Rule of Law as the King

By: Violeta M. Najarro, Jr.

San Beda College Alabang College of Law

Executive Summary

 

     Each of us can choose what to like and unlike. We have the option to see things as moral or immoral, good or bad. Thanks to the rule of law, anybody has the free will of what he wants to do or not.

     Basically, the rule of law tells us when our actions may be punishable. It draws the line and lets us know our boundaries. Thus, we must have ready access to it. Laws must be made known to us before it can be implemented. If we can’t find or predict the law, our acts will be limited because no one will gamble doing anything which might be illegal. This is why we have a requirement of publication under the Civil Code. The rule of law means equality before the law. The Law is the King, and no one is above it. Each one of us is subject to it. It should always be for the best interest of the common good.

     Passing along Metro Manila, we see buildings, billboards, hotels, motels and even night clubs. Entering a store, we see a variety of goods, from liquors to cigarettes, and magazines to videotapes, we see all these and their different classes. Interestingly, though some may find these things unhealthy, unpleasant, or even sinful, these things still stand legally because of rule of law.

     Thanks to the rule of law, we have the liberty to move and act without unnecessary restraint. I believe that it is only with maximum liberty that a person can truly attain prosperity. Liberty and prosperity are inseparable. For it is only with liberty that a man can utilize his human experience. But we should keep in mind that our liberty is limited by the same liberty exercised by others. Liberty is achieved when the rule of law is equally applicable to all people. As Lord Acton said, Liberty is the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and custom and opinion. For this reason, he declared that the securing of liberty “is the highest political end”.

     This leaves us the duty of protecting liberty and prosperity under the rule of law. This is not an easy task for we are faced with different challenges. This is why whenever there are threats to our freedom, we instantly object and criticize. Relatively, seeing the news today, we see people expressing their opinions. They may support or criticize any public official. They may write articles, assemble in Luneta, or even rally in front of Malacañang. They can do all of these without being punished, because the law allows them to do so.

     Although now, maybe there is nothing much I can do, I believe it is important to engage in intelligent discussions about this. It is always exciting to interact with experienced people themselves. I remember when I was taking Constitutional Law II during my first year in law school. My professor was the lawyer of a well-known accused then. I saw the fury of most people for “defending” a “criminal”. Back then, I couldn’t understand why he had to be the lawyer for such person. But while we were on the topic of due process, he told us how we was able to acquit a drug pusher. He was not proud of it, for he knew his client was guilty, but the explained that the police officers spent and replaced the marked money, causing the mismatch of the serial numbers on record.  Applying due process, his client was acquitted. I then understood the concept of rule of law, that it applies to everyone, even to the evilest of all.

     As I study the law deeper, I am seeing the connection of the subjects to one another and the more I appreciate studying it. I know that I have a lot more to learn but this doesn’t stop me from giving importance to the rule of law. I may still be a student, trying my very best to pass each subject I take, but I am not just a student. Above all, I am a citizen, freely exercising and enjoying this liberty that was granted to us by law and the prosperity that comes with it, and I know that I have the duty to protect it in any way I can.

 


          Each one of us can choose what to like and unlike. We all have the choice to see things as moral or immoral, good or bad. Thanks to the rule of law, anybody has the choice of what he wants and what he does not.

          Basically, the rule of law tells us when our actions may be considered punishable. The rule of law gives us the draw line of where things become illegal. This way, we all know our limitations. We all know our boundaries. We have an idea where to stop and we have the choice if we really want to get into that trouble.

          By this, it follows that each of us must have ready access to the law. Laws must be made known and available to the people before it can be implemented. This way, we know what can and cannot be done. If we can’t find or predict the law, then our acts will be limited as to what we think is legal because we will not gamble doing something which might be illegal. We may not even engage in contracts because we do not know the law. It cannot be considered a rule if it is unknown. This is why there is the specific requirement of publication provided by the Civil Code before a law may take effect. This is basically, due process and part of which is that laws must apply prospectively and never retroactively. Thanks to the rule of law, each of us are protected from the dangers of the strong power of the State.

          The rule of law means equality before the law. The Law is the King and no one is above it. Each one of us is subject to the rule of law. However, the law cannot control everything because if that is the case, then the law should be able to provide for all conditions existing and conditions yet to come. It must contain all the details and circumstances of implementation which is, clearly, impossible to fulfill. For we know that by its nature, at the time of the creation of a law, there are future events yet unknown. At the time a law leaves the legislature, it has little spaces for implementation which shall be later provided by administrative agencies. Moreover, if laws are so voluminous or so incoherent, then it cannot be understood by the people, especially the common people, whom the law is trying to protect. These are the limitations on our law makers. The law must be clear of ambiguities, publicized, stable, non-contradictory, accessible, and must not be impossible to adhere to. It should always be for the best interest of the greatest number of people, of the common good, and not only for the special interest of specific individuals.

          As we drive and pass along the streets of even just Metro Manila, we see a number of people and things. We see buildings of great height, billboards of various types, some may even be of mature content, hotels, motels and even night clubs. We see ordinary people, businessmen and even beggars roaming around the streets and knocking on our car’s windows, selling different items. As we enter into a store, we see different classes of goods. From liquors to cigarettes, and magazines to videotapes, we see all these, and their different classes. Interestingly, even though a number of us may find some of these things unhealthy, unpleasant, or even sinful, these things still stand legally because of rule of law, because the law allows it to do so.

          Thanks to the rule of law, we have the liberty to move and to act without unnecessary restraint. Liberty gives us the choice, to choose or not to choose at all. I believe that it is only with maximum liberty that a person can truly attain prosperity. Liberty and prosperity are inseparable. For it is only with liberty that a man can exercise and utilize his human experience. With liberty, the choices are laid in front of him and it is up to him to choose what he thinks will benefit him. With liberty, a person can live up to his full potential and be the greatest he can be. Thanks to the rule of law, a person has the freedom to make use of his life, liberty, and property as he deems fit and for all the purposes he may have. But we should keep in mind that our liberty is limited by the same liberty possessed and exercised by all the other individuals of our society. Liberty is achieved when the rule of law is equally applicable to each individual in society. As Lord Acton said, liberty is the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and custom, and opinion. For this reason, he declared that the securing of liberty “is the highest political end”.

          This leaves us the duty of protecting liberty and prosperity under the rule of law. We all know that this is not an easy task. More often than not, we are faced with difficult situations and challenged by different circumstances. We do not want to lose this liberty because we want to achieve such prosperity that comes with it. This is why whenever there are threats to our freedom, we are fast to object and criticize. Relatively, today, as we watch the news and read the newspapers, or even as we log in to our social media accounts, we see variety of people voicing out and expressing their different opinions. Some even exchange words to convince each other to see their side. They may be for or against the actions of the government. They may support or criticize any and all public officials of their liking,  including the highest officer of the land. They may do these through writing different articles, assembling in Luneta, or even rallying in front of Malacañang. They can do all of these with liberty, without being punished, because that is the essence of rule of law. The law allows them to.

          Although now, maybe there is nothing much I can do, I believe that it is important to engage in active and intelligent discussions about this, to learn more of its significance and impact to the society. We always learn a piece or two by discussing with other people. It is important to share our ideas to those whose ears and minds are open and at the same time, to open our ears and minds to those who share theirs. Although we can also earn ideas and knowledge from the books, it is much more exciting to listen and interact to experienced people themselves. I remember when I was taking Constitutional Law 2 during my first year in the School of Law. My professor then, was the lawyer of a well-known accused that time. I would always see in the comment sections of news articles, the fury of most people at my professor for “defending” a “criminal”. Back then, I, too, couldn’t understand why he had to be lawyer for such person. But while discussing the topic of due process, he once told us a story of how we was able acquit a drug pusher. He was not proud of it, but he cannot do anything about it because it was his job to ensure that the law applies accordingly. He knew his client deserved to be convicted but he explained that it was not his fault if the arresting officers spent the marked money and replaced it, causing the mismatch of the serial numbers of the marked money on record and that which was presented in court.  He knew that his client was guilty but because he had to apply the rule of law, the accused was acquitted. It was then that I understood and appreciated the rule of law. That it applies to each one of us, even to the evilest of all. The more I wanted to become a lawyer.

          Last summer, during my short stint as one of the Legal Interns at the Office of the Solicitor General, I was exposed to the reality that it is so easy to be consumed by the spoiled system. That because of the large workload, it is tempting to see each case as just another case, and an addition to the pile of so many cases pending therein. I was tasked to make drafts of Appellee’s briefs, mostly for drug cases. My supervising lawyer taught me that if I that think the prosecutor is wrong, then I don’t have to agree with him. He told me that he had, on many times in the past, reversed the findings of a prosecutor and acquitted several accused when he deemed fit. He emphasized that I should never forget that the primary goal is not always the conviction of the accused but the primacy and administration of justice.

          These are just some of the many situations that made me a fan of learning from other people sharing lessons from their actual experiences. I appreciate listening to my professor’s stories and encouragements, I enjoy listening to different speakers’ speeches whenever I have the opportunity. I gain inspiration from them and their stories always make me wonder what I would have done and what I will do if I will be put in those situations. Will I do the right thing? Is the right thing for me really the right thing? The questions that come to my mind. I aspire to be able to share my own experiences and learnings, too, in the future. This is also one of the reasons I applied for this scholarship. Because I know that for now, my knowledge is still limited. Mostly from the books and from the four corners of the classrooms. I want to deepen my understanding. With many issues our government is facing, I want to be enlightened and not be limited by the insufficient knowledge that I have. I know that if I will be blessed to be one of the awardee, I will be able to fully appreciate and learn liberty and prosperity with greater depth with the help of the foundation. So that in time, it will be my turn to enlighten others in return. For now, as soon as I acquire my third year completion, I will join the Legal Aid Center in our school to have more exposure in the application of law.

          As soon as I become part of the legal profession, I want to, and I will, give back to the society. I hope to become someone who will be of service to other people. My goal is to serve and not be served, to give and not to receive. I aspire to be part of different conferences and forums and be able to contribute fully and meaningfully to the discussions with other professionals as well. So that later on, I will be able to impart what I learned to the ordinary people, in simplified terms, the importance of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law.

           As I study the law deeper, and longer in time, each and every subject makes more sense to me. Little by little, I see the connection of the subjects to one another and the more I appreciate the study of law. I know that I have a lot more to learn and God knows I am not even halfway there but this fact doesn’t stop me from knowing the importance of the rule of law. I may still be a student, trying my very best to pass each subject I take, but I am not just a student of law. Above all, I am a citizen, freely exercising and enjoying this liberty that was granted to us by law and the prosperity that comes with it, and I know that I have the duty to protect it in any way I can.