Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Portugal Perez on Wednesday retired after 45 years of serving in the Philippine judiciary.
Perez, who reached the mandatory age of 70, was honored during a special SC en banc session on Tuesday morning.
"I asked for the holding of the special en banc [because] it has been awhile and I thought the forgetting has started. I wanted it done not for me and my family but for the rest serving the court. Maybe one among them, from where they are now, may also reach where I am now - standing before you as the honored person," he said during a speech.
"It takes some time. It can be done," Perez told court employees.
After graduating from the University of the Philippines College of Law and passing the bar, Perez joined the SC on December 1, 1971 as a technical assistant and worked his way up.
He was appointed as the 167th associate justice on December 26, 2009, replacing Justice Leonardo Quisumbing.
In his speech, Perez said he had served 15 chief justices throughout his career, starting with the country's 10th chief justice, Roberto Concepcion, up to Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is already the 24th chief justice and the first female to hold the top post.
During the program, other justices presented Perez with tokens and a plaque of recognition.
Justice Antonio Carpio said Perez, who is known to them as "Pepe," is humble and good-natured, endearing him to everyone in the judiciary.
"If we, his colleagues in the high bench in the past seven years, would have a say, we would impede his retirement for we have come to admire him as the most deserving co-worker in the Judiciary," he said.
Carpio also credited the retiring justice's compassion and legal acumen as shown in his court decisions, especially in Social Justice Society v. Mayor Lim and Poe Llamanzares v. Commission on Elections, among many others.
Perez thanked his colleagues one by one and told the guests that life in the Supreme Court is not easy.
"There are times when my confidence sagged but these are also the times when I remember friendly words that hoisted me," he said.
Perez, a native of Batangas City, was an honor student starting from grade school. In college, he earned a political science degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman where he graduated among the top 10. He similarly finished among the top 10 at the UP Diliman College of Law.