Yanson Family Constitution

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

LAST WEEK I got news from Bacolod saying a murder charge will be filed against the Yanson 4. Which one of them or all of them, was not said. I also learned that a check was made with the prosecutors and there was no such charge. I thus considered the “murder charge” as fake news, a desperate attempt by parties unknown to continue to plague the four Yanson children and paint the other three, Leo Rey, Ginnette and their mother as the innocent ones.

But if murder there was, it is “most foul” as in Hamlet where the Ghost comments about his own death: “Murder most foul as in the best it is/But this is most foul, strange and unnatural.”

The real murder is committed against what the Yanson family worked so hard and for long, the Family Constitution. This document intended to ensure that the family remains united and will not have to quarrel over whatever the senior Ricardoleft behind. Indeed, the ghost of Ricardo Yanson, the author of the Yanson Family Constitution must be shouting from his grave to protest and bewail against“this foul, strange and unnatural” mutilation of the Family Constitution by family members. He must have believed that Olivia, as the family custodian, would keep the family and their descendants in loving embrace over and above any and all others. He was wrong, nay even betrayed.

I do not know of any other family, at least in Negros that crafted a Constitution to guide and preserve the family wealth and affection for each other. If Ricardo planned this written document, he must have premonitions of “murder most foul”, not of physical well-being but of family love. He wanted to prevent strife and recriminations among his descendants otherwise what he worked for so hard and well would have been trashed.

For truly, what does one do with wealth if that would lead to perdition among his family members and descendants? Ricardo thus wanted to leave behind not only wealth but family-loving bond as well. What patriarch would want to leave conflict to his family, except perhaps as in many dramas of human life to spite or exact revenge?

And so, a unique document was written with all eight of them signing on December 11, 2010: Ricardo and Olivia and their six children. There are no outside witnesses, all signed as witnesses, which makes this document twice binding.

The Constitution was arrived at after a series of discussions with the assistance of the Ateneo Family Business Development Center of the Ateneo de Manila University. It is therefore as best it could be done except for one provision missing – sanctions and penalties for those who consciously violate its provisions.

The omission of these penal provisions, I believe is based on a firm belief that all family members are united in affection and interest. That was presumptive that all people, especially family members love each other. Sadly, as now shown by the series of unfolding events, somewhere in the dark corners of the psyche of a family member or members lies an undetected or constrained desire for dominance.

Or maybe Ricardo had sensed that ambition for dominance that he tried his best to prevent from emerging or taking hold that he had this family constitution written and signed by all. He, to repeat, forgot one thing – a penal provision for the disloyal to his desire when he is gone.

The omission of sanctions is understandable because the family members that signed the document were assumed to have signed in good faith and with primordial intention – the preservation of the family. With the Constitution, Ricardo must have thought that the “foul, strange, and unnatural” would never emerge. He was mistaken for indeed, as a friend of his confided to me, he knew.

Family unity was given the highest premium as expressed in the first three Articles of the Yanson Constitution – Family Core Values and Beliefs, Family Business Philosophy and Family Business Values and Belief.

Historians have a cliché, “if it was not written it never existed”. In the case of the Yanson Family Constitution, the values, beliefs and philosophies, both for the family and their businesses were agreed upon, but events now question the existence of these core values in some of the Yanson family members broiled in this controversy.

Let’s continue tomorrow.