October, 1994, when he turned 70. Prior to that, he was Chairman of the Code Commission of the Department of Justice, senior partner of the Laurel Law Office, and Dean of the Lyceum College of Law. Among his many publications are several books on Constitutional Law, International Law, and Philippine Political Law. He also wrote "A Brief History of the Supreme Court" co-authored with daughter Cynthia Datu. A landmark decision was Javier vs. Comelec where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Evelio Javier, rival of Arturo Pacificador, a party member of Marcos during the 1984 election in Antique.

Justice Cruz showed much concern about the state of our mass media which he felt can do much more in the uplift of society. In one column, he noted: "Disasters seem to feed the ghoulish nature of Philippine media. Killings always give a field day for our television networks and news publications. The media must recognize a higher sense of mission in their search and discovery of truth... review their policies to rid themselves of the tabloid mentality that is marring Philippine journalism in general."

Our deep condolences to wife Sally, children Cesar, Claro, Carlo, Isagani, and Cynthia, and grandchildren.

The suicide of 16-year-old Kristel Tejada was a tragic event which could have been prevented. Several studies worldwide show that adolescent suicide is on the rise. Our National Statistics Office likewise noted that the suicide rate has increased with most cases among young people in the age groups of 5 to 14 and 15 to 24. An analysis of 300 cases shows that the act was committed when family members had gone off to work and the house was empty. Most happened during the Lenten season. In addition to depression and low self-esteem, other contributory factors are low income, unemployment, medical conditions such as heart diseases and cancer, and marital status.

In the case of Kristel, the responsibility on cause of death was directed at the State and the UP policy on the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP). We agree that the policy could have been more lenient (the "No- late-payment policy" has since then been lifted) but we also agree with UP Chancellor Manuel Agulto that suicide is a complex issue. In fact, there could have been other triggers such as the reported "teasing on Facebook." This was not pursued by the media and neither did anyone investigate her emotional state before the suicide. We hope that the association of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country can give light on this issue so that the rising rate of teen suicides can be mitigated.

In the meantime, we can only cite studies where psychologists concur about the nature of suicide among teens - that it is "fundamentally about shame, about escape from the damning judgments of others, about feeling hopeless about the future." It was further noted that a young person's suicide "reflects a community's failure to make them feel included, or provide them hope." While our suicide rate has risen, it is not as bad as that of other countries. However, structural problems - lack of adequate budgetary appropriation to education, poverty, unemployment, and the growing sense of alienation of the youth especially in the big cities - are threats that should be addressed.