Where Have All the Lawyers Gone?

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Health workers and others working in essential establishments are being hailed as heroes during this Covid-19 crisis. As “frontliners” they are exposed to the virus by reason of their functions. When the community quarantine was imposed last month, courts were closed and all hearings or proceedings which are not considered “emergency” have been postponed until further notice. Lawyers and other professionals had to take the back seat and stay home virtually doing nothing.I never felt so useless in my entire professional life. Suddenly the title I have worked so hard to achieve meant nothing! But then I came to have more respect for my profession and other professions. I believe that each profession is essential. The fact that they might not be active during this time of Covid-19 does not mean that they are not essential. Comparing one against another is just like trying to figure out which among the four legs of a chair is more important. Nevertheless, as lawyers there are things that can still be done during this extraordinary time. Arrests are still being undertaken and the accused are still in need of assistance in their bail application.

During this time, lawyers might want to volunteer their legal services to local government units and other agencies in their response to Covid-19. It might not be apparent, but local officials are flooded with memoranda, circulars, laws, and other issuances that can actually confuse rather than guide them especially the LGUs without a legal counsel or officer. One issue that confronted local officials is the imposition of curfew in the entire country. The issue is whether the executive order from the president is enough or is there a need to enact an ordinance that impose penalty on violators. In relation to this, there is the question on what law is violated by those who will not follow the curfew. Another matter which is very important is the new issuance on the procurement procedure during this time of national emergency. Government entities are now allowed to “by-pass” certain procurement rules in order to respond to the crisis. This indicates the inability of our procurement law to quickly respond to emergencies.
Although a new rule has been issued regarding the matter, some local government units are still adamant in using the revised rules because their personnel are fearful of it. We do need a new procurement law!

It is on these matters that lawyers might be able to render their services in this time of Covid. The employment of legal counsel or officer among municipalities is optional but there are complicated legal quest ions that put fear among local officials and employees which prevents them from fully discharging their respective mandates. Without the guidance of persons licensed to interpret laws, local officials and employees might always be overwhelmed by fear rather than than their fervor to serve their constituents. I think the appointment of legal officers should be made mandatory in all municipalities.

Lawyers must uphold their role in society and bring light to legal issues confronting the nation and not allow non-lawyer “netizens” to take the lead in interpreting laws. More than ever, we need lawyers to take the lead in illuminating the citizenry or “netize nry” and wade through opinions and interpretations made murky by reason
of political color, vested interests, or plain lack of knowledge of applicable laws or jurisprude nce. Yes our courts are closed, but the law profession is not. Where Have All the Lawyers Gone?