[Testimonial Dinner for 41 New ADDU Lawyers, 4.16.12]
For my first time as President of the ADDU, it is a pleasure for me to stand here this evening to congratulate the new ADDU bar passers. I understand: of 54 who took the exam, 41 or 75.93% passed. For ADDU first timers, however, 30 took the exam and 26 or 86.67% passed. That is an impressive outcome, placing ADDU on 7th place overall, but on 5th place for first timers. With my congratulations for our new lawyers, I congratulate the Dean Manny Quibod and the faculty of the ADDU. In these results, your labors have borne good fruit. I congratulate all the parents, spouses, special someones, relatives, friends and earlier teachers of our graduates. Without your support, contributions, and love, our new lawyers would not have been able to make it.
A university must take pride in the performance its students show at the bar. Law is not an easy discipline. To be a practitioner, training is tough and rigorous. At ADDU it is clear: law is not for everyone. Not everyone gets into college. Few college passers can get into law school. For some, it is because there are not enough financial resources to support the studies; for others it is because they do not have the educational resources. For those who are accepted into the ADDU Law School, in the past five years, only some 28.6% have graduated and achieved what we all together celebrate tonight.
So our heartfelt congratulations. Some of you have already started working. Some of you were already wooed by law firms even before you passed the bar. Some of you have excellent prospects of a bright future. That is good. Hopefully this is because in your labors to prepare yourselves for your profession, you have achieved solid knowledge of the law and true discretion in its use, genuine competence, and not just because you have leaned on relatives or on the connections of fraternities in order to find a job. May your achievements at the bar position you so that you can be of genuine legal service as lawyers to your fellow women and men without having to be over-concerned about how your family might be sustained or how your employees might be paid. May you never have to compromise your ideals and your principles in order to eat, to be properly clothed, to be appropriately sheltered, to be able to find the respect in society that you deserve as human beings and lawyering professionals.
You may have once thought that the profession that is so closely associated with the advocacy and defense of justice would be relatively free of corruption, lies, heartless compromises, and injustice. At one time, this is also what I thought. We know however that despite the barongs, the coats and ties, the ritualized discourse of “Sir” “Madame” and “Your Honor” and the awesome robes that suggest a respectable class apart, that advocates of the law have not rarely failed in representing and defending the truth, in abstraction from which no justice can be served. We know that for “a consideration,” for a sum of money, for a government position or for the perks of a comfortable private office, the truth can be compromised, the welfare of a client can be betrayed, or the rights of an adversary can be trampled upon. We all can wish that the world in which law is practiced – whether you are at the bar, or on the bench, or in the wheeling-dealing arenas of corporate offices – the world of the profession which you celebrate tonight might have been more hospitable to truth and justice. But it is not. In this context, my plea is simple as it is unabashed: embrace your new profession with an uncompromising commitment to integrity. Root the practice of your law in depths of your inner person, where as an imperative of conscience, you know yourselves ordained not just to legalistic manipulation but to justice and the common good.
Root the practice of your law in the depths of the inner persons that is inseparable from your interior relation to the God who calls you to the profession you espouse. This relationship with your God, whom you cannot escape because you don’t want to escape him, is your faith. No matter how simple or complex your cases, how unlettered or sophisticated your clients, how poor or powerful they may be, no matter the level of remuneration you receive in dollars, pesos, or carabao and chickens for your legal service, root your practice of law in your faith. Ultimately, you know, this God is there, this God cannot be denied, this God cannot be escaped, this God is wiser than you are, and he calls you in faith to fidelity to him – whose law is love. Remember Jesus’s words: “Whatever you do to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you do to me.”
Serve your clients well. For this you cannot stop learning, and your learning cannot be limited to law. Serve your clients well, even when they cannot pay. Work so that every person gets his or her due. But I ask you: do not confine yourselves to defending naked agreements between legal persons. These agreements are important, and they are crafted and implemented seriously – some would say with a type of justice that is blind. As Filipino lawyers, however, – and more so as Catholic Christian lawyers – you are called to the pursuit of justice that is more than that of contractual agreements. You must also work so that governments give every person their due of social benefits and burdens, always pro-actively protecting human rights, even when you are not remunerated to do so. More profoundly, and in the Philippines most urgently, you must continue your learning, and must increase in knowledge of human persons, their self-understanding, their natural environment, their commerce and trade, their cultures and religions, so that in our shared society on this globe, you may proactively be advocates of the common weal, the common good. Here, in the realm of social justice, you cannot be blind, and social justice must not be blindfolded. You must be knowledgeable and wide-eyed, competent and crafty, and so contribute to the laws that will advance human society – the overall quality of human living, the happy manner in which we are to live together with dignity, work together with fruitfulness, create together with astonishment, and be grateful together in God whose love is the source of all justice. For this no clients can pay. For this, your principal is your God.
In short, as lawyers, throughout your lives seek wisdom. Seek Wisdom. Seek its discipline actively. Do not think it comes automatically. In the half century before the coming of Christ there was a counselor of rulers whose main message was this. Seek wisdom. He wrote one of the late books of the old Testament, in which he also calls you to Wisdom. His description is of Wisdom personified:
“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
“She hastens to make herself known
in anticipation of human desires;
He who watches her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting at his gate.
For taking thought of her is the perfection of prudence,
And he who for her sake keeps vigil
Shall quickly be free from care;
“Because she makes her own rounds
Seeking those worthy of her,
And graciously appears to them in the biways,
And meets them with all solicitude.
“For the first step towards discipline is
a very earnest desire for her;
Then, care for discipline is love of her;
love means keeping of her laws;
“To observe her law is the basis of incorruptibility,
and incorruptibility makes one close to God; …
“Honor wisdom that you may reign forever”(Wis. 6:12-25).
Congratulations, Ateneo de Davao lawyers! May this mean you are lawyers of competence, lawyers of integrity, lawyers of faith, advocates not only of commutative justice, but of also of distributive and social justice. Unto this end of justice, may you be lawyers of wisdom, who recognize that Wisdom is God, as Love is God, as Law is God.
May you be proud and humble in God’s service!