Jose Yulo (1894 – 1976) Jurist, statesman, lawyer, Jose Yulo was one of the distinguished and outstanding leaders of the country. He was born on September 24, 1894 in Bago Negros Occidental, the fifth child of Sofronio Yulo and Segunda Yulo. His mother died when he was six years old and his father followed when he was 12.
Yulo finished the first three years of his high school at the Rizal Institute in Bacolod but in 1910, he transferred to the Manila High School, where he obtained his high school diploma the following year. Among his contemporaries at the Manila High School were Jose P. Laurel and Elpidio Quirino.
Yulo wanted to take up engineering but since the course was not offered in the evening, he enrolled in the college of law of the University of the Philippine. He was then below 18, the prescribed age for admission to the university but was admitted, however, upon the special recommendation of the high school principal. UP Law dean, George A. Malcolm, employed Yulo in the library and later as his personal assistant.
Yulo finished law at 19, the youngest of the UP Class of 1914. Being still underage he had to secure special permission from the Supreme Court to allow him to take the bar examinations. He placed third of the 42 bar passers out of the 192 examinees. The others who passed the same exam were Claro M. Recto, Jose Avelino, Vicente Francisco, Fernando Jugo, Ricardo Lacson, Manuel Moran, and Jorge Vargas. Again, being underage, he was not allowed to take the lawyer’s oath until September 24, 1915, when he reached the majority age of 21.
A full-fledged lawyer with good academic records, finding job came easy to Yulo. The Bruce and Reed Law Office, then one of the leading law firms in Manila, hired him as assistant attorney. From 1915 to 1922, he worked in the Pacific Commercial Company. He resigned from the company in 1922 to open his own law office.
On February 2, 1922, he married Cecilia Araneta of Bago, Negros Occidental, who was an alumna of the Assumption College. Their marriage was blessed with six children: Ma. Elena, Ma. Cecilia, Jose, Ramon, Lusis and Jesus Miguel.
Late in 1923, his partnership with Paredes and Buencamino established the Paredes, Buecamino and Yulo Law Office, which became popular for its notable handling of important civil and corporate cases. He was again on his own in 1928 when his law partners joined politics. A highly respected lawyer, Yulo served various positions: Professorial chair of the UP College of Law; member of the Philippine Bar Examining Board in 1924, 1925, 1929 and 1930. In 1934, he became Secretary of Justice, a position he held until 1938. At age 39, he was drafted into his first cabinet position as Secretary of Justice. During his term from 1934 to 1938, he created the division of investigation patterned after the American Federal Bureau of Investigation; he wrote the bill creating the Securities and Exchange Commission, which boosted investments and corporate activities that accelerated the national economic growth; and created the Court of Industrial Relations, the Court of Appeals, the Juvenile Courts and the Office of Public Defenders for the Department of Labor.
Yulo was a recipient of honorary doctor of laws and doctor of humanities degrees. For his generous assistance to various Roman Catholic undertakings and movements and his sponsorship of various civic and clerical entities, he was twice knighted by the Vatican first, as
Papal Knight in the Order of St. Sylvester and second, as Papal Knight in the Order of Malta. In 1938, Yulo ran for assemblyman under the Nacionalista ticket in the third district of Negros Occidental and won. He assumed his seat in the National Assembly in January 1939 and was unanimously elected Speaker. That same year, he was sent to the United States as head supposedly of a special mission to seek President Roosevelt’s approval of the amendments to the Philippine Constitution. But it was just a cover-up for the important secret mission of getting assurances from Roosevelt and Secretary of War Henry Stimson on the defense of the
Philippines in the event of war, which eventually reached the Philippines in December 1941.
Yulo gave meaning through legislation to the Quezonian pronouncements on social justice, which set the tone for giving dignity and a hope for a better tomorrow to the “common tao”. His 1,500-hectare farm in Pabanlag, Florida Blanca, Pampanga was the first to be offered to the government in accordance with the agrarian reform program. President Quezon once said: “I can literally say that not law enacted during the time he (Yulo) was my secretary of justice received my approval without his going over it personally, nor was any question of major policy ever adopted without the views of Secretary Yulo given full consideration.”
Yulo was elected senator in 1941 but like the others, was not able to serve due to the outbreak of war. Left behind in the country when the Commonwealth Government was evacuated to the United States, the Japanese authorities made him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
After the war, he became chairman of Philcusa (Philippine Commission for US Aid) and, for a brief term, governor of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. In 1948, he acquired the 7,350 hectare Canlubang Sugar Estate from Vicente Madrigal. Before Madrigal, the estate was owned by a group of American businessmen from California under the corporate name of Calamba Sugar Estate. He developed this vast estate into modern community and made it the base for several agricultural and industrial enterprises. He applied his social justice ideas and programs in Canlubang among the workers and residents. He was ever the wise and loving father to all the employees, always trying to uplift their spiritual and material welfare.
In 1967, Yulo retired from government service as Secretary of Justice of President Marcos. Yulo was 82 when he died in the morning of October 27, 1976. The statesman, philanthropist was survived by his six children ad his second wife, Tomasa G. Yulo. He remarried after his first wife Cecilia died in 1954 in Paris while they were on a tour with their daughter Ma. Cecilia.