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Born in Orion, Bataan, on August 20, 1921, Emilio Angeles Gancayco graduated with highest honors from the Jose Rizal Institute in his home province. Thereafter, he pursued his college education at the University of the Philippines (UP) from where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees. His law studies were interrupted by World War II and, he became part of the guerrilla movement in his hometown against the Japanese occupying forces. When the UP College of Law reopened after the cessation of hostilities, he resumed his studies and passed the 1947 Bar Examinations.
The young lawyer started out as a claims attorney of the Judge Advocate General’s Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He left the military in 1949 to set up his law firm. In 1954, he returned to the government service as an attorney of the prosecution division of the Department of Justice. He rose to the rank of Chief State Prosecutor.
On June 19, 1972, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals. On July 31, 1986, he was appointed Presiding Justice by then President Corazon C. Aquino. On January 5, 1987, President Aquino appointed him Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He was assigned to sit in the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. He was also designated Chairman of the 1990 Bar Examinations.
After he retired from the Supreme Court in 1991, he went back to private law practice. He set up the Gancayco Law Offices with his youngest son, Atty. Pablo M. Gancayco. He was appointed Chairman of the Presidential Fact-Finding and Policy Advisory Commission for the Protection of Overseas Filipinos in 1995, thereafter dubbed the Gancayco Commission.
A respected authority in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, he taught at the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, and the University of the East. He was also actively involved in various religious and civic organizations. He received numerous awards and citations from various organizations and institutions.
On the day that he was confined at the Philippine Heart Center, he was slated to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the UP Alumni Homecoming for 2009. On July 28, 2009, 23 days short of his 88th birth anniversary, the dedicated public servant and jurist joined his Creator and was reunited with his late wife, Herminia Mejia Gancayco.
His remains lie at the Loyola Memorial Chapels, Guadalupe, Makati City. Interment will be today, August 2, 2009, after a 10 a.m. mass at the Loyola Memorial Park, Marikina City.
We extend our condolences and sympathies to the family of retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Emilio A. Gancayco, children Efren, Ana Corazon, Antonio, Emilio Jr., and Pablo, and other relatives, and, together with them pray, for the eternal repose of his soul. May he rest in peace.