Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Law school jitters

Tempus fugit. Almost 6 months ago, jittery law graduates trooped to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) on España Boulevard to take the final test to become lawyers.

Today, the long wait is finally over. The “Gods of Faura” have released the much awaited verdict for this year, the final lap of the long obstacle course of legal education – the bar examination results.

Passing the bar exams – or flunking them, for that matter – may just be a facet of a law student’s journey to the portals of the legal profession.

The real adventure begins on the first day of class.

Ask any law student, and you’ll probably get a similar answer. For one, it is an entirely different academic arena, far from the usual classroom routine.

Society has its own way of showing its high regard for law students and I take pride in being one of them. The respect and courtesy that society has bestowed upon people in the legal profession, you must realize, is earned not from the time they pass the bar and become full fledged lawyers, but from the time they become students of the law.

Surviving law school

As a mere law student now, I have my own share of stories about struggling to keep such respect. Surviving it is one.
To survive law school you have to have a one-track mind – read, read and read.
Sometimes there seems to be no escape from this book-driven life.

In my case, I have to set aside my social life if any, even religious activities, just to devote more time reading voluminous cases being assigned to us by our professors.

But the more dangerous and fearful path for each law student is class recitation. Law students, even most established lawyers I know, have their own story of recitation mishaps to tell. I am happy to tell mine.

First mishap

It was Monday evening, first meeting for my environmental law class. The silence was deafening as I stood valiantly after my name was called. It was the start of a long night for class recitation.

The case dealt with the constitutionality of the IPRA law, a novel legislation that protects the ancestral land rights of indigenous peoples.

As I was about to discuss the court ruling, my mini-eccentric professor suddenly interrupted me and started to fire questions indiscriminately.

While still armored and battling, I seemed a helpless victim for a while. The adrenalin kept rushing as I searched for more answers in my head. Most of the questions were really tough and he was posturing, like he wrote the dissenting opinion of that case.

After his unwritten dissenting opinion, he out of the blue muttered, “Mr. Bonoan are you reading the book of Zaide?” I stood my ground and proudly said yes to the question. I had no choice but to defend my argument about the benefits of the Spanish inquisition, otherwise I would be in limbo.

I must not quiver at this point, I told myself over and over again.

Obviously, he was aghast at my answers. He ordered me to simply sit down and called on another student. I was totally devastated because I studied the case from all possible angles, or so I thought.

It was only later that I came to know that my professor was a fiery advocate of indigenous peoples' rights. Incidentally, he was among the lawyers who argued before the Supreme Court in the IPRA case. What was I thinking?

On second thought, I felt vindicated because I engaged him in a sword fight, although I ended up being slaughtered to death.

From then on, I bowed not to limit my readings simply to law books, and expand them to include history and other disciplines.

Second mishap

My next terrible experience was when I was taking up Tort law under a Jesuit-educated professor.
Tort law is a very interesting subject because it deals with mostly accidents and mishaps, and the facts of every case are fascinating and fun to read.

One such case was Picart v. Smith, a very old yet landmark case in tort law.

While it seemed an easy read at the start, the intertwined facts and colloquial language made it trivial.
When my professor shuffled the class cards, I suddenly found myself mumblng all over again, “Oh God, not me. Not me, please.”

But alas! I was the first one to be called! His next words were defeaning. “Chris Bonoan, where are you? Oh there you are! Please recite Picart v. Smith.”

In utter fear or confusion, in whatever order, I muttered to myself, “Oh God, Lord why have you forsaken me!” And like any good soldier, I kept the faith and kept trying to explain the case until my esteemed law professor asked me to visualize on the board what transpired in this popular pony accident case.

Unfortunately, I just could not hit the mark. He suddenly became impatient. But who would not be?

I was literally consuming more than the time allowed for each case. No wonder his expression turned sour as my voice trembled.
Finally, he said, “Sit down Sir, sit down!” in a tone that almost buried me alive.

My classmates definitely had a good laugh with my shocking and unforgettable experience that night.
Good thing for me, they had worse encounters.

As I said, there will always be a next time. But not too many next times. We have to earn the respect right now and not next time. We can always have room for that one time, and maybe another.

And this is the time! Congratulations to those who passed the 2013 Philippine Bar Exams. Indeed, you guys have been tested and found not wanting!


Article courtesy of RAPPLER (3/17/14)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dear Nards: A quick recourse on Doy and Macoy

Dear fellow Filipino,

Hi Nards, sorry for the late reply. Point well taken, but I assure you that there are no inconsistencies here. My admiration for Salvador H. Laurel on one hand and Ferdinand E. Marcos on the other is in fact a reflection of my own idea of what “nationalism” should be, and my objectivism in relation to history.

With your permission, allow me to repost your enlightening comments here in toto:

I only learned about your blog not so long ago upon stumbling with your article on Marcos. I must say it's great and it's enlightening. I'm not into politics but I am so much interested about Marcos, the EDSA and its aftermath and what is really the truth. By continuously knowing the person, Marcos, through and by his works, writings, philosophies, ideologies, speeches and stature in life, you wouldn't believe he was capable of doing those atrocities that the people have been throwing at him since. The fact that those accusers cannot present a single evidence to finally convict him or her family is likewise a mystery...

I was enjoying your entries until i came across your write ups on Doy Laurel, hence this comment of mine. There seems to be a contrasting idea between your belief or earlier admiration on Marcos from your Marcos entry and on how you pictured the Marcos regime in this article of Doy, especially when you wrote on a conclusive note "oppressive regime that terrorized the nation for a long time". I hope this is not your personal opinion but was stated on the perspective of the Aquinos and their allies or Doy for that matter. I never find any reasonable justification of the EDSA other than politics and power struggle. I see EDSA as a great deception, self-serving and the culmination of great betrayals. Doy was one of them and while he had genuine intention, "karma" got the best of him when Cory betrayed him as well. EDSA was never for the people, but left the common tao to pick up the pieces wondering when it will be whole again. Marcos vision was a lost opportunity for me. He was setting the stage for a greater purpose, but we took that stage and rebel against him because of what they "said so".

This is just my piece and would be happy to be refuted/corrected.

Thanks for sharing your great mind and knowledge to everybody.

Before plunging into the gist of your comment, let me state briefly the political backdrop of Doy and Marcos, a principled political relationship that is barely touched on by yellow historians.

The special political relationship of the Laurels and Marcos is no secret. They had always been fair-weather political allies for as long as I can remember. Marcos admired wartime Philippine President Jose P. Laurel for his intellectual prowess juxtaposed with the courage he displayed during the Japanese Occupation. (Not to mention the ponecia of Justice Laurel in the Nalundasan Murder Case, acquitting the young Ferdinand Marcos on appeal.) The Laurels were also responsible for Marcos’ entry in the NP that ultimately made him president in 1965. And when Marcos sought re-election against the weakling Serging Osmena (LP) in 1969, the old guards of NP (the Laurels) rallied behind him. Marcos won a second term.

Prelude to a fallout

Eventually, Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and at the outset, the Laurels opposed it─ privately. Nonetheless, the Laurels gave Marcos the benefit of the doubt but only under the assumption that martial law was just a temporary measure to bring order to the country.

Upon his return from the United States, Senator Doy received word that Marcos wanted to see him in the Palace. As the outspoken opponent of Marcos within the NP, he braced himself for the usual rhetoric. But Marcos went straight to the jugular. Without missing a beat, Marcos told Doy not to “rock the boat” because he had already burned his bridges; there’s no way he could turn back. Doy tossed up a repartee, cautioning Marcos that “martial law” is a double edge sword: it can be used to cut for good or evil. If Marcos used it to cut for good, then Doy (now a jobless senator) assured the President that he has nothing to worry about.

Divide and rule

Years later, sensing the ship of state was drifting off course, cracks began to surface in their political relationship. History has recorded what happened. The first confrontation between the Laurels and Marcos took place in Malacañang─ the year was 1978.

As a precursor to his so-called “politics of transition,” President Marcos saw the need to abolish existing political parties and tried to form a new political party of his own; initially he called it, “Lapian ng Bagong Lipunan” or the “New Society Party.” Surely, the Laurels opposed this move, believing that this was just one of Marcos' Napoleonic ploys to disintegrate the political opposition─divide et impera. The Laurels, speaking through former Speaker Pepito Laurel, reminded Marcos that it was the Nacionalista that made him president twice. And so Speaker Laurel came up with an idea; a win-win solution that would merely place the NP (and other opposition groups) in suspended animation. “Don’t kill it (Nacionalista), Mr. President. Just let it rest, let it sleep for a while” said Pepito Laurel. “The same with the Liberal Party, let it rest and sleep for a while…until political normalcy is back, it’s pointless anyway to have political parties. There can be no real politics, when all politics is controlled.” Marcos, after some thought, bought the Speaker's 'umbrella' idea.

Soon afterward, a movement, not a political party, was born in the form of Kilusan bagong Lipunan or KBL.

The ghost of KBL

On his end, Doy Laurel felt uncomfortable with the whole setup. But since most of the leading traditional oppositionists (e.g., Tanada, Roxas, Salonga, and Macapagal) supported the seminal boycott movement, Doy was compelled to run as a Nacionalista candidate under the KBL umbrella. Doy believed that that the interim Batasan elections would speed up the return to normalcy; that was his primary reason why he chose to go along with Marcos. When asked candidly by President Marcos why he was hitting him during sorties, Doy Laurel quipped: "I will support you when you are right Mr. President but I will criticize and oppose you when you are wrong.”

Doy won a seat in the 1978 Batasan elections. For this, Doy was severely criticized many years later when he led the active Opposition in the 80s; and to this day only a handful of people know the real score about his stolid affiliation with KBL.

Untying the political knot with Marcos

A year later, however, President Marcos changed his position. Unbeknownst to Doy, KBL was now a political party. This development forced Assemblyman Doy to confront Marcos face-to-face for the last time. The KBL members present during the Imelda-for Deputy caucus in Malacanang gobbled up on Doy until President Marcos came to the fore. After going over every detail of Doy's legal arguments, Marcos finally muttered," “If the Nacionalista Party does not wish to become part of the KBL, then let it play the role of the opposition!” To which Doy replied so poignantly, “So let it be Mr. President…so let it be!” Then he politely walked out.

Doy Laurel regards that confrontation as his final split with Marcos. From thence, Doy Laurel spearheaded the active Opposition, and formed Unido.

I understand, as you have pointed out, that there seems to be a contrasting view for my admiration of Marcos vis a vis the way I described the “Marcos regime” when I wrote the article, “The Honorable Doy Laurel.” Now let me state categorically that indeed the “regime” of President Marcos at that time was a far cry from the hopes and dreams he envisioned under the “New Society.” In the waning years of martial rule, the regime became oppressive, abusive and oblivious to the democratic principles that Marcos stood for in “Mandate for Greatness.” Ironically, for Doy Laurel, he came into the picture at a time when President Marcos was already losing his hold or control on the levers of power. It was his twilight years, and personally, I believe that the phrase “oppressive regime” is an apt description of the situation.

Like what I always use to say in my write-ups, I’m not a blind follower nor a loyalist; I subscribed more on “ideology” or “philosophy” rather than personalities. (Notice that my article on Marcos is titled “Marcosian Ideology,” emphasis is made on his political thought.)

In my RAPPLER article (published on 2/25/14) titled, “Doy Laurel: EDSA’s unsung hero,” note how I viewed EDSA revolution (if at all you can regard it as a “revolution”) from the vantage point of someone who never witnessed EDSA first hand: “Today marks the EDSA Revolution’s 28th year yet our vision is still blurred, if not myopic. I state with no intention to undermine the church, EDSA was far from being miraculous. It was bloodless not because of divinity but of overflowing patriotism with the AILING MARCOS TO NO EXCEPTION.” (Here's the link: http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/ispeak/51532-doy-laurel-edsa-unsung-hero)

I hope I was able to clarify things with you Nards.

Again, thank you for visiting my blogs and for posting your intriguing comments as well. (Re Doy’s letter to Cory, I’ve already read it many years ago, it was also highlighted in Doy’s book of revelation titled “Neither Trumpets Nor Drums: Summing Up the Cory Government.”)

With utmost sincerity,

C.D Bonoan