July 30, 2006

Crossroads

I had an interesting conversation with a priest at lunch today—no, it wasn’t over confession, but over spaghetti, chicken, iced tea and coffee.  Over coffee (tea for me), he asked me straight out: “so what do you plan to do with your life, Ted?”;  he asked it as if I hadn’t been doing anything with my life for the past several decades.  

It didn’t offend me, it actually got me thinking.

Right now, I’m holding down the equivalent of five (5) full-time jobs:  a partner at a law firm, a full-time coordinator position with a lawyers’ non-government organization, a full-time faculty position at U.P., a directorship at its Legal Aid Clinic and branch leadership of a Catholic community for single professionals.  Despite all these, I sometimes feel that I’m not doing much with my life—don’t know if this makes sense but this feeling does come over me sometimes—and that perhaps I should be doing more.  That was why the question, “so what do you plan to do with your life?” hit home earlier.

I’m still thinking about it.  I don’t really know what the answer is;  I don’t know if I’d like the answer.  Whatever the answer is, I pray that God will be at the center.  I pray for the grace to be able to know His plans for me and the added grace of being able to act on His plans for me.  

July 20, 2006

Studying Law

Now showing at the Law School (courtesy of Portia Sorority): The Paper Chase.
(maraming salamat Tere for the invitation and for the copy--don't worry, I won't tell Mr. Manzano.)

The basic plot revolves around studying law in Harvard where a stern but fair Contracts professor Kingsfield (terrific John Houseman) terrorizes a first year law student Hart (Timothy Bottoms) who idolizes him (and also loves his daughter, Susan--played by a pre-bionic woman Lindsay Wagner).

There are many memorable moments in this film about studying law; many memorable lines which law professors have imbibed into their everyday line up of one-liners and sarcastic comebacks to hapless student foibles in law school.

Among the most memorable from Kingsfield: "You come in here with a brain full of mush and leave here thinking like a lawyer."

Of course, studying law in U.P. is not the same as studying law in Harvard--it's much more difficult in U.P. and the professors are much, much better (and kinder). However, oftentimes, you do get tempted to do a Kingsfield. The challenge to my students is to make Kingsfield's bold predictions ring true by "slaying" their own Kingsfields. I wrote about that in 2000 (here). Otherwise, Kingsfield's other famous prediction will ring true:

Kingsfield (to Hart): "Mr. Hart, here is a penny. Go call your mother and tell her there is grave doubt that you will ever become a lawyer."

July 16, 2006

Omerta and Impunity:Two sides of the same rotten coin

Omerta.  The Code of Silence.

The very same Code that made the mafia so effective.  The very same Code that makes fraternities so effective.

The mafia treats breakers of Omerta swiftly and decisively:  they leave the earth permanently through:  (a) a swim with a slab of concrete for flippers, (b)  a permanent third eye, or (c) a permanent second smile.

While I have not heard of local fraternities dealing with Omerta breakers that decisively, the effect of the use of Omerta in the fraternity system has allowed violence to be done with impunity.  The culture of violence does not end because those responsible know that Omerta will not be broken by their “brods”, past or present.

Omerta thrives on an enforced silence;  an absence of sound that is not peace but a festering quiet.

On a much larger scale, Omerta is seen in governments;  and not surprisingly, because a lot of these governments are populated by frat members.  That is why governments deal in impunity because they thrive on Omerta.

Ed Delos Reyes and Cory Dela Cruz, both police officers, broke omerta when they told the truth:  that in May 1995, eleven (11) unarmed and handcuffed civilians were killed in cold blood along a highway in Quezon City at dawn;  this led to the Kuratong Baleleng rub-out cases.  Where are Ed and Cory now?  They are out of the country and paying for their courage with “new lives.”  Where are the killers now?  Some are in very high places.

I have not heard of a hazing case that has prospered because a courageous frat man has come forward to denounce a killing done in the name of “brotherhood.”  My disclaimer:  I am not neutral on this issue:  my office is handling a murder that arose out of a supposed hazing and no witnesses will come forward because omerta is being enforced not only within the fraternity and sorority but also on the witnesses.  So, will the guilty ones get away?  Yes, most probably.  But, to paraphrase George W. Bush (and this is irony, for those who know me and my relationship with Dubya), they can run but they can’t hide.  They may have run away from a  long prison sentence but they cannot hide from their conscience and from their God.

End the rule of impunity.  Shatter Omerta.  Now!




Criminality and Cowardice

Warning:  this is a rant.  It contains language that is not for the faint of heart.

A reader who prefers to be anonymous asked for my comment on this issue (I suppose s/he is a law student because I am referred to as “sir” and perhaps s/he would prefer not to be identified for fear of reprisal).  This is my comment on this issue.

The only way I know how to describe grown men beating each other up in private or public is as a criminal act.  As a criminal law professor, a lawyer, a reasonably rational person, this act is, shorn of any euphemism or candy coating, attempted or frustrated murder or, depending on the fortune of the victim, serious physical injuries.  In extreme cases, it is MURDER (with pre-meditation, treachery and abuse of superior strength).  Ask any first year law student (especially those who have been in my classes) and they will tell you that there is no other way to describe it.  So, pardon my French, but let’s cut the crap:  Beating other people up in the name of a fraternity is simply lawlessness; plainly and simply, it is STUPIDITY!  Beating other people up in the name of a fraternity with hoods is not only lawlessness: it is COWARDICE (if you are “brave” enough to beat someone up, at least be brave enough to show yourself)!

For frat men from the law school who read this blog:  GROW UP! If you think beating other people up in the name of brotherhood makes you a man, then you are utterly and totally misinformed:  a real man knows when he is strong and retaliating or initiating violence does not make you a man.  I have absolutely no respect for a “man” who would retaliate or initiate violence against any person and I never will.  My friends know me to be a stubborn and opinionated person and I am stubborn and opinionated on this: I WILL NEVER HAVE ANY RESPECT FOR YOU FOR SO LONG AS YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO BE A REAL MAN!  And, as far as you’re concerned, you have the burden of proof to show me that you are entitled to ANY RESPECT.

“But I’ve never participated in any violence,”  you protest.  HAVE YOU SAID SO IN PUBLIC?  HAVE YOU TOLD YOUR “BRODS”?  HAVE YOU RENOUNCED YOUR TIES TO THESE VIOLENT ORGANIZATIONS?  If you have not, then you are every bit as guilty as those who have lifted a hand, brought down a fist, picked up a bat, fired a gun.  EVERY BIT AS GUILTY!

You feel judged?  Tough.  Tell that to the many innocent victims of the fraternity system’s stupidity.  I’m unfair?  Tough.  Tell that to the parents of Lenny Villa, Dennis Icasiano, Marlon Villanueve and all the other nameless, faceless, unknown victims of hazing, initations rites, and rumbles.

So, for my frat men friends, students, readers:  you want to be a REAL MAN?  QUIT YOUR FRATERNITIES NOW, MAKE THAT PUBLIC AND MAKE PUBLIC WHY—BECAUSE THE CULTURE OF VIOLENCE THE FRATERNITY SYSTEM PERPETRATES IS SICKENING, IS DEBASING, IS STUPID AND IS BARBARIC!  

You want to be a real man?   Buy a copy of the best-selling book of ALL TIME, flip to any of the four versions of the Gospel and look up the life of a real man.  You want to be real man?  Don’t look to Manny Pacquiao or any of your fraternity leaders or “brods”, you simply have to turn to the one who is beside you for all eternity—even if you don’t acknowledge Him—our brother:  Jesus Christ.  It’s not too late:  do it now.