November 9, 2008. The first class that we had for this semester is the Legal Profession class we had last Friday afternoon. After the customary self-introductions and whatnot, and before the professor dismissed the class, she asked us to write a short essay on why we wanted to become lawyers, with leading questions that struck some of us. Do we genuinely want to become lawyers to be of service to the people, or are we just pressured by family or peers, or inspired by ambition, politics and wealth?
I’ve always believed that the legal arena is the arena of the ruling order. I’ve always believed our current legal system exists largely to preserve the status quo. Who, after all, makes and passes all our laws. Sure, there are such things such as the bill of rights and the state policies and principles enshrined in our Constitution. But they are there to serve as illusions, a smokescreen to the real and operational code. The wealthy and the powerful get away with anything using the legal system. Farmers and workers are deprived of their rights and a better way of life in favor of capitalists using the legal system. It’s terribly frustrating.
What’s even more frustrating for me is that with the increasingly steep cost of tuition in UP, the study of the legal system has become even more inaccessible to those who cannot afford it, to those who need the law the most — to those who are most oppressed and repressed.
For example, the past weeks saw how the Arroyo government, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the Department of National Defense, targeted leaders of the progressive mass movement in Southern Tagalog, from union leaders, peasant organizers, environment activists, urban poor organizers and even lawyers, with fabricated criminal charges from rebellion to murder. Even more preposterous is how the government brought all these cases to remote Oriental Mindoro in an apparent bid to deprive the activists of crucial support from organizations, their families and friends. Thus, the choice to enter this arena, granted the rare opportunity and given the present conditions, was a choice that, for me, was not difficult to make. It is an opportunity that I will not simply pass or take for granted. I genuinely want to become a lawyer.