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My Tita often times jokes around that there are more lawyers compared to taxi drivers every time I have an all-nighter along with my cousins. Probably, it’s her way of dissuading us in pursuing the law profession which tormented her during her law school days. As every good Tita would do, she will ward off any torment that would probably cause injury to her nieces and nephews. Or, interpreting her more comprehensive, she is giving an implied challenge to us that we need to strive harder not only in fulfilling our chosen profession but most importantly, creating a change by tilting the status quo to the benefit of the marginalised Filipino sectors.
Indeed, the status quo has done more harm than good for the Filipino populace. In fact, it served as the weapon to enslave the common Juan and Juana’s from their rights to register dissent against those in power. The status quo instilled in the consciousness of the people that extra Judicial killing (EJK) is a normal process to rid our streets of drug addicts and pushers; rights to due process is a privilege limited to non-drug addicts and non-drug pushers; saying ‘Putang Ina’ repeatedly is ok, even in a formal forum, even if you’re the elected executive of the country and young people look up to you, and that the word of the executive is the supreme law. With that, our armed authorities who swore to serve and protect the people, deliberately render prosecution and judgment of death (even if it is currently suspended) to drug offenders, a function that is lodged solely to the judiciary.
This brings us to the historic BAR passing rate released just this May 3, 2017. It is historic because, for the first time, 3,747 will sign their names in the roll of attorneys. Said 3,747 strong will also simultaneously take oath as agents in the administration of justice and as defenders of the law. This move by the judiciary, widening their doors to lawyer-aspirants, is an indirect gesture of our magistrates against the status quo being puppeteered by the current administration.
Now, do we already have too many lawyers? I think not, because if we do, then the numbers of EJKs would not have spiked to 9,000 the past month. This would not have been tolerated and allowed to reach that number. As human rights lawyers would say, “One person killed extra-judicially is one death too many.” Behind the historic BAR passing rate is our magistrates’ message to the current practicing lawyers, stating that our country needs more human rights lawyers.
The message is clear and glaring that our country needs a new breed of lawyers. Lawyers who will stand and live by their oath. Lawyers who will uphold the true spirit of the law that is providing legal protection to the people, regardless if one is accused of drug use or peddling. Lawyers that will not tolerate, hell, will not permit, any breach of the separation of powers among the judiciary, the legislative and executive branches of government. Lawyers that will not sit on the sidelines while allowing the possible return of dictatorship. Lawyers who will defend the Constitution.
With the way things are happening now, a possible return to dictatorship looms in the air. Aside from the tolerated EJKs, most current is the General who was caught saying “ang pulis ko walang ginawang kalokohan” while he tried to justify the presence of secret detentions. Last time we check, secret detentions died along with the martial rule of the late dictator. Now, it seems they revived them.
Lest we forget, the current Constitution was the end product of a grim era of dictatorship that spread ill throughout the land. It was forged to divide the power into three equals, preventing it to be concentrated to only one individual or office. These are overwhelming powers which, in any circumstance, must not be wielded by a dictator. These three powers, if left unchecked, will seriously restrict and jeopardize the freedom of the people. It is thus inherent in the constitution to include rights of the people and restrict the powers of the government. This is to prevent the tragedy that the government, created by the people, may again turn into an instrument to enslave and abuse them.
To the new lawyers, congrats! The toiling masses now await your unsolicited services! Let May 3, 2017, be carved in our history as the start of the unveiling of the blindfolds of our Lady Justice, and that the scale will be tilted heavily to the people. Let the masses themselves guide you in wielding your knowledge of the law as a weapon in protecting them. Be the bringer of change because change has not come contrary to what the people had hope for.
To the new lawyers of Veritas Legis Fraternitas et Sororitas, we extend our highest salute! Will you forever supply us with the ‘magical potion’ needed for us to achieve our goal? Let our credo echo in our nation’s halls of justice, Salus Populi Est Suprema Lex!
By Rocky Ngalob