Some 1,800 new lawyers have just passed the 2018 bar examinations. Will they be going into the practice of law — or had been moved to take it in college — only to advance their interests no matter what the cost to the public and Philippine society? Or will they practice the profession in behalf of the urgent need of defending the laws that Philippine experience and history have demonstrated as necessary in the making of a just society?
Among the laws that need to be upheld and defended are those protective of press freedom, free expression, freedom of assembly and association, the right to due process and to be presumed innocent, and those others that are crucial to the completion of the democratization process that began in the revolutionary period of Philippine history, but which has been interrupted, derailed and subverted by colonialism, imperialism and domestic tyranny.
Together with that question is another: will the new lawyers oppose the making of laws restrictive of civil, political and human rights? The passage of such laws, together with the use of State violence, has always been among the weapons of choice of the ruling few. But they have since morphed into bigger and even more urgent threats during the current regime.
It’s not so much because even lawyers committed to the defense of the rights of the voiceless, marginalized and disempowered have themselves been threatened, harassed and even killed. It should be evident that to countenance and defend lawlessness and the rule of force rather that of law is contrary to the ethical, professional and practical imperatives of the discipline they have chosen. Hopefully the 1,800 new lawyers will realize that the only alternative to defending the rule of law is to sit by and allow the destruction of everything that the profession they have chosen stands for.