April 28, 2008


Not sure if there is such a word but that's how I felt earlier when I was told that I had to make a decision that would change many things that I had planned in my life.

But as with most of the de-equilibrized moments in my life, I remembered Psalm 37:23-24-"The steps of the man are from the Lord, and he establishes him in whose way he delights; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord is the stay of his hand."

Its not a promise that I won't fall but that he will catch me when I do fall.

In the meantime, have to get back my equilibrium by focusing on what He wants me to do.

First things first, "fear not."

April 18, 2008

A blast from the past... for me, at least

"I read the news today, oh boy" (credit the Beatles for this line which I shamelessly rip off) and it spoke of the United States Supreme Court ruling 7-2 on the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution for the first time; the landmark ruling is Baze v. Rees, involving a capital case from Kentucky. (Read the link to an AI-US blog, which also posts a link to the decision.)

What struck me wasn't that the US Supreme Court ruled but that it was ruling for the very first time on the constitutionality of lethal injection.

This brought me back to March 2, 1998, when, on behalf of probably my most well-known client, I filed a petition for prohibition, injunction and/or TRO assailing the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 8177 designating lethal injection as the mode of execution in the country; the petition docketed as G.R. No. 132601 was given due course and, on October 12, 1998, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled, for the first time and apparently nine (9) years before the United States, that lethal injection was, to rip off Chief Justice Fernando's famous double negative, "not unconstitutional."

What also strikes me about Baze is the obvious absence of unanimity; there are seven (7) separate opinions, with only two (2) Justices joining the Chief Justice Roberts in his plurality (if you could even call it that) opinion, three (3) Justices concurring only in the result and with separate opinions, and with two (2) Justices (Ginsberg and Souter) dissenting.

Unlike the Philippines, which has, at least for the moment, prohibited capital punishment, it appears that the debate in the United States has just gotten a lot more interesting.

April 04, 2008

Intergenerational courtesy and hubris

I did not land in the top ten when I took the bar in 1990; nor did I land in the top twenty (I know because the first 20 names in our batch were published). That does not make or unmake me, as a lawyer or as a person.

My batch did not have the benefit (or stigma?) of having our passing average adjusted upward by means of across-the-board points or having the 75% average required to pass the bar lowered or the 50% disqualification per subject lowered. That does not make or unmake my batch, as lawyers or as persons.

My having failed to land in the top 20 does not make me a success or a failure--as a lawyer or as a person. It only credentials me as one who was fortunate or blessed enough to pass, based on the standards of that year.

My batch's distinction of not having adjustments to the passing grade does not make my batch better or worse than any other batch. It just makes it a fact that no adjustments were made for that year.

The bar examinations are a test of a particular batch's entitlement to join the legal profession based on the standards of the Examination Committee for a particular year. It is not a standard for all generations, nor for all time. It is a standard only for a particular year because every year the standards change with the selection of a new Chairperson and the selection of new examiners.

Thus, one batch is not necessarily better or worse than another as each batch can only be compared to itself (if that is at all possible, factually and logically). That is the design of the bar examinations; each year's bar is sui generis. (Is this a flawed design? Yes. Would I want it changed? Yes. But that is fodder for another post, another occasion.)

So, all the buzz and the heat generated by a rather insensitive blog post by a lawyer who has yet to identify him/herself by the name he signed on the roll is quite understandably being passionately dissected by this year's bar passers.

I say it is insensitive because the post essentially blacklists this year's batch of passers and brands them as "second rate" and "unworthy" lawyers simply because the Supreme Court chose to lower the average--sight unseen. The lawyer blogger chooses to tar everyone with the same brush and writes off this year's batch as unworthy of his attention or employment.

I do not know if the blogger/lawyer (whose blog links to this site) teaches. I do. I taught this batch from U.P. And I know these people very well--personally; with the exception of a handful (and my hands are very small, so it is a very small handful), I can say at least one fact about each of them that a casual acquaintance would not know. I can speak of how good or bad they were in class and also in court, having supervised them through the clinical legal education program.

I can speak of how passionate they can get over trivial and non-trivial things. I have seen how intense they have gotten over issues. I have seen many of them in court, I have read their pleadings, I have corrected their work, I have graded them many times over. Yes, I can speak, from personal knowledge, of this batch and I choose not to write them off because I know better--than to write them off.

I only teach law at U.P. so I cannot speak, from personal knowledge, of passers from other law schools because I do not know better. And for that same reason, I choose not to write them off as unworthy or second rate simply because I also do not know better.

And that is, as De Quiros puts it, "the rub."

Blogger/lawyer chooses to write off an entire batch without knowing the ENTIRE BATCH of bar passers; s/he chooses to dismiss them without the benefit of having seen some or most of them in class or in court; s/he chooses to stigmatize the batch for something they had absolutely no hand in--the lowering of the average.

Would this batch have preferred not to have the grades lowered so that only 5% would have passed? I do not know; perhaps some would have, some wouldn't.

What I do know is that they had no hand in having the grade lowered and to stigmatize them for something the Court did, apparently motu propio, is uncalled for and is foul.

And to cast aspersions, by way of asking rhetorical questions--as blogger/lawyer does in his post, as to the supposed influence exerted by some powerful quarters is quite simply cheap. That is something gutter journalists do, in the absence of something significant to write--not one who has passed the bar and would evidently have such high standards that s/he would not hire anyone from this batch. As far as the new U.P. lawyers are concerned, it is blogger/lawyer's loss--not theirs.

I am not picking a fight with blogger/lawyer. Those who passed this year have already thrown down the gauntlet and they, more than anyone else, can speak for themselves quite eloquently and well.

I simply want to say, from the vantage point of one who passed the bar many years ago under very different conditions than this year, that it is sheer hubris and unmitigated arrogance for one to sit in judgment simply on the basis of the past and without knowing better.

Hegel (and Sting) remind us that the best lesson we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history; many times, however, when we live too much in the past and reflect too much on history, we also end up not learning anything about the present.

April 01, 2008

Weighing in on Brian Gorrell

You may recognize familiar names in this Newsbreak online article on the Brian Gorrell thingy.