Jose Abad Santos, eminent jurist and patriot, was born in San Fernando, Pampanga, on February 19, 1886, to Vicente Abad Santos and Toribia Basco.
He took his segundo enseñanza at the private school of Roman Veler, in the neighboring town of Bacolod. During the early part of the American regime, he studied in the public high school established by the American soldiers in San Fernando.
In 1904, he was sent to the United States to complete his high school studies at Santa Clara College in San lose, California. He studied law in the University of Illinois and later transferred to the law school of Northwestern University, where he received his Bachelor of Laws on June 4, 1908. He pursued graduate studies at George Washington University and received his Master of Laws on June 19, 1909.
Back in the Philippines, he worked as temporary clerk in the Archives Division of the Executiye Bureau. Later, he was appointed clerk in the Bureau of Justice and was, subsequently, promoted to court interpreter after passing the Philippine Bar on October 12, 1911. On July 31, 1914, he was appointed assistant-attorney at the Bureau of Justice. On July 16, 1918, he became a special attorney for the Philippine National Bank. He later went into private practice, while the PNB retained him as its counsel. In 1919, he was reappointed assistant attorney in the Bureau of Justice and served concurrently as one of the six technical advisers to the First Parliamentary Independence Mission to the United States. Upon his return he resigned as assistant attorney and counsel of PNB.
In January 1922, Abad Santos was appointed Undersecretary of Justice and later Secretary of Justice under Governor-General Leonard Wood, a position he held up to June 28, 1932. On December 5, 1938, he took his oath as Secretary of Justice for the third time and served the position untilluly 16, 1941. On December 24, 1941, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
At the outbreak of World II, in addition to being Chief Justice, he was named Secretary of Justice and Acting Secretary of Finance, Agriculture and Commerce in the Quezon War Cabinet. Left behind by Quezon who was evacuated to Washington, D.C., Abad Santos became the virtual head of the government. He performed his duties with amazing zed and dedication, prompting Quezon to describe him as "one of the noblest, purest and ablest men in the government service."
Abad Santos was captured by the Japanese near Carcar, Cebu. He was subjected to gruelling investigations for three weeks and was asked to contact General Manuel Raxas and to renounce his allegiance to the United States of America. He replied with dignity and courage: I cannot accede to the things you ask of me. To obey your commands is tantamount to being a traitor to the United States and my country. I would prefer to die rather than live in shame."
He was brought to Parang, Cotabato, and finally to Malabang, Lanao del Sur, where he was told of his impending execution. When his son learned of the verdict, he bust into teen, but Chief Justice Abad Santos confronted him, saying with sincere tenderness: "Do not cry Pepito. Show these people that you are brave. It is a rare opportunity far me to die for our country. Not everybody is given that chance."
After kneeling down together and reciting a brief prayer, Abad Santos and son embraced each other. Shortly after, a volley of shots was heard. It was two o' clock in the afternoon of May 2, 1942.