March 31, 2006

Rising higher than the source

Ever since I started teaching law (in 96), this time of year has always been special.  It’s the time of the year that the Bar results come out.

For the civilians (read: non-lawyers) out there, this is going be totally difficult to understand because you just have to experience it to know what I am talking about.  The Bar, that is, and the seemingly interminable wait for the results.

When the results of my bar exams came out, I and a classmate (now my law partner) were outside the Supreme Court well into the early hours of the April morning;  we had commandeered a public pay phone and, with the help of classmates and batchmates inside the Court, were listing as many names of classmates and batchmates we could remember.  I remember whooping out loud when I finally heard that my name was on the list (because of my initials, my name would appear on the last few pages).  And suddenly, the four years of studying suddenly took on some meaning.

Now that I am teaching law, this time of year takes on special significance—it’s the time of the year that I remember those whom I’ve taught and are now officially members of the legal profession.  As I was scanning the list on the net earlier this morning, I started conjuring up faces and even seating positions in the various classes they took under me.  Funny (for me) and tragic (for them) moments of inane recitation came back unbidden—sometimes, I even remember what I said as riposte to particular gems of “how not to recite in law school.”

I remember all of these even as I hope that they will become better lawyers than I am for otherwise, all I did then was to mold mediocrity.  Unlike the saying, I believe that the stream must rise higher than its source for it is only then that there can be change, for the better.

The Bar is a rite of passage, of sorts.  But now the real test starts:  you join a profession that is far from perfect and far from noble, you will soon be among the ranks of men and women who, in their all too human moments , will succumb to the temptation to use the law for reasons other than to do justice and to transform society and its inhabitants. Your passage from onlooker and bystander to actor and participant in the stage of Philippine life and society is at hand.   The choice is always yours.

May you make a choice to make this far from perfect and far from noble profession one that will truly live up to its calling to do justice to every person and to transform society.

Until then, congratulations Batch 2005!  See you in court!

March 27, 2006

Hmmmm moments

It starts as something that you never thought about but as you start thinking about it, you suddenly realize, “why didn’t I think about that?”

These strange moments of epiphany come to you unbidden and, sometimes, unwelcome but, almost everytime, significant.

Little things;  nothing earthshaking;  certainly, nothing that would win you any of the Nobel prizes or turn the world, as we know it, on its head.  But still, little though they may be in the grander scale of things, they do give you pause.

I had one of those moments of epiphany lately—usually that happens when I’m not doing anything, which is not very often, or strangely enough, when I’m pressed for time with everything I’m doing, which is often (like right now).  

It’s one of those “hmmmm” moments which usually place a furrow in your brow or a goofy smile on your mug.

That’s where I am right now—furrowed brow but goofy smile.


March 21, 2006

dubious Alias

Just went through an 8-DVD boxed set of the 4th season of “Alias”—the type that Edu Manzano goes after.  Just when it got to the DVD of the very last episode and just when things start to get exciting, the frame freezes and remains frozen. . . despite anything I do to get it started again.  I played it on my “pirated” DVD player—no go.

Will see if I can just score the last episode on the net.


Short memories

What we are seeing now is the clearest sign that in any upheaval, to the victor go the spoils.

When Gloria launched her own coup d’etat against Erap in 2001, she had her own left and right “tactical alliance”—this much is already part of history.  Dinky Soliman, the first member of her cabinet to be announced, was most probably already thinking up and doing the many gimmicks she is doing now, as part of the so-called “civil society.”  When her coup d’etat succeeded, the criminals took over government.

In law, there is a theory of non-liability that is premised on the existence of a crime but no criminal;  it is called an exempting circumstance.  In a coup d’etat, it appears that success is an exempting circumstance;  for certainly, no one will prosecute the successful coup stagers as they would have taken over the government already.  There is a crime but no criminal—well, at least none that can be prosecuted, during their tenure.

Gloria should remember her history and she should stop being so hypocritical, if this is not a genetic trait on her part (if it is, then she should try very hard to not be so hypocritical).  The left and right tactical alliance she is decrying now is taken from her own playbook.

Those who do not remember the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  


March 20, 2006

The new yellow

Black is the new yellow.

In the old dictatorship of Marcos, the conjugal dictatorship wanted all taxis painted another color other than yellow because yellow became associated with Ninoy Aquino and the street protests.

In this current dictatorship, it appears black is  the new yellow.

As with all dictatorships, they start by being OA (over-acting).

March 16, 2006


Was pleasantly surprised to get this from my students in an email. It's inspiring to know that there is hope still for Malcolm Hall residents and that perhaps despite or inspite of our efforts and shortcomings as faculty members, they're learning something--most still can't address a rally in straight Filipino though.


Call of the Times

Proclamation 1017 (Proc. 1017) was issued on February 24 2006. Since then, our collective shock was overtaken by a series of state actions that run counter to our reasonable expectations as citizens of a democratic republic: violent dispersals of, and ban against public assemblies; denial of due process; the raid on the Tribune offices and police presence in media establishments; the threat of arrest against members of the House. Proc. 1017, and public officers’ acts pursuant to it, are clearly UNCONSTITUTIONAL. They trespass into a territory where they are most unwelcome – the sphere of civil rights and liberties which no less than the constitution deems hallowed ground. Proc. 1017 vests upon the President a plethora of powers akin to those enjoyed by Marcos during Martial Law. It is an issuance that, in substance and in operation, unabashedly tramples upon our protected freedoms. We believe that we have to contend against Proc. 1017 on the basis of actual consequences that it has already effected in society. The fact that it was couched in a language that is harmless by constitutional standards does not make it less reprehensible. Constitutional defect cannot be rectified by evasive phraseology. Consenting to bring the debate to the level of semantics is paying homage to the skewed legal minds behind the President, who had no qualms exploiting the gray areas of the constitution to serve unprincipled ends. We will not give them that satisfaction.

THE CALL is to speak – loudly, clearly, courageously – for ourselves and in behalf of those who cannot. If we believe that Proc. 1017 is unconstitutional, we should lead our fellow students on saying so without reservations or delay. We owe it to the students of UP, our faculty, and the College of Law to herald our presence in the university and national scene. The majesty of the law – what it is, what it means, what it stands for – is not confined in the classroom. It also thrives in the heart of society and pulsates through the veins of the body politic. There are times when the intellect must be enriched, and times when relevance must be asserted. There is no conflict between the two endeavors, if we believe in learning the law in the Grand Manner.

THE CALL is to learn FROM and WITH the people, to LIVE the days and not simply LIVE THROUGH them, and to be OBJECTS, not mere ACCESSORIES, of history. We must act NOW.

UP Law Class 2009B


Through BLACK we mourn the death of civil liberties;
through RED we invoke the spirit of resistance and militancy that will revive it.

March 15, 2006

Good man gone

His “resignation” letter gave the end date as “April 1, 2006 or until my replacement is appointed, whichever is earlier.”  Thus ended the public life of Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo, Tribune of the People.

He is a good man in a rotten government; a good lawyer in a lawless reign.  

Thrust into the thankless defense of an indefensible government and an illegitimate ruler, this good man became the public face of a government that deserved to be publicly humiliated.  Before his peers in a Court he had served long and faithfully, the Tribune of the People simply could not provide the reasons for something that was totally beyond reason.  And when that public humiliation did come—within the halls of the Court and in the bar of public opinion—it was all he could do to put a brave smile on his face and pretend that nothing was wrong.

Yet, it is in the character of the man who would not simply allow that brave smile and feeble pretense to be his legacy.

That he “resigned” yesterday, pending the submission of a Memorandum that would rationalize the dictator’s rule, betrayed the turmoil behind that brave smile.  That an “equal” in the Secretary of Justice (I use this loosely in relation to the current Secretary of Justice because he is far from being Benipayo’s equal--in erudition, in integrity, in character) would “accept” or even “demand” his resignation is the unkindest cut of all.

Someday, perhaps, when there is no longer a reason for that  brave smile and the feeble pretense, Benipayo may tell us the reasons why he would abandon the dictator at the most crucial point in its legal battle for legitimacy.  As he belts Sinatra and Bennett, one day, Benipayo may tell us what everyone now “knows”—that he was fired because he could not defend the indefensible and could not legitimize the illegitimate.  

In the meantime, the Tribune of the People is gone;  long may he live!  

March 09, 2006

Changing me

Reflecting on what is happening to the country now under this dictatorship, I have had to confront so many things about myself—impetuousness, anger, rage, refusal to love, refusal to forgive.  In prayer, I have brought all these to God and yet, they remain.

This has led me to reflect even more why they remain and I am reminded of the exhortation in James 5:13-18:

“Is any one among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is any cheerful?  Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up;  and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.  Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.”

It speaks of praying in season and out of season;  it speaks of prayer as the first and only imperative in the life of one created by God in love and for love.  

Many times, I have looked at prayer as a “quick fix” or a “magic wand.”  Many times, I have asked God, in prayer, to change the many things around me I do not like—the current situation with the dictatorship is one of many things I pray about.  Yet, they remain and do not change.  Yet, James in his exhortation speaks of prayer having great power in its effects.

Of course, I could always say that James spoke of a righteous man and I am not a righteous man (spoken like a lawyer) and, therefore, my prayer is not great in its effects.  While this may be true, yet, I do not think that is all there is to it.  

Perhaps, instead of praying that God change what is going on, my prayer should be that God change me.

March 07, 2006

Tumiklop si Saksi

Sorry, Mike E., I will listen to FM or CD during the 6-9 time slot every day.  You just lost an avid  listener.

Mike E is Mike Enriquez, anchor of DZBB’s Saksi sa BB 6-9 every weekday morning;  and I listen to him everyday while driving to work and going to my hearings or meetings.

If you caught the live on-air simulcast anchored by Mike E earlier this morning., you will know why Mike E. has lost a listener on radio (I will continue tuning in to 24 Oras because Mel Tiangco is still credible but I’ll switch channels everytime Mike goes on air).   He had a one on one with the dictator;  and for a while there, I thought Mike had been hired by Cerge Remonde and had gone over to Channel 4.

To say that Mike was fawning over Gloria is gross understatement.  Not even Ronnie Nathanielsz was that bad and at least, for Nathanielsz, it was understandable.  But for Mike E., who attempted to project a sense of objectivity and independence?  And even through the airwaves, you could feel palpably Mike’s chest (and head) swell when the dictator rewarded him with effusive praise on air.

Someone tell me that interview was a bubble gang prank with Michael V. and ate glow.

March 04, 2006

Lessons in life and law

“But he’s not wearing any clothes.”

That is the innocent but utterly true reaction of the child in the children’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, to the sight of the Emperor walking around naked even as his courtiers, jesters, ministers and everyone else afraid to say “No” to him told him otherwise.

“We’re back to normal with the lifting of 1017.” Yea, and I’m 6 feet tall.

Sometimes it takes childlike innocence to see beyond all the crap and reveal the truth. And when that truth is revealed plainly, it becomes no less compelling because it is spoken by the innocent, the young, the untrained, the inexperienced. In all its stark simplicity, the truth—plain, guileless, unvarnished—stands out.

A lot of my students experienced standing up for their rights these past days. If, in the course of this semester, their only experience with activism was my rants about the dictator and how the study of law becomes irrelevant in a regime where there is no rule of law but the rule of one person, in a span of a week, that experience became personal.

For many, the walk-out last Thursday was memorable because it was probably the first time they walked around the academic oval—chanting slogans from decades past, “walk out, walk out, sumama na kayo!” For many, it was also memorable because it was a time they found common cause with their Dean and their professors as fellow activists for the rule of law. For many, it was memorable because it was probably the first time they felt for a cause strongly enough to take a stand and speak out for it.

Yesterday, lawyers marched to the EDSA Shrine, the current de facto symbol of freedoms now that Plaza Miranda has been removed by Lito Atienza from the list of freedoms’ bastions; with us was a group of students from my alma mater, the U.P. Law—my students, in past semesters as well as some from the current semester.

For many, that was memorable—walking with lawyers of every stripe and color and persuasion. You had civil libertarians, past and present, walking with trapos, past and present. You had opponents in court walking hand in hand. You had alternative lawyers, young and old, walking with traditional lawyers, young and old. You had academicians walking with the foot soldiers in the trenches.

And you had the lawyers of today walking with the lawyers of tomorrow. For me, that was memorable.

In a way because of 1017 and G.O. 5, the dictator managed to put things in perspective for many people, including lawyers and law students alike. That it is possible to push the people too far; that it is possible that greed, lust for power, corruption, malice, selfishness and an overriding ambition to hold on to an illegitimate office and a non-existent mandate can cut across apathy, indifference, cynicism and lack of hope.

I saw in my students that same fire that was mine in those heady days of February 1986 when, as a senior graduating from U.P., I marched with many people I did not know nor cared to know, screamed my throat dry, raised my fist in protest, clasped my hands together in prayer, wept for my country, and later exulted with my people—all for the cause of freedom.

As these twenty something students shouted, “never again, never again to martial law!”, I saw in them (many of whom live sheltered lives) a fire that was stoked, a realization that had just dawned, a passion that was burning and an idea, for them, that had just come: that it was not possible to learn the law without loving the country and the people whom that law professes to serve. It is a lesson that no law professor could teach in the classroom; it is a lesson that no amount of study time in the library could impart; it is a lesson that no school of law could ever drive across. It is a lesson that only life can teach. And for my students who walked out of their classrooms on Thursday and walked with the lawyers on Friday, it is a lesson well-learned.

In 1986, when Marcos fled and Cory Aquino took power, I was then unsure of my calling. An activist who had just finished a pre-med course without any intention of going to medical school, I briefly flirted with the idea of taking up law; yet, I found the beliefs forged in many a DG in the steps of the Palma Hall Annex with my friends from Sapul, SURGE and Buklod-Isip almost irreconcilable with the “rule of law” that I had experienced under Marcos. I refused to become a part of that structure. While praying and reflecting on what my life post-EDSA would be, I came across a letter written by one man to his eldest son and namesake; it was a letter that changed my life and made me enter the halls of Malcolm Hall.

In that letter, the father told his son:

"When you asked me about a month ago, for a list of books that you could read to start studying law, I was loathe to prepare the list because I felt that you would be wasting your time studying law in this “new society.”

I am still not sure that it would be worth your while to do so. A few days ago, while chatting with a soldier, he asked, in all seriousness and sincerity, “Pero sir, kailangan pa ba ang mga abogado ngayon?” And in a way that perhaps he did not intend, he raised a perfectly valid question.

A lawyer lives in and by the law; and there is no law when society is ruled, not by reason, but by will–worse, by the will of one man.

A lawyer strives for justice; and there is no justice when men and women are imprisoned not only without guilt, but without trial.

A lawyer must work in freedom; and there is no freedom when conformity is extracted by fear and criticism silenced by force.

A lawyer builds on facts. He must seek truth; and there is no truth when facts are suppressed, news is manipulated and charges are fabricated.

Worse, when the Constitution is invoked to justify outrages against freedom, truth and justice, when democracy is destroyed under the pretext of saving it, law is not only denied–it is perverted.

And what need do our people have for men and women who would practice perversion?

Yet the truth remains true that never have our people had greater need than today for great lawyers, and for young men and women determined to be great lawyers.

Great lawyers–not brilliant lawyers. A scoundrel may be, and often is, brilliant; and the greater the scoundrel, the more brilliant the lawyer. But only a good man can become a great lawyer: for only a man who understands the weaknesses of men because he has conquered them in himself; who has the courage to pursue his ideals though he knows them to be unattainable; who tempers his conviction with respect for those of others because he realizes he may be mistaken; who deals honorably and fairly with all, because to do otherwise would diminish him as well as them–only such a man would so command respect that he could persuade and need never resort to force. Only such a man could become a great lawyer. Otherwise, “what you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.”

For men and women of this kind, our country will always have need–and now more than ever. True, there is little that men of goodwill can do now to end the madness that holds our nation in its grip. But we can, even now, scrutinize our past; try to pinpoint where we went wrong; determine what led to this madness and what nurtured it; and how, when it ends, we can make sure that it need never happen again.

For this madness must end–if not in my lifetime, at least in yours. We Filipinos are proverbially patient, but we are also infinitely tough and ingeniously resourceful. Our entire history as a people has been a quest for freedom and dignity; and we will not be denied our dreams.

So this madness will end; the rule of force will yield to the rule of law. Then the country will need its great lawyers, its great engineers, its great economists and managers, the best of its men and women to clear the shambles and restore the foundations of that noble and truly Filipino society for which our forefathers fought, bled and died."

This letter, written on October 23, 1972 in detention, was written to Jose Ramon Diokno, Popoy, by his father and namesake, Jose W. Diokno, Ka Pepe. It was this letter--alternately an answer to his son’s question, a treatise on the legal profession, a discourse on the national situation prevailing at that time, and a showcase of a lifetime of insights on how to study law–that gave a young and idealistic activist, unsure of his decision to pursue law, the first insight that law and activism, law and advocacy, law and social change, law and a lifetime of meaningful service could co-exist. Twenty years later, that slightly older but still idealistic activist is now a lawyer actively engaged in human rights practice and the teaching of law. In the same manner that his letter challenged me, I would ask you, after reading what Ka Pepe told his son Popoy, to ask yourself if you are the person he describes; if you are a law student, ask yourself if you want to become the lawyer he describes; if you are a lawyer, ask yourself if you are capable of becoming the lawyer and the person he describes.

Now, more than ever, when the Empress’s new clothes are on full display, we need women and men who will tell the Empress that her clothes are an ill-fit. Now more than ever, will we need our good women and men, our good lawyers and law students, our great Filipinos. Now more than ever, our country needs women and men who will stand up for the freedoms that great Filipinos like Ka Pepe, Ka Tanny Tanada, Lean Alejandro, Edgar Jopson, Ditto Sarmiento, and even, more recently, Bobby Gana made their lives’ work and gave up their lives for.

March 03, 2006

Going beyond mootness

Now that the dictator’s decree is lifted, is it over?  Not by a long shot.

Things are not back to normal—media is still chilled, despite their denials;  censorship by the police will still continue; warrantless arrests and the threat thereof will still continue;  E.O. 464 is still in effect; CPR is still in force.

The Filipino people have said, “Never Again!”  It’s time the Supreme Court says it too.

I urge the Supreme Court not to hide behind the seeming mootness of the petitions challenging 1017 and to decide them on the merits.  Do not dismiss them simply because they are moot—in that way, you will legitimize a dictator.  Instead, use the power of the pen—be once again the “conscience of government”—and say to the dictator and anyone else who would follow after her:  “never again.”

Certainly, the Supreme Court cannot—and must not--turn a blind eye on the assault on truth, the attack on press freedom.  So, hide not behind mootness, rule instead that Proclamation 1017 and General Order No. 5 are patently unconstitutional.  In Salonga v. Cruz Pano and Evelio Javier v. COMELEC, the Supreme Court ruled despite mootness.  

So I say to the Supreme Court:  decide in favor of democracy, not dictatorship.  Say in one voice, with the people, “never again!”  Do not hold your peace, speak out now.

Law in the grand manner

To say it was a mixed group is an understatement.

A motley group of about 300 lawyers, law students, paralegals and activists marched this morning to the EDSA shrine from the IBP National Headquarters to protest the dictator’s decree 1017.  It was a reunion between civil libertarians from way back and  those they had mentored and are now leading the charge; it was also a reunion for the EDSA forces who had somehow parted ways after EDSA and found themselves on different sides of the fence. There were the new generation of lawyers with and of conscience;  there were the idealistic law students and paralegals.  And oh yes, there were the trapos as well—Cayetano, Binay, Maceda;  well, you can’t have everything.

This group took over the EDSA shrine and for close to 45 minutes took turns telling the dictator “NO!” NEVER AGAIN!” After that, we marched back to the IBP National Headquarters for photo ops.  En route, we learned that 1017 had been lifted.

I  saw my students there, past and present;  and despite their being very new to this activism, I see their hearts burn with idealism and passion.  And I am suddenly even more hopeful for this country.  Now, if they can only learn to address a crowd in straight Filipino. . . (peace, faye.)


March 01, 2006

Who and whose I am

“Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to  fight
and to hit with wicked fist,
Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice
to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a man to humble himself?  
Is it to bow down his head like a rush,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
     To loose the bonds of wickedness,
     To undo the thongs of the yoke,
     To let the oppressed go free,
     And to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And bring the homeless poor into your house;
When you see the naked, to cover him,
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
And your healing shall spring up speedily;
Your righteousness shall go before you,
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answerl
You shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.”

-  Isaiah 58:4-9, RSV

On Ash Wednesday, we remember who we are and whose we are.

For catholics like me, we recall our humble beginnings—from the dirt of creation, God showed His love for mankind by creating us in His own image and breathing on us His own Spirit.  Created in love and for love, in pale imitation of the perfect relationship and companionship of love that is shared by the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

This Ash Wednesday, I recall who I am and whose I am.  I am Ted, God’s creation and precious in His sight.  (Isaiah 43:4, RSV).  Created in love and bound by God to love.  

On this Ash Wednesday, in the year of P.P. 1017 and G.O. 5, I take to heart the words of the Prophet Isaiah:  

Is not this the fast that I choose:
          To loose the bonds of wickedness,
          To undo the thongs of the yoke,
          To let the oppressed go free,
          And to break every yoke?