One of the country’s illustrious legal minds was born in Manila on September 19, 1910. Tolentino had an impressive academic record; he topped his class at Mabini Elementary and graduated valedictorian from Mapa High School. He garnered the top spot in the UP entrance examinations and received in said state university the following degrees: Associate in Arts; Bachelor of Science in Philosophy and Bachelor of Laws. In his college days he exhibited a penchant for journalism, leadership and oratory. During his senior year, he was chosen editor of the Philippine Collegian, the school’s official organ. Together with Wenceslao Vinzons, he organized and founded the Young Philippines, a militant youth organization.


After gaining the top spot in the 1934 bar examinations, he dedicated himself to the practice of law and taught in several law schools, including graduate studies. He was the author of several law books that were used throughout the country. Tolentino then pursued his Master of Laws and Doctor of Civil Law at UST, both with the most coveted distinction of meritissimus.

His first brush of politics came when he was invited to sit with the Council of State during President Quezon’s regime. In 1948 President Manuel Roxas appointed him as member of the Code Commission. The following year he ran for Manila’s third congressional district and won.

His was a voice of dissent during the administration of seven presidents – from Quezon to Marcos, earning him the title “fiscalizer”. The word had been coined by the media and accepted generally in the country to mean “to oppose, to criticize, to check, to dissent” in relation to public policies, views or acts of people in power. True enough, he opposed bills on the price-control measure, graduates’ diploma or certificate tax, tax on unmarried persons and the increase of income tax rate. He was particularly watchful on the expenditure of public funds. Bent on fighting all forms of graft and corruption in the government, he authored the Anti-Graft Bill. The law was approved after a long parliamentary battle.

Heading a special committee reexamining Philippines-US relations, Tolentino proposed drastic revision of the joint Military Bases Agreement, which was approved. The Committee also looked into two other military agreements with the United States.

In 1963 Tolentino was reelected Senator. He was elected Senate President in 1966. President Marcos through what was referred to as “gentlemen’s agreement,” divided the two-year term between him and Gil Puyat. Tolentino, thus, became minority floor leader in 1967. Tolentino topped the list of winners when he sought reelection in 1969.


Tolentino’s “fiscalization” reached its peak during the rule of President Marcos. He protested against the President’s encroachment on legislative powers by creating “super-bodies” in the form of commissions by executive orders.

Foreign Minister Carlos Romulo, upon his resignation, recommended the appointment of assemblyman Tolentino as his successor. The latter took his oath on June 30, 1984 and relinquished his post on March 4, 1985.

Tolentino was chosen as the running mate of President Marcos in the 1986 snap elections and became the Vice President of the Philippines on February 16, 1986. His, however, was a short-lived tenure and without actual exercise of power and authority. Before the scheduled public inauguration of President Marcos, an upheaval overturned the legitimate government and Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel were installed as President and Vice President of the country.

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