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Rizal and the Filipino Nationalist Thoughts: Final Paper

Cecilia Munoz-Palma: Biography, Contribution/s, and Reflection of the Hero

A Final Paper Presented to


Mr. Rogelio Braga
Mapua Institute of Technology

In Partial Fulfillment of the


Requirements for the Course
Rizal and the Filipino Nationalist Thoughts
(RZL10)

By
Calvin Paulo A. Mondejar

June 2015

Rizal and the Filipino Nationalist Thoughts: Final Paper


I.

Biography

Cecilia Celing Arreglado Munoz-Palma was born on November 22, 1913 in Bauan, a first class municipality in
the province of Batangas. Cecilias parents are Pedro P. Munoz, who was a former Congressman of the 2 nd district of
Batangas and a lawyer and Emilia Arreglado, who was an ordinary housewife. Cecilia studied her primary and
secondary education at St. Scholasticas College in Manila where she became the valedictorian of her secondary
education in 1931. In her tertiary education, she took law at the University of the Philippines, this was where she
excelled in both academic and extra-curricular activities. Her achievements in UP were being the first female to be
elected as Student Council president of the College of Law from 1936 to 1937. She won first prize in the first
oratorical contest held by the UP Debating Club in 1934 and she received a Doctor Mendoza-Guanzons medal for
excellence in oratory. She also received a Justice Abad Santos medal for excellence in debating. In 1937, Cecilia
took a lawyers licensure exam also known as Bar exam and topped the Bar Examination with a grade of 92.6%.
Cecilia pursued her education after undergraduate studies in UP when she took and got a Master of Laws degree
from Yale Law School. 10 years after topping the Philippine Bar Examination, she was appointed by then President
Manuel Roxas to be the first woman prosecutor in Quezon City from 1947 to 1954. After her reign as a prosecutor,
she was promoted by then President Ramon Magsaysay to be the first female Judge of the Court of First Instance,
also known as the Regional Trial Court, from 1954 to 1968. After doing her role as a Judge of the Court of First
Instance, she was appointed and promoted by then President Ferdinand Marcos to be the second woman Associate
Justice of the Court of Appeals from 1968 to 1973. In 1973, she was promoted to the Supreme Court to become the
first ever Filipina to be appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. She served in the Supreme Court as
an Associate Justice from 1973 until 1978 when she already reached a retirement age of 65. In 1984, she was
elected to the House of Representatives, representing the opposition party, United Nationalist Democratic
Organization until 1986. Cecilia was appointed by former President Corazon Aquino as the Member and was then
elected as Chairperson of the 1986 Constitutional Commission which a new constitution was made on October 15,
1986 and was verified by the Filipinos on February 2, 1987. After the creation of the new Philippine Constitution, she
was again appointed by then President Corazon Aquino to be a member of the Presidents highest advisory body, the
Council of State. After President Aquinos term ended, Cecilia was appointed by then President Fidel Ramos to be a
member of the Council of advisers of the Moral Recovery Program and was elected by the council as the Vice
chairman of the council. In 1998, former President Joseph Estrada appointed Cecilia to be the Chairman of the
Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (JCMPF, 2008). After the end of her term as a PCSO chairwoman in 2000, she
was no longer viewed in the public eye and died due to a heart ailment on January 2, 2006 at the age of 92. In 2009,
she was inducted to the International Hall of Fame by a group of women leaders worldwide the International
Womens Forum. Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma High School was established and started a school year 2005-2006 in
memory of her achievements as the first female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and her contributions for the
development and the welfare of the judiciary against the Marcos administration.
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Rizal and the Filipino Nationalist Thoughts: Final Paper


II.

Contribution/s
Cecilia Munoz-Palma experienced politics for the first time when she was elected as a representative for

Quezon City under an opposition party known as the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO) to the
House of the Representatives, also known as Batasan Pambansa from 1984 to 1986. The UNIDO is an
opposition party formed by anti-Marcos leaders of several different parties with their main objective is to end the
reign of then President Ferdinand Marcos. When Cecilia was a representative, she was the Chairwoman of the
Opposition Committee and she filed several impeachment cases against President Marcos. Likewise, she and
the UNIDO party played a major part during the 1986 Snap elections when then President Ferdinand Marcos
battled Ninoy Aquinos wife, Corazon Aquino. The Snap elections showed a positive sign that their goal to
dismantle the dictatorial regime would be fulfilled.
After the fleet of the Marcos family and the proclamation of then President Corazon Aquino as the new
President of the country at that time, Constitutional convention was held and a Constitutional commission was
formed, which Cecilia Munoz-Palma was a member appointed by President Aquino and later was elected by the
Commission as President. As President of the Constitutional commission, she led the process of revising the old
Constitution and made some drafts of the new Constitution which later a newly improved Philippine Constitution
was made, approved by President Aquino and accepted by the Filipino masses.
Before President Ramos term ended in 1998, Cecilia Munoz-Palma supported then Vice President Joseph
Ejercito Estradas candidacy for President. And when Estrada won, Estrada appointed Munoz-Palma as head of
the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes office, also known as PCSO. During her stint as the Chairwoman and
General Manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office under the Estrada Administration, Cecilia MunozPalma contributed numerous projects and charitable works for the benefit, welfare, and development of the poor
in the community. Through her works, she implemented feeding program, scholarships for the poor but deserving
students, and other benefits that the institution can give to the less fortunate people in the community under her
leadership from 1998 to 2000.
Throughout her life, Cecilia Munoz-Palma had many affiliations with organizations and groups which she
became a member and an officer. This includes the Women Lawyers Association of the Philippines, Zonta Club
of Manila, National Council for Women of the Philippines, Women Lawyers Circle, Community Chest
Foundation, Philippine Tuberculosis Society, National Press Conference, Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace
Foundation, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Committee on Human Rights and Due Process, LAWASIA
Committee on Human Rights, Meralco Foundation Incorporated, and other various organizations (JCMPF, 2008).
Reference:

JCMPF

(2008).

About

Justice

Cecilia

http://justicepalmafoundation.org/about-justice-cecilia-munoz-palma/.
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Munoz-Palma.

Retrieved

from

Rizal and the Filipino Nationalist Thoughts: Final Paper


III.

Reflection
The life of Cecilia Munoz-Palma started with her birth and childhood days living and grew up in Bauan,

Batangas, continued through her primary and secondary education at St. Scholasticas College in Manila, took
up Law at the University of the Philippines in her tertiary education, earned a Masters degree at Yale University,
appointed by Roxas to be the first female prosecutor in Quezon City, appointed by Magsaysay as the first female
Judge of the Court of First Instance aka the Regional Trial Court, reaching the peak of her wonderful life by being
appointed by Marcos as the first female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and opposing the President who
appointed her in the Supreme Court that made her and the late Claudio Teehankee to be the only Anti-Marcos
justices at that time, joined the United Nationalist Democratic Organization and received the first taste of politics
when she was elected as a representative of Quezon City to the House of Representatives, appointed by Aquino
as a member of the Constitutional Commission and elected as President of the said commission, other
appointments by Ramos and Estrada until she lived peaceful and happy with her husband Rodolfo Palma and
their three children until her death. Her achievements, contributions, and significant roles to the government,
movements, community, and organizations are the recipes that made her being inducted in the Bantayog ng
mga Bayani Foundation heroes of the Marcos regime, and her achievements, contributions, and significant roles
throughout her life gave me a reflection on what is she to me as a student, as a Filipino, and as a Male.
As a student, I see Cecilia Munoz-Palma as a role model for me and other students to not only focus on just
academics, but also to open our minds to new horizons of knowledge and learn new ideas like participating in
extra-curricular activities. Cecilia Munoz-Palmas achievements in her education: graduated as a valedictorian in
St. Scholastica, excelled in both academic and extra-curricular activities in UP, a Student Council President of
the College of Law in UP, a debater and won numerous awards in the field of debate, and her major
achievement in education when she topped the Philippine Bar Examination, inspire me to strive for greatness, to
climb a ladder towards the fruit of education. As they say, The road to education is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
Munoz-Palma would not had topped the Philippine Bar Exam if she didnt strive for greatness and if she didnt
take the risks of travelling the road of education. She believed that theres always a light at the end of a tunnel
and thats what inspires me to work hard and believe that nothing is impossible. For me, to be a valedictorian is
already a milestone, and to be a student council leader and Rank 1 in Philippine Bar examination was more than
just an achievement for Munoz-Palma. She likewise showed in her laurels the way of balancing her time. She
already mastered the art of time management, balancing the time she would spent on studying likewise the time
she would spent on participating in extra-curricular activities, her hang out with her friends, and her time leading
the Student Council of the College of Law. As a student, it is a bit struggle and a bit challenging task for me to
manage my time, for it takes a matured person to discipline himself and to be wise in making the right choices on

Rizal and the Filipino Nationalist Thoughts: Final Paper


how he/she will balance his/her time. Time will come that I have to be wiser to my decisions like what MunozPalma did in her early years.
As a Filipino, I see Cecilia Munoz-Palma as one of the significant heroes of Marcos regime that we should
never forget because of her fight to oust the late President Ferdinand Marcos likewise her desire, and the
Filipinos desire to end the Presidents dictatorship and repression to finally get our freedom through a nationalist
movement, the EDSA People Power Revolution led by Corazon Aquino. As a Filipino, I am honored and feel
blessed that heroes like Munoz-Palma and other martyrs during the Marcos regime fought the administration for
they saw that it was really an unjust government led by Ferdinand Marcos which sparked them to stand up and
fight and represent for their fellow natives desire, change of their leader and the whole administration. It would
have been better for me if I was born at that time to witness the whole events occurred during Martial Law and
other repressive actions by the Marcos administration rather than to read them in the book and imagine what
really happened at that time. Cecilia Munoz-Palmas contributions during her years as a Supreme Courts
associate justice against the Martial Law and her opposition against the Marcos administration under the AntiMarcos party, the United Nationalist Democratic Organization, made me believe that there was already a
movement to oust the administration just before the People Power Revolution and this movement sparked after
the tragic death of former Senator Ninoy Aquino that forced Corazon Aquino to run for the highest position in the
land. As a Filipino, I see Cecilia Munoz-Palma and other heroes in Martial Law as role models in Nationalism.
We Filipinos should commend and appreciate them for their efforts and contributions during the time when
freedom was not in our hands.
As a Male, I see Cecilia Munoz-Palma as an example of a woman capable of doing what a man can
normally do. A woman with many talents, Munoz-Palma had so many achievements in the Judiciary and various
organizations that made her truly deserved to be the role model of Filipino women, aside from President
Corazon Aquino. She broke many records like the first ever female prosecutor, first female judge of the Regional
Trial Court, the second female associate justice of the Court of Appeals, and the first ever female Associate
Justice of Supreme Court. Cecilia Munoz-Palma is like an 18 th century Gabriela Silang in a way that MunozPalmas fight against the Marcos administration was not by the use of weapons, but by the use of her profession.
She used her profession as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to dissent or disagree to the orders made
by the President. She also used her profession years later as a representative of Quezon City under the United
Nationalist Democratic Organization Party to the House of Representatives where she became the chair of the
Opposition committee against the administration likewise she filed impeachment complaints against then
President Ferdinand Marcos. She is an example of a woman that can handle top judicial positions usually
dominated by the men and she is also an example of Filipina who fought with courage against the unjust
government and the dictatorial regime. As a Male, I should admire this woman for her achievements,
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Rizal and the Filipino Nationalist Thoughts: Final Paper


contributions, and roles for the development of her country and I respect this icon for she was the one of the
chosen women to handle high judiciary posts usually dominated by men at that time. A lot of commendation for
this hero, she should be remembered but never forgotten.