Friday, July 15, 2011

Filipino Attorneys: Warriors on an Empty Battlefield


No band of brothers in the army should be more important than their domestic warriors in the courtroom, defending the essential civilized principle of right over wrong.

So why is the Philippine battlefield so unearthly quiet? As if one side has departed the fighting field?

Perhaps there is a reason attorneys are the most maligned group of professionals in the world, next to used car peddlers. Here is what Jonathan Swift, acerbic king of all satire writers, wrote about attorneys via the mouth of Gulliver, who is explaining the British legal system to his master, the leader of the Yahoos who occupy an island upon which Gulliver has landed:

"Here, my master, interposing, said it was a pity, that creatures endowed with such prodigious abilities of mind as these lawyers, by the description I gave of them, must certainly be, were not rather encouraged to be instructors of others in wisdom and knowledge. In answer to which I assured his Honour, that in all points out of their own trade they were usually the most ignorant and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in common conversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and learning, and equally disposed to pervert the general reason of mankind in every other subject of discourse, as in that of their own profession."

Well, satire is not to be taken as a literal truth, but rather as an instructional exaggeration. Swift's Gulliver is suggesting what seems to be in fact an all too real limitation of Philippine lawyers, en toto, as a profession. Inside and outside the courtroom, where they perform, and maybe even "act", they appear to have no conscience, no guiding light, no drive to right the abundance of wrongs that surround them.

If I were to focus on two collectives as remarkable failures in Philippine society, I would name the Catholic Church and the nation's attorneys as Numbers One and Two, respectively.

The Church is the caretaker of morality and wisdom in a nation that cheats at everything, allows abuses toward women to persist, and is birthing itself into oblivion.

Attorneys who pledge to uphold the law stand idly by as that law is broken at every strata of society, in every venue. No matter that damages line up like so many lotto customers at a multi-million peso draw. Attorneys are stalwart . . . at performing Notary Public duties that keep the Philippines plastered in odious, officious paperwork.

I guess passion is not something that can be taught at Ateneo.

Indeed, the nation is one large damage. It is rank with pollution of every sort, abusive to women who cannot escape from the bondage of a marriage gone brutal, and who receive no education about birth control; it is corrupt from the top to the bottom of most government org charts; and it is negligent at enforcing rudimentary consumer safety laws, slaughtering Filipinos by the thousands via vehicle accidents, poisons, lousy health care, rickety ferries and substandard housing.

"Unsafe at any speed" should be pasted across the flag.

"You are too much, Joe!" you may be thinking.

No, I am simply expounding on the deductions I draw from assorted sunken ferries with hundreds dead, my young neighbor inhaling pollution every day and passing into the grave with lung cancer, the teenage motorcyclist I saw dead on the National Highway, tripped by a dog, the hundreds of people killed by mudslides every year, the journalists in graves for doing a an important job protecting free speech, the hundreds of candidates shot during the national election cycle, the guy across the street who died on the way to the hospital because his acute appendicitis was diagnosed as malaria, the fact that NPA collection-racket gangsters marched through my home in Mindanao whilst I was happily away, the reports of girls sold into the sex business, and the obstinate, warlike tones emanating from two of the keepers of values, the extreme Muslim faithful and the Catholic Church. One rolls heads for dollars and the other argues for the status quo where quo status means women are abused and abandoned whilst the nation births itself into unforgiveable poverty. In the dark, crowded, stinking alleys of squatters villages, "right to life" means nothing.

No, I am not too much.

Philippine attorneys seem to me to be absent from the battlefield, away without leave, and their comrade citizens have been bludgeoned back into hiding, deep within the forest, by an army of self-serving power mongers with plenty of weaponry.

THAT is too much.


  1. Joe,

    Yes Erap and GMA have trampled and mangled our laws. But fear not for Noynoy is the the start of a new age where the Rule of Law reigns supreme. The journey will be difficult and he may not even see the fruits of his labors. But if WE stick together, support OUR president and stay the course, a brighter future awaits for our children.

    Are you with me? Mabuhay si Noynoy!!!

  2. Joe,

    Have you ever been in a court proceeding and seen Philippine lawyers in action? Everything is just so retarded that you'll just have to laugh it off. It's the funniest thing ever.

  3. L, I am not with you in a sense that I will wave a yellow flag regardless of what President Aquino does. I support him in the sense that I want him to do well, but I reserve the right to criticize what I think he does that is not in the best interest of the Philippines, as well as praise what I think he does that benefits the Philippines.

    Anon, I have never been in a courtroom, but I have observed the Senate and House on this action or that, and can sense that a crispness of purpose and delivery is not a popular style.