Je suis avocat

May 4, 2016. Gusto ko iparating ang taos-puso kong pasasalamat sa lahat ng bumati. Hindi ko man kayo mapasalamatan isa-isa, nabasa ko lahat ng mga messages ninyo at masaya ako na bahagi kayo ng kaganapang ‘to.

Congratulations to all the parents who made this happen for all us new lawyers. This achievement is yours. Congratulations and thank you!

‘Di ko alam kung sa Pilipinas lang ganito natin idina-dakila ang pagiging abogado. I have a theory that more than the fact na napakahirap maging abogado sa Pilipinas, malaki ang pagtingin natin sa mga abogado at ganoon na lang kung ipagdiwang ang pagkakapasa sa bar exam dahil sa pangangailangan ng indibidwal, pamilya, at mga grupo na pangalagaan at ipaglaban ang kani-kanilang interes. Perhaps a manifestation of the many contradictions in society, or of its weak institutions that families celebrate having the advantage of having a lawyer to protect their interests. But that is for social scientists to discuss adequately. Othwerise, what are lawyers for, really?

One of the things we were taught in law school that I absolutely hated is the legal maxim “Dura lex sed lex” — “the law may be harsh but it is the law”. This is the favorite legal doctrine of parties who have the law in their advantage. But in a society such as ours, advantage is not determined solely on who is right against who is wrong. It is largely determined by economic and political capital. Laws are not inanimate sets of letters that form themselves out of a sense of justice, they are shaped by social, economic and political forces that exist and prevail at any given time in society.

In my opinion, laws are not supposed to be harsh. Laws are supposed to facilitate justice, not impose harshness. It is no wonder that this doctrine has consistently been used throughout history to justify martial law, slavery, death penalty, oppression. It compels resignation to a prevailing order, para bang, eh yan ang batas wala tayong magagawa. Of course meron tayong magagawa.

In French the word for lawyer and advocate is the same, it is “avocat”. It is likewise the same for the Spanish and the Italians.

A linguistic reminder that as lawyers we are called not just to become passive instruments of the legal system, but active advocates of justice. Justice in its basic sense, which I believe is, or is supposed to be, innate in our collective sense of humanity and goodwill.

With the national and local elections just a few days away, I think this is also an opportune time to remind ourselves that the leaders who we will elect will have the power to shape the laws and policies which will compel our obedience, or perhaps resistance, in the coming years. I say resistance, because we as advocates, we should not be afraid to challenge laws that do not serve justice, especially for those who do not have the advantage of the law and the legal system on their side. I am not advocating for the violation of the law, but is possible and it is our moral obligation challenge political and economic forces that shape and execute unjust laws. Dura lex sed lex is an awful awful legal theory.

That being said, congratulations to the new lawyers and your families. see you not just in court, but in many other places where justice needs to be served!

Je suis très inquiet

May 2, 2016. “Bonsoir. Je suis très inquiet ce soir. Je nageais juste vingt tours dans la piscine pour effacer mon esprit. Parce que, demain, les résultats des examens du barreau seront annoncés.

Je prie pour que demain, dans ma prochaine vidéo, je peux me présenter comme un avocat. Jusqu’à ce que ma prochaine vidéo, au revoir!”

Initial reflections upon finishing the 2015 Bar Exams

November 30, 2015. I have just hurdled the infamous “bar exams,” the licensure examinations for aspiring lawyers in the Philippines.

Besides actually passing the exams, successfully concluding the eight (8) examinations scheduled over the four (4) Sundays of November is a significant milestone for all law school graduates, having gone through four or five years of law school, in itself a struggle and a feat. It is the culminating point of the journey taken by many young and aspiring lawyers. As with any culminating point or climax, it is treated with much significance by those who share the same epic narrative and by those who share our aspirations.

This conclusion is of great relief for me, in particular, I would dare say, because it did not take me four or five years—it took me seven years of arduous study which I began back in 2008, as an idealistic 20 year-old fresh graduate from film school. Wide-eyed but terribly unacquainted with the intensive study necessary, I got myself dismissed from the University of the Philippines (UP Law) after a year and a half for failing two basic subjects. I took a break for a little more than half a year, and began another parallel journey in the University of Santo Tomas (UST Law), where it took me many more failures and five more years before I finally made it to graduation day.

I would normally attribute my lackluster academic performance to my many involvements beyond the classroom from the student council to national politics, and the many distractions in between, but that would sound like I am making excuses—I am making none. All my involvements were conscious decisions, and some were mistakes, and I live by my failures not with pride but with a badge of honor. After all is said and done, I graduated law school and I finished the bar exams! I’m over and done with it.

All that is left now, is the anxious and hopeful yet guarded optimism in awaiting the results. I would never wish to have to go through it again and prepare to re-take the exams in the unfortunate circumstance that I don’t pass. Just the thought gives me daytime and conscious nightmares, if there were even such things. Perhaps it is borne, too, of the exaggerated significance Philippine society and Filipino families have placed on this certain profession (a congition I do not agree with, by the way, but that is for another blog entry for me to discuss).

It is time, now, for much needed rest.

San Juan, Batangas to crisscrossing Zamboanga peninsula

April 23-28, 2014. The past days have been a blur. At the heels of a week-long trip to Australia, I had not fully recovered from disorientation. I had not taken a lot of pictures the past days because my phone’s screen was already a mosaic of shattered pieces of glass precariously held together by some inherent Samsung adhesive, and one crack had covered the front camera. And aside from that, I have been un-inspired, suffering from a specie of ennui the past weeks. I’m not sure why, and I don’t really want to answer the question.

Together with my incoming and outgoing co-officers in the student council, we went to San Juan, Batangas for a beach outing, right before some of us flew to Zamboanga to attend the national convention of the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP). The trip to Batangas was a comfortable one. I ended up with a big bruise on my buttocks after falling off from the staircase, but it was all fine. The trip to Zamboanga on the other hand was punctuated by such an uncomfortable bus ride from Dipolog to Zamboanga City as we traversed Zamboanga peninsula in an effort to board our flight back to Manila.

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UST Law at the Baccalaureate Mass 2014

March 21, 2014. Donning their crisp barongs and dresses, and the cowboy hats and summer hats we had earlier bought in Divisoria, our prospective Thomasian bar candidates took their Thomasian oaths as they attended the Baccalaureate Mass for graduates of the University this year.

This is the batch I had entered the University of Santo Tomas together with in the year 2010, and it is with much sentimentality and bittersweet affection that I bid them good luck as they undergo the tradition of walking out of the Arch of the Centuries as the mass ended. It fills me with sadness that I have not been able to graduate with them, but nevertheless it gives me much hope that they will surely make us all proud.

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UST BarOps Salubong and Post-Bar Dinner

2014 UST Bar Ops Salubong

October 27, 2013. It was the last Sunday for the year’s bar examinations. True to tradition, the student body through the bar operations committee and the student council, staged the salubong after our bar candidates finished their last exams. This year, we hired a fire truck and had a street foam party, together with the UST Yellow Jackets pumping their proud beats as we all celebrated the end of the bar examinations month.

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Contradictions as a law student

March 16, 2013. There are times like this when I’m hating law school, not merely because it’s finals season but because it’s compelling me to be ‘selfish’ with my studies and restrain myself. At times when I’m enraged, I want to leave my books.

Gusto kong kumilos, magsulat, mag-organisa, sumama sa mga protesta ng tao.Punyetang gobyerno at sistema to. Pinabayaang magutom mga biktima ng Pablo, pinabayaan ang mga Pilipino sa Sabah, pinagkakaitan ng edukasyon ang kabataan, pinagpa-privatize mga public hospitals, pinapabayang dambungin ng mga dayuhan ang mga natural resources ng bayan, at napakarami pa.

Tinutulak ang mamamayang kumapit sa patalim, pumatay at magpakamatay. Paulit-ulit nage-eleksyon, deka-dekadang pare-parehas na trapo ang nagpapatakbo, walang pagbabago. I refuse to allow my future children and their children to inherit this system!

It’s Law, Hence Victory! (Part 1)

December 12, 2012. One of the activities sponsored by the student council during the annual college week is a debate tournament among interested groups in school. Perhaps out of whim, Lawrence decided to form a group, which included me and Henesty. We were an odd bunch, none of us debaters, but certainly not incapable of delivering good arguments. We made up a team name, awkwardly combining our first names into a silly phrase–“It’s Law, Hence–Victory!” Haha!

With not much expectations in our minds, we gave it a shot.

We spent the past few days researching and rehearsing our speeches, and today we went through the elimination rounds. We were matched against younger law students, but were all experienced debaters. All worthwhile opponents, I might say.

Behold, despite the novelty of our attempt, we won! Onto the semifinals!