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!

Mayo Uno 2014 (Labor Day in Manila)

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May 1, 2014. It was the reportedly the hottest day of the year to date, and perhaps no other description can be more apt to figuratively describe the intensity of the passion that filled those who participated in the annual protest rally. Tens of thousands filled the plaza around the monument of Gat Andres Bonifacio in Lawton, as the same deluge marched the streets of midtown Manila to Mendiola to reaffirm the demands of the working class and other sectors of society for social justice.

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!

So why do you wear jeans, use a laptop and a camera?

So, you believe in socialism, why do you use Facebook, your phone and laptop, why do you wear branded jeans or shoes or eat at fastfood chains, all “products of capitalism”?

This is a typical rhetoric, and a stupid one at that, I get many times from those who are just eager to try and discredit activists and leftists but refuse to engage in ideological tussle.

The first answer is, most often, necessity. So, what do you expect us to wear, loincloths? Second, just so they realize, “capitalism” did not manufacture those products. Industries and the labor of many workers in socialized production did in assembly lines across the globe. We do not owe our shoes, clothes, computers and cars to “capitalism.” Capital did not manufacture them, labor did. In fact, capitalists barely have any participation in production, it is simply by virtue of control and ownership that they appropriate the wealth created by production, and leave the rest scrounging for trickled down salaries and wages.

In a very basic sense, socialism is merely the rightful correction in the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation of the wealth. Instead of the creation of the “wealth of the few through the labor of the many”, it should be the “wealth of all through the labor of all”. Since products are produced in socialized production, why shouldn’t the appropriation of the wealth be likewise? The struggle for socialism, in the economic sense, is the struggle for the people’s rightful share in the wealth they create.

Third, to demand that leftists reject all products of commercial enterprises when all consumer goods today are produced in private enterprises is nothing but a ploy corner leftists to capitulate their struggle. Which is preposterous, because the entire point of being a leftist and an activist is to continue engaging the status quo, exploit available technologies and everything they need, and change society, not recluse from it. In other words, you cannot demand leftists to live by socialism when it has not yet been won.

Day 1 of Mendiola Camp-Out Protest


December 6, 2011.

We are calling on all Filipinos, fed up with the status quo and united in a common hope for a better present and future without the suffering that we witness everyday, to launch actions, strikes, walk-outs and to join a historic nationwide camp-out protest this December. We can no longer stand a twisted social set-up that robs the majority of our people of a decent life and basic social services. We can no longer stand a social system that produces immense wealth for foreign interests and a few as the people, who toil all their lives, are increasingly pushed deeper into hunger, poverty and injustice. We continuously attempted to make those in power heed our call for change. But they refuse to listen, and instead, constantly barrage us with lies, cover-up stunts, insults and threats of force. Like thieves, they railroad unjust measures, they rule with impunity and dare to call it democracy. Sawang-sawa na tayo.

Kabataang Pinoy, Tayo ang Pagbabago!

Kabataang Pinoy aspires for a Filipino youth that devotes its intellect, energy and courage to building a better future.

Kabataang Pinoy envisions a new society devoid of corruption, inequality and social injustice.

Kabataang Pinoy encourages the youth to work collectively with other sectors to build a bright future. It upholds, promotes and defends the interest of the youth to be able to harness its fullest potential as a sector. It works to unite the Filipino youth to campaign for social, political, economic, cultural and environmental justice in the Philippines, and enjoins youth from all walks of life to foster active participation in good governance, nation-building, and social change.

PROGRAM OF ACTION

  1. Empower the youth to take on active participation in good governance, nation-building and social change.
  2. Uphold the youth’s fundamental rights and democratic interests such as accessible education, decent employment and job security, accessible health care, environment, sports, among others.
  3. Assert the youth’s right to decent living, equal opportunities and humane living conditions.
  4. Assert and safeguard national independence, respect for national patrimony, love and loyalty to the country.
  5. Guarantee the participation and representation of the youth in all affairs governance and decision-making bodies of government.

Collective action for social change

Those who profess the futility of collective action know nothing of their history. For the tide and ebb of world events are determined precisely by collective action. As one revolutionary put it, “The history of the world is the history of class struggle.”

Throughout the world, regimes and tyrants have been toppled down, and democracies established by the strength of collective action. The wheels of history from feudalism, capitalism to socialism, from monarchies to parliaments to peoples’ governments, were concrete conclusions of class struggle. Examples of which are the anti-colonization movement in Africa and Latin Amercia, the Liberation movement in Southeast Asia and Indo-China, the Religious Tolerance and Womem’s Rights Movement in most parts of the world, the anti-apartheid movement in Africa, and the establishment of the International League of People’s Struggle against Imperialism. And even individual heroes are propelled by the thousands of men and women who clamor, hand in hand, for a common aspiration.

History itself reveals that there is no stronger mark of popular sentiment than mass actions, making collective demonstrations indispensable in the realization of our common goals. In the Philippine setting, the stirrings of collective dissent began in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest. For instance, the Katipunan was borne out of the unity of the peasants and artisans against the colonizers. From the Spanish to the American regime, a common sentiment for national sovereignty fueled radical movements for freedom. Corrupt and authoritarian regimes were crushed when confronted by the ferocity of widespread mass demonstrations. In fact, the mere existence of repression attests to the potency of collective action — why suppress mass demonstrations if it does not instigate fear in the most hardened of dictators?

Thus, our stance remains — collective action is still our most potent weapon for social change. For only by participating in a coordinated action of thousands of people can individuals pursue both their personal and social liberties. As long as there are forces and establishments that conspire against the democratic rights of the people, individuals have to unite to register their shared will.

The sharpest position is to stand for collective action, which is comprised of all arenas of struggle, whether in the parliamentary or in the streets. Indeed, claiming that collective action is passé succeeds only in exposing the crass ignorance of the groups doing the claiming.

The history of UP alone is rich with instances that illustrate the potency of concerted action. During the 1950 witch hunts, when calls for nationalism were vilified as communism, our shared efforts were crucial in the struggle for academic and press freedom. In the 1970s, at the height of political repression during Martial Law, our united dissent contributed to the struggle for democracy, with hundreds of student leaders heeding the call of history, whether in cities or in the countryside. The social ferment generated by the Diliman Commune and the First Quarter Storm pierced the core of national affairs. Student institutions, publications, and formations were reestablished in the 1980s through adamant and tireless collective action. The list goes on, from the closure of US military bases in the country, the ouster of Erap in 2001, the retraction of the largest budget cut in 2000, and the removal of Provision 444 of the University Code, which unduly prohibits religious and provincial organizations.

Despite the machinations of the state and administration, the student movement persists because it has forged an inextricable link with all sectors in the call for social change. After all, the aims of collective action are collective victories — a gain enjoyed by the broadest and the most democratic.

At present, we are facing the blatant implementation of neoliberal policies, which direct the state to fully abandon state universities and colleges. The manifestations of commercialization are increasing, from corporatization to the endless proposals to increase tuition and other fees.

As students reject this overall scheme through protest actions and other peaceful activities, the state and administration have responded with crushing repression, through direct attacks against student formations and institutions. All over the nation, there is a systemic effort to entrench an education that is colonial, commercialized and fascist. Meanwhile, in the political arena, the state continues to commit grave sins against the people — intensified suppression and repression, political killings, the neglect of social services, high unemployment, lack of genuine land reform, increasing hunger, and continuing plunder — while aiming to extend its term through Cha-Cha. Now, more than ever, we need the force of collective action.

The fact of the matter is, those who say that collective action is “illusory” are themselves in delusion — they do not understand history nor do they know their place in history. The challenge for us, iskolars ng bayan, is to participate in the struggle for social change. We must fight for an education that is nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented. Because we cannot spur change in isolation, we must therefore link arms with the broadest masses in our struggle for a better society, where there is genuine land reform, national industrialization, genuine freedom, and social justice. For the broadest collective is also the strongest. Ultimately, we must recognize that our collective is our people and our nation.

VOTE STRAIGHT STAND-UP!

Scrap all proposed fees! Rollback the tuition!
No to commercialization!
Struggle against state abandonment of UP education!
Fight for a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education!
Strengthen our unity! Advance our struggle for greater victories!

THE LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS-UP DILIMAN

Christmas is our drug

Tumitingkad tuwing kapaskuhan and ‘di pagkakapantay-pantay sa lipunan. ‘Di lahat siguradong merry–at alam ito ng bawat isa. Kaya nga wish tayo nang wish ng Merry Christmas sa isa’t isa.

Sana, sa bawat sambit natin ng salitang Merry o Happy ay kalakipang kahilingang mapunta sa ating kapwa ang sa kanya’y nararapat at ang pagnanais na makaambag sa pangyayari nito.

Para sa mulat na pagdiriwang ng pasko at sa pagpapanibagong hubog sa bagong taon!

It’s not the most sentimental Christmas greeting I received, but it’s probably the one that I thought was quite meaningful. In a season when glaring social inequalities are grossly reinforced, sure it’s comforting to surrender to a collective temporary amnesia where we all seem to agree to forget our worries and just be happy. But we all know no matter how much we wish or pray for every day to be like Christmas, it will never happen. Sa mundo at panahong hitik sa tunggalian at kontradiksyon, isang pangarap lang ang paghiling na ang araw-araw ay maging Pasko lagi. Which all the more makes this brief season worth savoring. Merry Christmas, folks. Glad to be back blogging.

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.

Alin ang mas matimbang

August 8, 2007. There was a time when I couldn’t care less when I see news of residential demolitions on TV. I used to subscribe to the idea that it must be done for “aesthetic purposes” and for infrastructure projects that’s supposed to facilitate economic development. Those, or I couldn’t care less.

Last Thursday afternoon, while lounging at the basement of Vinzons Hall with some friends, an unusual commotion along Tandang Sora caught our attention. There was an ongoing demolition of the Balara residents’ establishments along the road for the supposed expansion of Circumferential Road 5 (C-5).

It really is something to witness personally their tragedy and hear them express their anguish than to watch these things on 30 second briefs in primetime news. It’s despicable how the government can easily trample of the rights of the marginalized for mere aesthetic purposes and for infrastructure that only serve the privileged. What can get more infuriating is when you witness yourself how government ‘mercenaries’ violently insist on taking away everything from their carts, to the goods, to the money, to the tiniest block of ice. And even within the borders of the university, which is illegal. Interestingly, the Ayala Heights golf course will remain untouched.