Thursday, December 4, 2014

I have a dream

I had a dream. Standing before a sharp-eyed audience, I incessantly pound on my case to drive at my point. Clad in my favorite white barong, I was an epitome of excellence in the court room.

Suddenly, I was awakened by the thud of two children, calling me “Dad.”

Yes, I may be too old for those “dreams,” but I still have that dream.

Dreams are useless if they do not come alive. At some point, they have to strike a chord in our system; relate to our own experiences and make them work to finally rouse meaning in our lives.

But behind any enduring dreamer are inspirations and icons with strong vision and courage. Unexplainably, these people drive us to realize our aspirations with meaning and mission. Here are two of my inspirations, “the gods” of my ideals.

Before they became the man that they are,—or long before politics complicated their lives— Messrs. Ferdinand E. Marcos and Salvador H. Laurel are among the best and the brightest barristers in their time.

Ferdinand E. Marcos

It was said that the young Ferdinand Marcos, a practicing attorney in the 50s, was quite a dresser appearing in court in suit and tie. Accompanied by a voice that often nestled on the mountain top, the young lawyer could ferret out the truth from any witness during cross-examination. This prowess was put to test when he himself was put on trial.

Murder at dusk

The year was 1935. Mariano Marcos, Ferdinand’s father, had been twice a congressman. In his third attempt to regain his lost congressional seat, Marcos was bitterly defeated by his perennial rival, Julio Nalundasan. Supporters of Nalundasan, however, celebrated his victory by holding a mock funeral through the cobbled streets of Batac Ilocos Norte; the empty coffin was supposed to symbolize the political demise of the older Marcos. Three nights after, while brushing his teeth at the window, Nalundasan was shot between the eyes. Young Ferdinand was one of the main suspects.

Then a brainy law student at UP, Ferdinand Marcos was subsequently arrested and charged for murder. After the trial, Marcos was convicted by the lower court under purely circumstantial evidence. The case reached the Supreme Court, when he was getting ready for the bar examinations. Clapped in a dark calaboose, the young Marcos crammed for the bar seemingly unperturbed of the uncertainties of his fate. But as it was, he nailed the test, garnering an unprecedented high score on record.

Still and all, Marcos’s plight caught the public imagination. Overnight, he became both an underdog and celebrity — a status which gained added dimension when he was acquitted on appeal by the Supreme Court, because of his own brilliant defense. Although he was not yet a full-pledge lawyer at the time of his acquittal, Philippine Free Press plastered his photograph on its cover with a caption, “Lawyer of the Year.” He was only twenty- three years old.

Many years later, another brilliant lawyer, a dreamer from Batangas, will carve his name in history.

Doy Laurel—Mr. Public Defender

“If every lawyer in the country would only handle one case for an aggrieved litigant that would go a long way in restoring the faith of the poor in the administration of justice,” said Doy Laurel, the dashing dare-devil lawyer who crashed the headlines in the 1960s by defending the poor and the underprivileged against police brutality.

Doy Laurel—highly educated with a law degree from UP and a doctoral degree from Yale— was no ordinary lawyer in his time when he began to do pro bono work. He had already an established reputation as a trial lawyer before he was fished out of his lucrative corporate practice. Readings later revealed that Doy’s advocacy started with the tragic murder of a man named Parisio Tayag.

Murder at high noon

Tayag was a poor jeepney driver. One day he got involved in a minor traffic accident. The traffic policeman tried to shake him down for three hundred pesos. Tayag had only thirty pesos which he offered to the policeman. The cop did not cave in. One word led to another. The policeman drew his gun while Tayag drew a knife but fled when the policeman aimed at him. A chase ensued. The policeman was joined by five other policemen.

They eventually cornered Tayag in the town plaza and shot him dead. It was high noon.

It was tragic enough when their father died in vain. But it became worse when their mother, pregnant with her sixth child, lost her baby and her mind. Orphaned and grief-stricken, Tayag’s children suffered in silence as the prospect of justice seemed far-fetched. But Doy Laurel took the cudgels for them and rendered his services—pro bono— as their private counsel. He went all the way to Bataan to personally handle the case from preliminary investigation up to the trial. He got them all convicted fair and square.

Thus began the swirl of circumstance that would lure him to establish a national organization —The Citizens Legal Aid Society of the Philippines (CLASP)— to give free legal service to the poor, the first in the country, the mother of what we now call the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). And for this, Doy Laurel earned the moniker as “Mr. Public Defender” and gained international recognition as an outstanding lawyer in the field of legal aid.

Doy Laurel had an unparalleled career. Although his name is now part of the political lexicon being one of the colorful eminentos of EDSA, history will nonetheless place him among the great barristers of our time.

Unknowingly, decades later, in a spun of fate, Messrs. Marcos and Laurel’s paths will cross in the same political arena- people now unmindful of their tragic past or their excellent legal recourses. Unfortunately, until now, history’s pendulum continues to sway away from these legal eagles. As a silent observer and dreamer, I won’t. I will continue to fly and dream on.