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!

Don’t worry about offending me

January 8, 2016. Do not worry about offending me. From my family, to my school, to the organizations I belong to, to work that I have had to do, I’ve long been in environments where I naturally tend to hold a contrary opinion, or hold on to beliefs my family, friends and colleagues are against. Thus, don’t worry when you argue with me, I’m used to it.

Always, I hold on to my principle of assuming good faith in every man, relying on the basic humanity that binds us all, and the many experiences we all share, despite differences and conflicts. People will always be, to me, more than the sum of their opinions. They are my fellow human beings. As long as we do not breach out basic sense of humanity and good faith in arguing, I am okay.

Take note however, that respecting another person’s opinion doesn’t mean I would just stay silent too. It irks me a lot when people just invoke “respeto lang!” in order to prematurely end debates and conversations. It stifles our pursuit of the truth. If I think some people are wrong, I first try to understand the context of how such wrong opinions have been formed in their minds, but I would also make an effort to challenge these opinions, not because I don’t respect the people who hold them, but because I just really think they’re wrong.

Thus, I find it unnecessary to say, “no offense” the way many people do, because I think that should be a given. I find it odd, especially in our culture, where challenging beliefs and opinions is seen to be offensive. People should not take offense when their beliefs or opinions are challenged.

Admittedly, there are also times when I do stay silent. Sometimes, it’s because I just don’t care, a person’s opinion doesn’t matter to me, or the person doesn’t matter at all in the first place. Most of the time, I concede when I realize I’m wrong. I’m not a very proud person, in the sense that I genuinely don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. But more often, I think challenging opinions and long-held beliefs, or trying to approximate the truth in any situation is a process that doesn’t begin nor end in one engagement. Parties have to go through different phases and stages necessary before arriving at their respective enlightenment. So I do let things be, at times.

I find myself writing this because over the course of the past weeks, I’ve seen how heated arguments over political candidates and the upcoming national elections have become in social media. Also, I’ve realized how colleagues are failing at their effort to convince others to side with them. Soon enough I may find myself joining these conversations. And this serves as a reminder to myself, and to others on how to engage in conversations with me over opinions and controversies.

Assertive but not aggressive. Diplomatic but not timid.

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!

Past academic shortcomings continue to haunt me

Just when I wrote about trying to start anew by chronicling my experiences in UP Law, my academic shortcomings last year come back to haunt me. I felt very distressed this afternoon after an unfortunate re-test of one of my freshman subjects. No matter how much I try to recover from my past mistakes or to reform from my, admittedly, poor performance last year by being much more diligent with my studies this year, they will continue to haunt me.

There’s no use regretting to have taken up a lot of extra-curriculars last year and not offering my jealous devotion to law. My renewed enthusiasm in studying may well be for naught. I don’t know what to do now. To quit, I may, to transfer I might consider, but for now if it’s not meant to be, I shall take the break and surrender to my unfortunate academic fate. I apologize to everyone I might be disappointing. I am thankful to those who understand. Admittedly, I felt terribly upset a while ago. All’s well now. But that’s probably it. Goodbye UP Law.

Academic woes get worse

I’ve been quite distraught the past days over my academic standing in Law. I’m in the brink of being kicked out because of my grades. Kicked out temporarily, at least.

Since I was already on probation during the second semester of my freshman year, I am not allowed to get any more failing marks, but after enrollment two weeks ago, our Criminal Law 2 grades came out and unfortunately, I got my first 5.0 ever. That should effectively dismiss me from UP Law.

The anomaly and the confusion, however, is that I’ve already enrolled before the grade came out and that classes have already started, and I’ve signed my class cards and all the first-day shiz.

Another thing is that the cause of my probationary status last semester, a 4.0 in Persons & Family Relations, is still unresolved. Now I don’t know if my enrollment is voided, if I can remain enrolled conditionally pending the resolution of my unremoved 4.0, or what? I still have to talk with our College Secretary to clarify my status and negotiate something.

Over the past days I’ve been thinking of my choices whatever the outcome will be. Perhaps I can start working? Some of my friends don’t like this attitude of mine, always thinking of the worst scenario in order to be emotionally and psychologically prepared for it. True, I do have the tendency to dwell on the worst scenario. Nakakabaliw nga siya. But it really is just my way of coping up with the stress. I always seek security from preparing for the worst. If the outcome is anything but the worst, then all the better. I wish I could just say this is just school, but somehow there’s always a big social price with being in a law school. All the family and societal expectations from aspiring lawyers can be stressful. It’s crazy. It’s not as easy to say to people I failed law school than say I failed… I don’t know, film school? Why? I don’t quite get it. How I miss being in undergrad. Is the law profession worth it? I know it is, I just don’t know how to answer the why.

It’s not just a Plan B or C

A few weeks ago, my colleagues in the UP Diliman University Student Council and representatives from the College Student Councils in Diliman deliberated among each other and chose to send me as the Student Regent nominee of UP Diliman to the UP System-wide Student Regent selection tomorrow in UP Miag-ao in Iloilo.

Hay, the things I [allow myself to] get into. I don’t know how to plan my life for this year anymore. With all these present uncertainties and possibilities. I’m just very indecisive right now. I don’t know which ones to do, which to drop, which to prioritize. Let’s see what will happen. So it’s off to Iloilo for me today for a KASAMA sa UP (Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP) National Congress then for the SR Selection sessions of the General Assembly of [UP] Student Councils (GASC).

See you all when I get back. I’m pasting below a short essay I wrote after some of my law blockmates nominated me with the College of Education Student Council endorsing the nomination.

As the next hundred years of the University of the Philippines begins, it is faced with challenges that confront its nationalist history and opportunities to reaffirm its pro-people and pro-student character.

We are at a time when education in the University is becoming increasingly inaccessible to a vast majority of Filipinos. Despite a one-year freeze on a supposed annual tuition hike, laboratory fee increases are pending across the board in almost all UP units. Student organizations, catalysts of student involvement in campus, are being challenged through imposed policies and requirements that essentially limit their freedom. Despite an increase in the capital outlay budget of the University, the government severely decreased UP’s maintenance and operating budget.

These are just a few of the issues that will confront the next Student Regent.

We are also at the juncture of time, however, when, due to the recently and successfully concluded CRSRS Referendum, there is heightened awareness with the Office of the Student Regent, its tasks and function, and its history. We are at a time when students’ involvement with the issues of the Student Regent is unprecedented. It is a great opportunity to reaffirm the Student Regent’s role among iskolars ng bayan.

Indeed, this is the year when great expectations are demanded from the Student Regent, and when great opportunities are present. This year is an opportune time for the Student Regent to harness the heightened awareness into increased involvement. This is a great opportunity for the Student Regent and his Office, to reach out to the widest number of students, through genuine and effective means of consultation and communication, and engage the students in matters that directly affect their lives as iskolars ng bayan.

More than ever, this is a time for the Student Regent to be more transparent, accessible, accountable and attuned to his constituents. The Student Regent, notwithstanding geographic limitations, must be accessible to iskolars ng bayan in all UP campuses. He must take advantage of effective and modern means of information & communication technologies and must devote time and resources to be physically present whenever it is imperative, through regular campus-hopping. The Student Regent must strengthen present mechanisms, through institutions like the historical KASAMA sa UP but be also more open to students and student groups who may decide to pursue alternative formations.

He should create innovative mechanisms for students to air their grievances to the BOR. He must also ensure the presence of devoted liaison officers and volunteers in every UP campus, distinct from the student council but in coordination with them, in order to effectively and efficiently mount campaigns and projects in a university system that spans the entire archipelago.

The Student Regent must also be accountable and transparent. He must constantly communicate his agenda through regular press releases to be published in campus papers, and via communication lines through the internet. For this purpose, the Student Regent may also maintain an interactive website to ensure access to information that pertain to the BOR’s agenda.

The Student Regent must also not only represent and ensure the rights of present students of the University but of every Filipino aspiring to enter UP, and for all Filipinos who look up to the University as an agent of change and as an incubator of the nation’s progress. Decisions passed by the Board of Regents are policies that shape the destiny of UP and affect present and more so, future UP students. Policies in UP are also echoed among many other public institutions of higher learning across the country, and affect every Filipino’s chance of achieving formal higher education. As such, the Student Regent must always and continue to be grounded on the principles of accessible education for all Filipinos, especially whenever he is confronted with the many issues that tend to limit access to this inalienable right.

The Student Regent must be unwavering in his principles, despite adversity or animosity, for he must recognize that the University exists at a time when the government’s standing policy is to decrease spending on higher education, more so this year when it is bound to implement and fulfill the objectives of its Long-term Higher Education Development Plan 2010. He must also recognize that he exists in an arena largely controlled by administrators and politicians. He must not be cowed by administrative pressure, and not be afraid to expose irregularities in the administration where they exist.

Despite these, the Student Regent must also know how to strike a balance and to cooperate, whenever possible, with allies in the administration and the government, to gain tactical victories and ensure that the rights and interests of present and future UP students are not compromised at the altar of vested interests.

Most importantly, however, the Student Regent must recognize the potency of the collective strength of the tens of thousands of UP students he represents. He must draw inspiration from them, and learn from the history of collective action.

Through this vision he must ensure that UP students themselves, together with his humble but dignified representation in the BOR, and the rest of the student institutions such as the student councils, will chart their own destiny in the University and the nation. With all humility, I submit this vision for the Office of the Student Regent as a nominee for the position of Student Regent.

Prepare the Plan B’s and C’s

I don’t remember feeling so distraught after an exam. Usually, especially as an undergrad, I’d always feel liberated after an exam. Not this time. I just walked out of Malcolm Theater after my Criminal Law 2 exam looking dazed. Did I just seal my future in Law, or the lack thereof, with that exam?

I couldn’t believe how, after all the sleepless nights cramming and studying crimes, I could not muster enough legal bases for my answers. To make things worse, I go out of the venue to my blockmates discussing the ‘right‘ answers, which unfortunately, were not the same as mine. And as it turned out, almost the entire exam came straight out of a sample exam that was made available in our block and which I neglected to run through.

If it turns out that I failed this exam, it might really be bye-bye Malcolm Hall. I posted an update at my Facebook wall the day before yesterday, saying that perhaps law isn’t really for me. There are times I feel like all these trouble–the many many sleepless nights, the stress, the lack of time for many things I may be doing–is it all worth it? Thinking about things I’d rather do makes me give in to these bouts of doubts. Now I feel quite uncertain about a lot of things.

Walang puwang

Pagpasensiyahan niyo ulit na hindi na naman ako nakakapag-blog. Mula sa paghahanda para sa Student Regent Referendum noong December mula sa mismong Referendum noong January na sinundan kaagad ng student council elections sa UP, at pinagitnaan ng iba’t ibang gawain sa University Student Council. Mula paggising hanggang pagtulog talaga noong mga nakaraang buwan puno ng mga gawain ang schedule ko. Pagkatapos na pagkatapos ng eleksyon, eto naman ako naghahabol nang todo sa pagbabasa at pag-aaral ng mga kaso. Nawawawalan na nga ako ng gana eh. Pero walang puwang para panghinaan ng loob. Kayod lang nang kayod. At Facebook. Ha ha ha! Sana nasa UP Law pa rin ako sa susunod na semester.

A heavy Christmas wordload

This has got to be my most hectic Christmas season yet. From big campus and national campaigns to extra-curricular functions, and almost none of them related to Christmas.

This week, for example, as part of the Defend the Office of the Student Regent campaign of KASAMA sa UP (Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP), we’re going to have a twelve-hour concert this Friday, right after the broad multi-sectoral mobilization in Makati against the Arroyo administration’s attempt at Charter Change.

This week is also the 12th anniversary week of STAND-UP (Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights – UP), where starting last Saturday, we’ve been having daily activities, from an all-day road painting, to an alliance congress to a cultural night tonight to an alumni night this Saturday.

In the University Student Council, we’ve also been having our last activities and assemblies for the year. We’ve just co-launched the Cine Veritas Human Rights Festival and wrapped up Karolfest yesterday, then there’s a big University Convocation tomorrow–and that’s not all, I still have to produce our last newsletter for the year.

For the past weeks up until this coming Friday, we’ve also been having weekly events and functions in Upsilon Sigma Phi for our 90th anniversary. We had our annual car stuffing and food stuffing event last Friday.

I haven’t even mentioned the increasing pile of academic workload for this semester. And speaking of law school, my block organized a forum this Friday, about judicial integrity, then we’re also having the annual Malcolm Madness this Saturday.

Next week, there would still be preparations for the Lantern Parade, then there’d be the KASAMA sa UP NC Meet, and to cap it all off, an All UP Student Councils Assembly which promises to be a stressful and heated assembly of student councils with conflicting ideologies and interests.

So, where’s the Christmas spirit? Where are the Christmas parties? I haven’t had time for any! Masyadong maraming kailangang isipin, gawin at napakaraming problema lang talaga sa UP at sa Pilipinas. I need to cheer up, and well, gear up for another year soon.

Less time at the cemeteries

We went to Amadeo, Cavite for our departed paternal grandparents and other relatives last October 31, then to Sta. Maria, Bulacan for our maternal ones last November 1. We didn’t do much at the cemetery. It would seem to me that we’ve been spending less time at the cemeteries the past few years. It’s not like the way it used to when aunts, cousins and relatives from all over spend an entire afternoon together at the family mausoleums for Undas. The atmosphere around the cemetery, especially in Sta. Maria, is as festive as usual. Undas always feels like one big fiesta at the cemeteries, with food stalls and marching bands roving around playing religious music.

I killed time by reading a book and taking photos of Tisay, who at one point, just suddenly began posing in different manners, without coaching, much to our amusement.