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Fight impunity, 2019 Bar takers told

MANILA, Philippines – Future lawyers taking the 2019 Bar Examinations beginning Sunday, November 3, must be "keenly aware" of impunity in the country and fight it for the people, said the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL).

The NUPL said in a statement Sunday that the duty to be defenders of justice "is all the more relevant today."

"The nation is confronted with so much impunity: extrajudicial killings, intensifying tyranny, sell out of our sovereignty and worsening economic conditions for the people," said NUPL.

It added: "As future lawyers, you must be keenly aware of our nation’s plight because this impunity continuously attempts to crush our very sense of justice which we swear to protect and uphold."

Checks and balances

NUPL president Edre Olalia said in an earlier Rappler Talk interview that the biggest threat to the rule of law is "abuse of power, no check, and impunity" under President Rodrigo Duterte.

"It's the slow, gradual, but certain concentration of power on, if not one man, on one branch of government, the executive, 'yun ang nakakatakot (that's what's scary) because the abuse of authority is the prescription to an authoritarian society," said Olalia.

Olalia cited the quo warranto ouster of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as the one that "rocked the boat" for lawyers. It is also a narrow 8-6 decision by the Supreme Court that was widely slammed, even by the Court's own dissenters, as unconstitutional.

"If they can do that to somebody as high up there in the political hierarchy as the chief justice, because she was critical of the drug war and the martial law, then nobody is really insulated or safe, because you can throw the whole governmental machinery and manpower on somebody to really run after critics," said Olalia.


In 2019 alone, dissenters of the Court called the High Court decision upholding the 3rd extension of martial law in Mindanao as "the Court’s seeming abdication of its duty," and the affirmation of closure of Boracay island as "realization of a tyrant."

It is in the face of these supposed threats to fundamental law that the 2006 group Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL) revived itself in late 2019, and encouraged young lawyers and even law students to join the cause.

"After this year’s bar examinations, we urge you to join the ranks of peoples’ lawyers and human rights defenders. Because the law profession can only be truly noble if dedicated to the struggle of the people," said the NUPL.

'Rise to the challenge'

In a message to the 8,245 Bar candidates, Malacañang said: "This is your moment, rise to the challenge."

"We offer our sincere prayers to our legal aspirants who toiled day and night poring over their law books, court decisions, and jurisprudence in preparation for this life-changing moment," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. 

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta was with the 2019 Bar Chairman, Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe, in greeting the Bar takers Sunday morning at the University of Santo Tomas. Peralta and Bernabe were joined by Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Benjamin Caguioa and Jose Reyes Jr.

"They are all hoping that many will be able to pass the Bar Exams because we need more lawyers in the country," said Supreme Court Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.