• Post Category:Essays

By: Kaycelle Anne M. Castillo

Far Eastern University Institute of Law

Executive Summary

 When I landed a position in one of the top accounting firms in the country, my success already crossed my mind. This bubble of mine was popped earlier than expected. There are piles of work to do, stricter rules, bosses that can strip you off your freedom and time, and biases that can hinder one aspect or another of how you conduct your daily business.

     When I got myself exposed to these, the most important lesson I learned is how the concept of freedom of directing your life economically should not be confined with one’s self. Liberty and prosperity is best viewed when applied to the whole of society – that is, not to one man alone, but to the whole island instead.

     In a free society, liberty is five freedoms for each individual: (1) freedom to come and go, (2) equality and justice before the law, (3) security of property, (4) freedom of speech, and (5) freedom of conscience. There are many other names for these five individual freedoms—freedom of the press, freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of religion, freedom of association, right of habeas corpus, right of assembly, right of jury trial, etc.1 There is so much freedom in the world, not just the limited concept of freedom I thought I already enjoyed.

     As I progressed with what I believed was my “career”, I realized that it was not as easy as 1, 2, 3. There are fixed constants, which are beyond my control. There are various variables that are not easy to manipulate. What remained with me was one powerful variable: what was in me, myself, which I can improve further?

     I was exposed to lawyers who have different degrees of standing in the business world. I personally met lawyers who have different personal goals and advocacies as a lawyer. So I got curious, but unsure. Will study of the law advance any standing I currently have with regard to my personal liberty and prosperity? How about with how I would affect the liberty and prosperity of my community? Of my country?

     But I knew I had to understand things deeper. I should go further to the core and the spirit of the laws I study. I was fortunate enough to have a professor in the early stage of my study of the law, who impressed in us how we should understand the rule of law. In the process, I learned, although belatedly, that the rule of law, at its core, requires that government officials and citizens are bound by and act consistent with the law.

     It goes without saying that the rule of law is not conclusive upon the mere existence of the law. The laws should be put in place, respected and upheld, both by the government that makes, executes, and interprets them; and by the people who are sought to be protected by them.

     It is the core judicial philosophy of retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban that jurists and lawyers should not only safeguard the liberty of the country’s people but must also nurture their prosperity under the rule of law. This goes to show that in applying the laws to the conduct of life in general, and of business in particular, of the people, it is indispensable that the liberty and prosperity of people – individually and as a whole – gets altered. And in so altering, the bench and the bar get to have bits of the power to do so. The legal system, with some elbow rooms, gets to shape these freedom and economic advancement of people.

     Hence, I enclose my role for now in a vision: I will be the Superman and Bill Gates in my own right. I do not see myself as the Superman who will be the Champion of the Oppressed using my physical strength; nor do I see myself living a Bill Gates philanthropic kind of life-extending billions to people for help. Rather, the vision is to help more people attain autonomy of living a victorious and prosperous life under the rule of law.

 


“Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. No one can stand aside with unconcern: the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.”

– Ludwig von Mises, Austrian School economist

I was a kid of the 90’s, and a considerable chunk of my growing up was spent watching television series with my mother. Although at the time it might not be appropriate yet at my age, one particular series I used to watch with her is the show Kapag Nasa Katwiran, Ipaglaban Mo!, which portrays real-life cases. At the time, what sticks to me are the cases of murder or homicide, and rape, where victims and suspects alike come from the impoverished or the least well-off sectors of the society. The show also instilled in me at a young age the symbol of the scales of justice, which at that age, my mother explained to me to mean that: in law, everyone is on equal footing; supposedly, it does not matter whether you are rich or poor. It did not mean much to me at the time; I don’t care why the symbol has to be that way. I was neither conscious of our status in the community, nor was I interested, even at the slightest, to pursue the study of law. I was selfishly content that the stories I watched happened to other people and not to our family. I was least concerned how the law and the scales of justice could affect my life and my freedom as a person to live the life that I believe I deserve. I was not conscious that I would be a Superman and Bill Gates in the making.

My personal taste and distaste of liberty and prosperity

I was lucky enough to be accommodated in a private school from my preparatory to secondary school. I was also blessed to be sent to a university in the metropolitan when I entered college. Living alone, I experienced the teenage freedom of being away from my parents, from being out of the bounds of curfew, of strict home rules, and stringent study times. I also felt a little well-off, being able to study in a prestigious university, along with other really well-off students at that. I developed circle of friends, within which I share and exchange ideas and opinions, and within which, unconsciously, I was able to exercise how I express my views, and how I justify those views. I felt free and proud – I was living my college life according to my own rules. I was going to study well, finish college, become a Certified Public Accountant – be a good one – and live a successful life down the road.

          I came to a crucial realization point in my life when I entered the business world. I thought I was successful for having landed a position in the top accounting firm in the country at the time. But my bubble was popped earlier than expected. There are piles of work to do, stricter rules, bosses that can strip you off your freedom and time, and most unfortunately, there are biases that can hinder one aspect or another of how you conduct your daily business. You face all of these everyday and you get paid a meager amount of money.

But there’s a bigger picture

          When I got myself exposed to these, the most important lesson I learned is how the concept of freedom of directing your life economically should not be confined with one’s self. Liberty and prosperity is best viewed when applied to the whole of society – that is, not to one man alone, but to the whole island instead. Right, there is a bigger picture of liberty and prosperity.

In a free society, liberty is five freedoms for each individual: (1) freedom to come and go, (2) equality and justice before the law, (3) security of property, (4) freedom of speech, and (5) freedom of conscience. There are many other names for these five individual freedoms—freedom of the press, freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of religion, freedom of association, right of habeas corpus, right of assembly, right of jury trial, etc.[1] There is so much freedom in the world, not just the limited concept of freedom I thought I already enjoyed.

Prosperity on another hand is not limited to what I thought was living successfully – or the study-hard-get-a-job-become-rich mindframe.  To attain individual success is not restricted with an individual’s effort. There are a vast of other factors – the national economy, the risk appetite of investment sectors, the ability of the private sectors to provide job opportunities, the purchasing power of money in light of existing economic conditions – that could make or break what one thought is his or her individual success. Put the other way around, I myself, although a sole individual – contributes to the factors of how prosperous other individuals, or how the society as a whole could attain.

 

What has law got to do with these? 

          As I progressed with what I believed was my “career”, I realized that it was not as easy as 1, 2, 3. There are fixed constants, which are beyond my control. There are various variables that are not easy to manipulate. What remained with me was one powerful variable: what was in me, myself, which I can improve further?

I was exposed to lawyers who have different degrees of standing in the business world. I heard from news lawyers who gain dissimilar levels of respect from the society. I knew personally lawyers who have different personal goals and advocacies as a lawyer. So I got curious, but unsure. Will study of the law advance any standing I currently have with regard to my personal liberty and prosperity? How about with how I would affect the liberty and prosperity of my community? Of my country?

 

How I stumbled upon the rule of law

           If asked about the top-of-mind importance to me of studying law, my answer would be: it teaches and reminds me everyday that no action of any individual can be done at his most whimsical, opportune way. There has got to be a limit always. I sell, I get taxed. I do not report all my sales, I get penalized. I cross the island barriers of Gil Puyat Avenue, I get charged of jaywalking. One person dies, the family mourns, but pays the tax and divides the properties, anyway. One person get killed, one person get arrested. The person get arrested was killed, the situation gets flipped – his family now seeks justice. Almost at every turn of events, at every man’s action, there would be a law that will narrow how further the events will turn out. And this is how I initially comprehended the rule of law – people’s actions are ruled by laws. Period.

But I had to understand things deeper. I should go further to the core and the spirit of the laws I study. I was fortunate enough to have a professor in the early stage of my study of the law, who impressed in us how we should understand the rule of law. In the process, I learned, although belatedly, that the rule of law, at its core, requires that government officials and citizens are bound by and act consistent with the law.[2] There is a reliable expectation about surrounding conduct[3] because of the existence of the laws in place, which are supposed to govern people’s actions. The presence of the rule of law hinges upon the presence of three elements[4]:

widely-shared orientation within society (among citizens and government officials) that the law does rule and should rule.

presence of an institutionalized, independent judiciary.

existence of a robust legal profession and legal tradition committed to upholding the rule of law.

 

It goes without saying that the rule of law is not conclusive upon the mere existence of the law. The laws should be put in place, respected and upheld, both by the government that makes, executes, and interprets them; and by the people who are sought to be protected by them. And at the center of these are the sentinels of the law: the lawyers of the bench and the bar – the lawyers who either serve as justices and judges of the judiciary system, and the lawyers who represents the people before the bench.

 

How the rule of law intersects with liberty and prosperity

It is the core judicial philosophy of retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban that jurists and lawyers should not only safeguard the liberty of the country’s people but must also nurture their prosperity under the rule of law. To him, justice and jobs; freedom and food; ethics and economics; democracy and development; nay, liberty and prosperity must always go together; one is useless without the other. The attainment of this dual goal involves an understanding of the intertwining relationship of law and business; and of regulation and entrepreneurship.[5]

This goes to show that in applying the laws to the conduct of life in general, and of business in particular, of the people, it is indispensable that the liberty and prosperity of people – individually and as a whole – gets altered. And in so altering, the bench and the bar get to have bits of the power to do so. The legal system, with some elbow rooms, gets to shape these freedom and economic advancement of people. The bar and ultimately, the bench, with limited judicial freedom, get to tilt the scales of justice. And I have learned that in each case, how the scales of justice is tilted determines the immediate, if not the lasting fate, of the people involved.

In terms of liberty, history would tell us that in the case of Ferdinand Marcos, the Supreme Court upheld the power of the President to deny his return to the country in light of national security[6]. In terms of economy, while the Disbursement Acceleration Program under the past administration was a program designed to promote economic growth, such was struck down because of violation of the Constitution[7]. There are numerous other instances that can run on the list of how liberty, prosperity, and the rule of law, are so intertwined, that in each case, every surrounding circumstance must be weighed to arrive at the most effective and efficient decisions. It is my inference then that all efforts can be in vain if there is no good justice system to promote the rule of law.

 

How do I place myself in the picture

          I now place upon myself, as a student of law aiming to enter the legal profession, the duty to carry upon my shoulder a share of the burden of the society as Ludwig von Mises had said. I shall do so in light of how events currently turn out. I ask myself these questions: Is there disarray between the government and the citizens? Do the public have doubts in the members of the Congress who are supposed to craft the laws? Do the nation cast doubt upon the supposed impartiality of the judiciary? Do the people impute corruption in the government in general? Do they really see the useless role of some government institutions? Is the country’s democracy already fragile? Will there be continuous economic reform?

          How do I – a small dot in the whole system – get into the picture?

          I shall resolve this question through establishing how important the life of a lawyer is:

          “Lawyers are expected to abide by the tenets of morality, not only upon admission to the Bar but also throughout their legal career, in order to maintain one’s good standing in that exclusive and honored fraternity. Good moral character is more than just the absence of bad character. Such character expresses itself in the will to do the unpleasant thing if it is right and the resolve not to do the pleasant thing if it is wrong. This must be so because ‘vast interests are committed to his care; he is the recipient of unbounded trust and confidence; he deals with his client’s property, reputation, his life, his all.[8]

So what do I become? I would be a lawyer who will be entrusted with the role of being an officer of the justice system, an officer of the law, and advocate of my government’s or my people’s powers and rights. By the time I become a lawyer, I am not sure what the status of our country be. But what should remain is the aim to be a barricade of injustice. Little as my contribution would be, I need to seriously take my part of the burden of revamping the justice system – to remove as far as possible every bias, to erase stereotypes, to stand firm against appeal to emotions.

How else will I be better prepared for my role? I need to be strongly and well educated. I need to take advantage of the legal education that is afforded to me by the combination of my salary, my allowance from parents and my scholarship grant. The opportunity to attain legal education is unfortunately not available to all, that I should not waste this. During the course of my legal education, I should prepare myself on how I would weigh between the legal ideals and practical considerations when I finally exercise my profession. I will prepare myself, through whatever little decisions I make now, to be the lawyer who will not abuse the use of the law to my unfair advantage at the expense of those who are less privileged.

I know by now that liberty is so powerful. Liberty is not confined in freedom per se. Liberty is so broad that it can extend to one’s autonomy, equally with others in the society, to attain success; that when I become a lawyer, I would not let the words of my oath be in vain. I would put my oath in practice. I would not use the legal profession to rob freedom and prosperity from people.

Hence, I enclose my role for now in a vision: I will be the Superman and Bill Gates in my own right. I do not see myself as the Superman who will be the Champion of the Oppressed using my physical strength; nor do I see myself living a Bill Gates philanthropic kind of life extending billions to people for help. Rather, the vision is to help more people attain autonomy of living a victorious and prosperous life under the rule of law.

[1] Brown, Wenddell, “Defining Liberty: An Analysis of Its Three Elements”, July 1 1965, available at https://fee.org/articles/defining-liberty-an-analysis-of-its-three-elements/ [Last accessed September 23, 2016].

[2] Tamanaha, Brian, “A Concise Guide to the Rule of Law”, September 2007.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Mission and Vission” of Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity, available at https://libpros.com/ [Last accessed September 24, 2016].

[6] Marcos vs. Manglapus, G.R. No. 88211, September 15, 1989.

[7] Araullo et. al. vs. Aquino et. al., G.R. No. 209287, July 1, 2014.

[8] Cordon vs. Balicanta, 439 Phil 95, October 4, 2002.