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KUWENTONG KULE: To new lawyers: Serve the people

By: ATTY. DENNIS R. GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | May 05,2020 - 07:00 AM

 

“Serve the people. Do not betray your humanity.”

Words that should guide the new lawyers according to Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in his Twitter account.

The Supreme Court released last week the results of the 2019 Bar exams, with a passing rate of 27.36 percent, or 2,103 out of 7,685 examinees.

For me, my official entry to the legal profession happened 21 years ago.

It was 1:30 a.m., April 6, 1999, a Tuesday when I received a message via my beeper what could have been the best news in my life. It read: “Dennis, Congrats You are now officially Atty. Gorecho.”

I was among the lucky 1,465 examinees who passed the 1998 bar exams, or 39.63 percent out of the total of 3,697 examinees, and considered as one of the highest passing rate.

The bar exams is considered one of the toughest and most difficult among the professional board exams, having one of the highest mortality rate. Passing is obviously not that easy, it would entail a series of factors.

The Philippine Bar Exams format has remained the same except for some facial revisions. It is still a handwritten exam taken in Metro Manila.

It will essentially test the aspirant’s ability to comprehend the problem, spot the issues, identify the legal provision and its basic interpretation.

The bar exams have a passing grade of 75 percent, which the en banc may adjust if needed.

It is also a yearly spectacle on the performance of law schools  measured on the most number of topnotchers or score the highest passing rate.

There are three steps in becoming a lawyer. First is passing the Bar. Second is taking the lawyer’s oath. Third and final step is the signing of the Roll of Attorneys.

The new lawyers are joining the roll of attorneys during this “unfamiliar and trying times” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Work paradigms such as social distancing and remote working have created a new workplace and social dynamics where  human interactions are carried on to a large extent with the use of high technology.

The new crop of lawyers is coming in at an extraordinary time, when the health emergency “highlights the congestion, delays, inefficiencies and inequalities in our justice sector,” says  Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Egon Cayosa.

Ultimately, being a good lawyer is a different thing. Passing the bar is not enough.

There will be those who will join the law offices for private practice while others will go to government, judiciary, politics or the academe.

And there’s alternative lawyering.

It is legal practice either individually or through legal resource organizations that work with the poor and marginalized groups, identities and communities towards their empowerment, greater access to justice, and building peace.

Their concerns normally involve justice issues of the poor and marginalized groups in the Philippines, including women, labor, peasant, fisherfolk, children, urban poor, indigenous peoples, persons living with HIV-AIDS, local governance, and the environment.

Alternative lawyers do often take on careers outside of the mainstream, but what differentiates their work is their commitment to a different route to, and conception of, justice.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers President Edre Olalia said that “the new lawyer must be bold, critical yet with a deep well of forbearance and most of all compassion and commitment especially to the ordinary people, the vulnerable, the persecuted and the victims of all sorts of injustice.”

I  also had the chance to understand what is  alternative lawyering as a student volunteer of Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)) led by Atty. Chel Diokno. His  father, former Senator Jose Diokno once said  “A lawyer must work in freedom; and there is no freedom when conformity is extracted by fear, and criticism silenced by force.”

Many alternative lawyers are guided by the words of former President Ramon Magsaysay: ”Those who have less in life should have more in law.”

The poor who have less resources in relation to the rich, will often  have to  bank on the law to safeguard their rights. In building a more accessible, inclusive and dynamic justice system, all remedies allowed by law should be completely exhausted for their protection. The semblance of being given “more” in law is imperative to equip them the chance of equality which they do not enjoy.

Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are seasoned lawyers among others who passed their whole life in pursuit of emancipation of the human beings.

Lawyers, as professionals, are expected to uphold the ethical and moral values that are said to be essential to the fabric that holds society together.

Justice Leonen also said “Discover your passion. Be patient and compassionate.”

Passion for the law is dedication to do what is right.

Kule is the monicker of the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786).

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