EDITORIAL

Batch 2016 and the law

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LAWYERS in the Philippines are an entitled breed.

They dictate the “acceptance fee” for a case; the more heinous the crime, the higher their charges go.

“Attorneys,” as these Bar passers are reverently addressed by Filipinos, can exact the acceptance fee they want because the legal profession in this country is unregulated.

So is the medical profession, where doctors, also deferentially addressed as “Doc,” can collect the “consultation fee” that they think their astronomically expensive education deserves.


There was, after all, auditing wisdom in a former revenue official proposing to tax the professional services of “attorneys” and obstetricians.

Meanwhile, wonder no more if even the notary public holding office in a cubbyhole or the general practitioner seeing patients in a passably clean clinic rides a flashy car or sends his children to exclusive schools.

Of course, there are the rare doctors to the barrios and the public lawyers (pro bono) and some of their private counterparts whose legal services can be had for a song, literally.

But it is a big gamble and sacrifice for them–they could end up dead in the hands of soldiers or rebels, or could be taken to court by the ubiquitous politician whose ego the small-town lawyer supposedly slighted.

With the threat of the death penalty hanging over the heads of criminals, expect acceptance fees to hit the ceiling because, after all, these wrongdoers would probably value their necks more than the arm and the leg they have to part with to pay their lawyers.

When a few, for example, from the recent batch of lawyers produced by the 2016 Bar examinations make it to judge in some trial court, don’t be surprised if they parlay their entitlement into power over life and death of their clients.

In a court of law where you are facing a libel case, for instance, the judge is God, such that if he does not like your tone of voice in answering his question, you risk being booked for contempt and thrown in jail.

Believe us, you would not know what hit you until the judge “mercifully” orders his subalterns to free you.

Many of the those accused before a court of law are not represented by legal counsel, making the appearance especially of poor litigants before a judge nothing more than a show that the criminal justice system puts on in the Philippines.

Throw in the fact that the judge appears to determine your guilt or innocence depending on the kind of shirt you are wearing or the language you speak.

Note that in the Philippines, the courts for the most part conduct their business in English, compounding the woes of the cargador, already lawyer-less, facing homicide charges, but not the highly educated big businessman dressed to the nines trying to set aside a slander indictment.

Malacañang on Thursday, the same day the results of last year’s Bar examinations were released, invited the new lawyers to join public service.

“We pray that many of the successful examinees would pursue a career in government and join us in building a progressive nation with a trustworthy government run by young people full of idealism, integrity and excellence,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

We would not blame the new lawyers if they took a raincheck from Abella.

Duterte himself said he was getting P130,000 a month as President of the Philippines.

Why, that could even be lower than the acceptance fee of your ordinary, relatively experienced lawyer!

Still, we join the Duterte administration in challenging Batch 2016 to give the government, this government, a try, mainly on the President’s vow that his presidency will be clean.

Anyway, very few of them would need 10 cars to get to their places of work.

Besides, there should be psychic income from the thought that the batch would help unclog the courts.

There is a reason why Lady Justice chose to be blindfolded: She would not like to see all the wrong reasons for her existence.

So many lawyers, yet so slow, and sometimes elusive, justice.

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