Marcelo Fernan

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The Honourable
Marcelo Fernan
20th President of the Senate of the Philippines
In office
July 27, 1998 – June 28, 1999
President Joseph Estrada
Preceded by Neptali Gonzales
Succeeded by Blas Ople
18th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
In office
July 1, 1988 – December 6, 1991
Nominated by Corazon Aquino
Preceded by Pedro L. Yap
Succeeded by Andres R. Narvasa
111th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
In office
April 9, 1986 – June 30, 1988
Nominated by Corazon Aquino
Preceded by Lorenzo Relova
Succeeded by Florenz D. Regalado
Senator of the Philippines
In office
June 30, 1995 – July 11, 1999
Mambabatas Pambansa (Assemblyman) from Cebu City
In office
June 30, 1984 – March 25, 1986
Serving with Antonio Cuenco
Personal details
Born (1926-10-24)October 24, 1926
Cebu City, Cebu, Philippine Islands
Died July 11, 1999(1999-07-11) (aged 72)
Manila, Philippines
Political party Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (1991-1996)
Lakas-Laban coalition (1996-1999)

Marcelo "Celing" Briones Fernán (October 24, 1926 – July 11, 1999) was a Filipino lawyer and political figure. He is the only Filipino to have served as both Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and as Senate President. He is also the third Filipino to have headed both the judicial and legislative branches of government, after Querube Makalintal who served as Chief Justice and Speaker of the Batasang Pambansa in the 1970s, and José Yulo, who served as Chief Justice and Speaker of the House of Representatives before 1946.

Early life[edit]

Fernan was born in Cebu City, Cebu in 1926. In 1953 he graduated with a degree in law from the University of the Philippines. He went to Harvard University in United States to obtain his master's degree. He returned to the Philippines soon after to finally serve his profession as a lawyer, particularly in his home province. Soon, he became a litigator, a trial court lawyer.


Early legislative career[edit]

In 1959 he was elected to the Cebu Provincial Board and served until 1961. He was also elected to the 1971 Constitutional Convention as a delegate from his home province and actively participated in its sessions, and committee meetings/hearings for the formulation of a new Constitution for the country then. In 1984, during the Marcos regime, he was elected to the Regular Batasang Pambansa, then the country's unicameral parliament with Antonio Cuenco, representing district 1 and district 2 of Cebu City under the banner of the opposition UNIDO party and actively scrutinized the bills presented by the administration lawmakers and delivered privilege speeches against the Marcos regime. On 1986, after the snap elections, he was the one of the opposition lawmakers who walked out when the administration lawmakers after a canvassing session that was then filled with debates and tensions, proclaimed then President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his running mate, then Former Senator Arturo Tolentino as the winners of that year's snap presidential and vice presidential polls in which the opposition claimed was marred with fraud.


Official Portraits of CJ Marcelo Fernan in the new SC building.

In 1977, he was elected national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the country's national organization of lawyers.

After the People Power Revolution and the dissolution of the Batasang Pambansa, he was appointed by President Corazon Aquino as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and served until 1988 and acted also as Chairman of the Supreme Court Committee on the Revision of the Rules of Court and Chairman of the House Electoral Tribunal.

He was then promoted in 1988 as Chief Justice, the highest position of leadership in the Supreme Court and the judiciary and was Chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council, the country's screening body of the potential judges and justices and the Judiciary Planning and Implementation Office. During his term as Chief Justice, several bold judicial reforms were instituted, among them the judicial orientation and career enrichment program, updating of the Code of Judicial Conduct and the continuous trial program.

Presidential bid[edit]

He resigned as Chief Justice in 1991 to run as president of the country. He later accepted the offer of House Speaker Ramon Mitra as his vice presidential candidate of the LDP Party. In the 1992 elections, however both lost to Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, respectively.

Senate (As Senator, 1995-99 and Senate President, 1998-99)[edit]

In the 1995 elections, Fernan ran for the Senate under the Lakas-Laban coalition and was elected, his fourth time entrance in politics and was named as the Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights as well as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development for the Tenth Congress (1995-1998) and authored several significant bills that became laws of the country, among these are: Republic Act 8246 or the Court of Appeals Regionalization Act, RA 8493 or the Speedy Trial Act of 1998, RA 8557 of the Philippine Judicial Academy, RA 8525 or the Adopt-a-School Act of 1997 and RA 8558 or the Underground Mine Workers Act.

He also sponsored RA 8247 or the Alien Social Integration Act of 1995. RA 8282 or the Social Security Act of 1997, and RA 8369 or the Family Courts Acts of 1997.

Fernan was elected Senate President, the top post of leadership in the Senate, and concurrently, the Chairman of the Commission on Appointments, a congressional body tasked to scrutinize and confirm presidential appointments at the opening of the 11th Congress in 1998. Under his leadership as Senate President, the Senate passed the Clean Air Act, the Visiting Force Agreement and the General Appropriations Act of 1999 and other various laws.


Fernan resigned the Senate Presidency on June 28, 1999 due to his failing health. The Senate President Pro-Tempore, then Senator Blas Ople becomes the Acting Senate President. Fernan now becomes an ordinary Senator and attended committee hearings and meetings and plenary sessions even in a wheelchair. He died of cancer only days later, on July 11 in Manila. He was buried in Cebu City. A newly built bridge was named after him linking Mandaue City to Mactan Island.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Eloisa Nolasco in 1955, having 9 children Marissa N. Fernan; Marget Fernan-Villarica, Maur Fernan-Ledesma, Memel Fernan-Borromeo, Marcel N. Fernan, Mitoy Fernan-Cayosa, Mona Fernan-Quiogue, Michael N. Fernan, Manny N. Fernan and 18 grandchildren, Carlo, Miki and Monica Villarica; Paolo and Camille Ledesma; Mio and Melissa Borromeo; Marc and Rina Fernan; Andre, Marco, Clara and Niña Cayosa; Marty, Sofia and Emilio Quiogue; Simon and Isabelle Fernan. He is also closely related to the Manigsaca family in Cebu City. He is also a granduncle to TV and movie personality Matteo Guidicelli.


He is the only Filipino who has headed both the Judiciary as Chief Justice and Legislative Branch as Senate President. For weekends, he loved bringing his family to the beaches in Mactan, Cebu and Bogo to snorkel or to ride a pump boat to visit nearby islands. Marcelo Fernan loved to sing and among his favourite songs were "Feelings" and "Matud Nila".

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Neptali Gonzales
President of the Senate
Succeeded by
Blas F. Ople
Legal offices
Preceded by
Pedro Yap
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Succeeded by
Andres Narvasa
Preceded by
Lorenzo Relova
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Succeeded by
Florenz D. Regalado