Associate Justice (Ret.), Supreme Court of the Philippines
Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna was born in Katipunan, Zamboanga Del Norte on February 16, 1939, the son of Felipe B. Azcuna and Carmen S. Sevilla. He received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, with academic honors, at the Ateneo de Manila in 1959 and the degree of Bachelor of Laws, cum laude, at the same institution in 1962. He was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1963, placing 4th in the 1962 bar examinations. He forthwith embarked on a government career as Assistant Private Secretary of then Presiding Justice Jose P. Bengzon of the Court of Appeals in 1963 and, thereafter, upon the appointment of the latter to the Supreme Court in 1964, as his Private Secretary.
Justice Azcuna taught International Law at his alma mater, Ateneo de Manila, from 1967 to 1986. In 1982, he completed post-graduate studies in International Law and Jurisprudence at the McGeorge School of Law in Salzburg, Austria.
Representing Zamboanga Del Norte, he was elected as a member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. Subsequently, he was appointed as a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. He held several government posts during the term of President Corazon C. Aquino, first as Presidential Legal Counsel, then as Press Secretary and subsequently as Presidential Spokesperson. In 1991, he was appointed Chairperson of the Philippine National Bank.
On October 17, 2002, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In his Opening Remarks delivered at the Lecture Forum on the Writ of Amparo before the RTC judges of the NCJR on October 15, 2007, then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno said, “In 1987, Justice Adolf Azcuna, then one of the commissioners tasked by President Corazon Aquino to draft the 1987 Constitution, embedded in its backbone a provision giving the Supreme Court the extra power to promulgate rules which would give life to the writ of amparo to protect the constitutional rights of our people. Through his initiative, the rule-making power of the Supreme Court was expanded to complement the awesome power of Congress to make laws. Historically, it is the parliament that protects the rights of people through its lawmaking power. Justice Azcuna allowed the Supreme Court to have a share in the exercise of this power by expanding its rule-making power.”
In 2007, Justice Azcuna was conferred the Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair in International and Human Rights Law for which he delivered a presentation entitled, “International Humanitarian Law: A Field Guide to the Basics.
Justice Azcuna retired from the Supreme Court on February 16, 2009 and was appointed, on June 1, 2009, Chancellor of the Philippine Judicial Academy for twelve (12) years or until May 31, 2021.
On November 12, 2012, Justice Azcuna delivered a presentation entitled, “The Writ of Amparo: The Philippine Experience So Far,” as the first recipient of the Founding Chancellor Emeritus Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera Award for the Most Outstanding Professorial Lecturer.
On January 8, 2013, the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Senate Philippines and the Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd. conferred to Justice Azcuna The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award for 2012 in the field of Justice/Law.
As a holder of the Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban Professorial Chair on Liberty and Prosperity, Justice Azcuna delivered a presentation entitled, “Supreme Court Decisions on the Economic Provisions of the Constitution” on April 18, 2013 at the Ateneo School of Law.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has elected Justice Azcuna as one of its five new commissioners for a term of five years from August 12, 2014 to August 11, 2019. He has been nominated for another term. The ICJ is dedicated to ensuring respect for international human rights standards through the law. Commissioners are known for their experience, knowledge and fundamental commitment to human rights.
On September 27, 2016, the Ateneo de Manila University during its 2016 Traditional University Awards conferred with Justice Azcuna the Lux-in-Domino Award. This capstone award that requires the crowning achievement of both life and work is given to an extraordinary individual who has incarnated in life, and perhaps even in death, in an outstanding and exemplary manner, the noblest ideals of the Ateneo de Manila University. The citation stated: “For living as a selfless public servant who puts country before self and as a man of deep faith whose devotion to his family is unchanging; for devoting more than 50 years of his life to judicial work, driven by a commitment to the delivery of justice; for ensuring the protection of every Filipino’s constitutional right to life, liberty, and security through the writ of amparo; for lighting a path of excellence, service, and probity that young Filipinos and Ateneans may follow.”
On September 29, 2016, Justice Azcuna delivered his public lecture for the 2016 Traditional University Awards entitled “Training the Judiciary — The Philippine Experience 1996-2016” at the Ateneo Law School, Rockwell Drive, Makati City.
In January 2017, Justice Azcuna presented the Asian Experience on Integrating Environmental Law Training in Judiciaries, a Colloquium held at Johannesburg, South Africa.
In November 2017, Justice Azcuna was elected as a new member of the International Organization for Judicial Training (IOJT) Board of Executives at the General Assembly held during the 8th IOJT Conference on the Training of the Judiciary. PHILJA hosted the 2017 Conference, being one of IOJT’s founding members.
Justice Azcuna’s major publications include “International Sales of Goods,” “Transnational Law Practice,” “International Law Teaching in the Philippines,” “Doing Business in the Philippines,” “Foreign Judgment [Monetary] Enforcements in the Philippines,” “Piercing the Veil of Corporate Entity: From Willets to Santos,” “ASEAN Conflict of Law,” “The Supreme Court and Public International Law,” and his two Supreme Court books: “Seeing Reality in Today’s World” and “Seeking Justice in Today’s World.”
Justice Azcuna is married to Maria Asuncion Aunario, former Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. Scholastica’s College. They are blessed with four children and four grandchildren.