The Philippines will mark the 74th death anniversary of Jose Abad Santos, former Supreme Court Chief Justice and World War II hero, this coming May 7, Saturday. It is a special non-working day in Pampanga as well as Angeles City by virtue of Republic Act (RA) 8815, which was enacted during the time of former President Joseph Estrada.
Abad-Santos was born in San Fernando, Pampanga in February 19, 1886. Prior to being the country’s fifth Chief Justice, he served as speaker of the House of Representatives. During the early days of Japanese occupation of the country in 1942, then-President Manuel Quezon asked Abad-Santos to join him and other high-ranking Commonwealth government officials in seeking refuge in Australia but he declined.
Quezon eventually decided to give Abad-Santos the task of supervising the operations of the civil government in areas not yet occupied by Japanese forces, which effectively made him the acting president during that time.
He was performing this duty when he and his son Pepito was arrested by Japanese forces in Cebu City on April 1942. He was falsely accused of ordering the destruction of essential infrastructures in the city to render them unusable for the invaders. When told that he can regain his freedom if he opts to collaborate, he vehemently rejected.
Shortly before his execution in Malabang, Lanao, Abad-Santos told his son: “Do not cry, Pepito. Show these people that you are brave. It is a rare opportunity for me to die for our country. Not everybody is given that chance.”