A graduate of the UP College of Law in 1958, Amb. Espiritu was honored for his achievements and unimpeachable character in the areas of banking and finance, economics, public service, and entrepreneurship. The degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa is the highest academic recognition of an individual’s contributions to the advancement of a field in a particular discipline through one’s extraordinary accomplishments.
As a public official, Amb. Espiritu’s most high profile role was as Secretary of the Department of Finance in 1998, when he pushed for anti-corruption measures and crafted policies that helped the country get through the Asian Financial Crisis. As an industry captain, he previously headed banking giants Metrobank, the Philippine National Bank and Westmont Bank, among others. He also served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Iceland. Finally, he was a member of the UP Board of Regents and the longest serving president of the UP Alumni Association (UPAA); his tenure saw the beginning and completion of iconic University structures such as the Ang Bahay ng Alumni.
In his opening remarks, UP President Danilo L. Concepcion quoted Amb. Espiritu’s own message to the UP Alumni Council in 2019, where he called the University “the anvil upon which we are molded to become instruments for attaining the common good and the betterment of the nation.”
“Truly,” Concepcion added, “it is difficult to think of an individual who has been shaped both by the classroom and by life into an embodiment of honor, excellence, and compassion more than Amb. Edgardo B. Espiritu.”
In his own message, Espiritu called for a renewed fight against corruption, which he called a “national problem” that requires all sectors to combat. And while most corruption initiatives in the country are aimed at the Executive and the Legislative branches of government, he believes that a proper reform of the Judiciary will also be key to curbing uneven dispensations of justice between those with power and those without.
“A judiciary that dispenses, and is perceived to dispense fair and impartial justice, for instance in adjudicating contracts, is a requirement for attracting investors, both local and foreign, and is therefore a key ingredient for economic growth,” Espiritu said.
To accomplish this, he proposed measures such as promoting greater fiscal and administrative independence for the Judiciary to prevent judges and others from falling prey to both unscrupulous politicians and powerful influences in the private sector. A key intervention here, Espiritu said, would be to improve the compensation and incentives for judges, prosecutors, and court personnel. Moreover, he prescribed a merit-based rather than a politically influenced process of nomination, appointment, and promotion for the aforementioned.
Despite already having a considerable infrastructure to combat corruption, Espiritu said he still believed that the most important alliance that any coalition against corruption should have is with the youth. “We must enlist the support of all sectors in society in this fight, particularly the young,” he noted, “through our schools; through progressive academic curriculums, particularly those that seek to hone future lawyers in the virtues of fairness, honesty, and love of the law; through civil society initiatives; through media and the virtual world.”