OPINION AND OPTION
By ELINANDO B. CINCO
As a popular saying goes, “A man’s loss is another one’s gain.”
I would like to revise the adage above on definitive ground, “The judiciary’s loss is an educational institution’s gain.”
Retired Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Dumlao Turgano has been elected and was formally installed last Monday to the presidency of the Wesleyan University-Philippines (WUP).
Honorable Danilo L. Concepcion, president of the University of the Philippines, administered the oath of office.
A long-time neighbor of the recently retired judicial luminary says of him, “He brings with him to his new position his faithful witness as a lay person, to Jesus Christ and His church.”
Born in Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur, on October 21, 1954, to local preacher Samuel M. Turgano and Hildegarda Dumlao Turgano, Judge Turgano seeks to uphold and promote the values of the Wesleyan legacy of education.
His upbringing in a Christian family and his growth into faith and maturity in Christ permeates his secular activity as a legal and judicial luminary, a civic leader, and a game changer in a spirituality that secularizes.
His academic performance is noteworthy. He studied in the University of the Philippines, Baguio, and Baguio Colleges Foundation, and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1976. He acquired his Bachelor of Laws degree in the University of the Philippines in 1980. As a student, he received scholarships like the Christian Social Action Scholarship, Ecumenical Scholarship Grant from Evangeliche Kirche in Deutschland, and the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
He was a student assistant from 1977 to 1979 to a legal luminary and outstanding legislator, the late Senator Jovito R. Salonga. On May 4, 1981, he was admitted to the Philippine Bar.
Judge Turgano served in various capacities in both the government and private sectors. He was the university legal counsel of the University of the Philippines during the term of President Edgardo J. Angara in 1981 and 1982. He worked with the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) as resident representative and fiscal agent for the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra and La Union during the chairmanship of Senator Jovito R. Salonga. He was the head executive assistant for legal affairs in the office of Senator Heherson T. Alvarez.
He went into private practice for 12 years, and had extensive experience in litigation, involving civil, criminal, labor, and admiralty cases. In 1996, he was appointed regional trial court judge with general jurisdiction.
When the task of the Securities and Exchange Commission to try and decide intra-corporate controversies was transferred to the regional trial courts, and commercial courts were established, he was designated to preside over the commercial court of Laoag City and Ilocos Norte. It was in this field that he received intensive training from the Philippine Judicial Academy, in cooperation with other agencies, such as USAID, the American Bar Association-Rule of Law Initiative, and the European Union.
From 2004 to 2006, he was designated by the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines to serve in concurrent capacity as acting presiding judge of the Special Commercial Court of Manila, RTC Branch 46, and acting presiding judge of the Special Commercial Court of the Cities of Angeles and San Fernando, and the Province of Pampanga.
He was desginated by the Supreme Court to be the executive judge of the Regional Trial Court for Ilocos Norte and Laoag City from 2011 to 2014. And then, from 2015 until the time of his retirement on January 31, 2018, he served as the acting presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 28, in San Fernando City, La Union.
For more than ten years, he served as member of the Board of Trustees of Union Christian College in San Fernando City, La Union. He was the Vice chairman (1998-2002) and later the chairman of the Board of Trustees (2002-2008) of Mary Johnston Hospital in Manila. He has been a trustee and secretary of Northern Christian College from 2002 up to the present. He is also an active member of numerous civic and fraternal groups.
As a young Christian leader, Judge Turgano was chairperson of the Division (later Commission) on Youth and Student Ministry of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines in 1977-1981.
He became a member of McGill Memorial United Methodist Church in Sevilla, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur, where he was the lay leader in 1991-1996, and became its delegate to the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference (NWPAC) of the United Methodist Church in 1994-1997. Elected chancellor of this conference in 1996-2000, he was consecrated a diaconal minister of this conference on June 4, 1997; serving in other capacities at NWPAC,such as being member of its Board of Trustees in 1996-2000; and member, Board of Ordained Ministry in 1998-2000.
With his new role as president of Wesleyan University-Philippines, Judge Turgano vows to upgrade the academic performance of the university to address the fast-changing phases in the digital age and to prepare students to meet the needs of the future of Philippine society, like the automation of systems, the care of the environment, and the challenge of climate change.
He will institute measures for a more efficient and transparent governance. He will endeavor to unite piety and learning in the University, and heal the tensions plaguing the university community.
Judge Turgano is married to the former Rose Mary Lou J. Javillonar, a registered nurse. They have three children — Maria Estrella J. Turgano, a lawyer; Samuel Rufino J. Turgano, a lawyer; and Lois Kathleen Mary J. Turgano, a registered nurse. He is father-in-law to Princess C. Pasana-Turgano (Mrs. Samuel Rufino J. Turgano) who is also a practicing lawyer. He is a caring grandfather to Samuelle Rose Regina P. Turgano.
The commitment to live a Christ-like life that emphasizes servant leadership, humility, honesty, and integrity which sustained him in everything that he has done is the inspiring, sustaining, and enabling spirit that drives him as he embarks on his new role as president of Wesleyan University-Philippines.
With his election by the institution’s Board of Trustees on January 28, 2019, Judge Benjamin D. Turgano became its 12th president. May God bless him!