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Retired SC justice who upheld VFA in 2000 passes away at 87

Retired Supreme Court associate justice Arturo Buena, who penned the landmark ruling upholding the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 2000, died Thursday.

The former justice died at 87 due to a "lingering illness," the SC Public Information Office (PIO) said. He is survived by his second wife, Virgith Balan-Buena, and children Susan, Arturo Jr., Benjamin, and Carlo, and grandchildren.

Buena was appointed to the SC in 1999. Before he retired in 2002, he wrote more than 200 decisions, including the SC ruling on the VFA.

In that decision, the court en banc dismissed petitions against the VFA. Two decades later, in 2020, the Philippines notified the US of its desire to terminate the agreement. The decision takes effect in 180 days.

A native of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Buena studied pre-law and law at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1954.

As a lawyer, he first engaged in private practice then went into public service when he worked with the Department of Commerce in 1956.

He also worked as a liaison officer in the Office of the Speaker at the House of Representatives and as a legal and technical assistant at the Senate Electoral Tribunal, the SC PIO said.

He also served as an assistant to then-justice Jose Bengzon in the turnover of the supervision of the lower courts to the High Court, and then as Acting Deputy Court Administrator, Deputy Court Administrator, and Acting Court Administrator.

In 1986, Buena was appointed to the Court of Appeals and to the SC 13 years later.

He also taught law at UST, his alma mater.

Buena's remains lie in state at the Arlington Chapels in Araneta Avenue, Quezon City. The SC PIO said the schedule of interment will be announced later. — MDM, GMA News