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!”

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!

Uphold judicial integrity

My law block (B 2012) organized a forum on judicial integrity dubbed “Law Has a Conscience” last December 12 at the UP Law Center penthouse. The forum takes off from the incident of Meralco vs. GSIS where the integrity of several Court of Appeals justices and the entire judicial system was placed in doubt. Despite being law freshmen, my blockmates have taken on this advocacy seriously. Some of them, as part of the campaign to uphold judicial integrity, even filed a complaint at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines against the implicated members of the judiciary.

Law Has a Conscience Forum (Dec. 12, '08) Law Has a Conscience Forum (Dec. 12, '08) Law Has a Conscience Forum (Dec. 12, '08) Law Has a Conscience Forum (Dec. 12, '08) Law Has a Conscience Forum (Dec. 12, '08) Law Has a Conscience Forum (Dec. 12, '08)

Prosecution as a tool for repression

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.

Some admirable, some not

November 21, 2006. I spent the whole day at the Manila Hotel last Friday and Saturday documenting an Integrated Bar of the Philippines convention. My nose bled. Figuratively. Sitting with lawyers the whole day from morning till night talking about civil liberties and whatnot can be an information overload. I actually listened to all the speakers. That earned me 12 units of MCLE (all lawyers are supposed to take 36 units every three years to maintain their inclusion and recognition in the lawyers’ roll) without even wanting to be a law student. I have to admit, for a while there it got me thinking of taking a law degree in the future. Who knows where the future will take me?

The hotel food was good too. I would want to talk about what some of the speakers talked about but I’m too lazy right now. Some of them were inspiring, some were… uh, I don’t know.

Supreme Court Justice Renato Puno was there, Atty. Dong Puno was there, Atty. Harry Roque was there, more notable lawyers whose names I don’t remember were there. Rep. Satur Ocampo was also there. Even Mark Jimenez, who isn’t a lawyer by the way, was there in his philantrophic spree giving out millions here and there. He readily gave 500,000 pesos to the IBP the night he spoke. Why did the IBP even invite him?

The Manila Hotel lobby

The Manila Hotel food The Manila Hotel lobby