Why lawyers will always be prominently necessary in the Philippines


Congratulations are in order, of course, for those who passed the recently concluded Philippine Bar exams. This year’s passing rate is about 59%, apparently the highest in the last five years or so. This year’s Top 10 list of Bar examinees has attracted a bit of attention, as none among the prominent universities in Metro Manila (i.e., Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas) has any examinee in it.

And what was the reaction from some netizens?

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“Maybe the standards are getting lower.”
“Maybe there was leakage in the exam questions.”
“I didn’t know provincial schools could do so well.”
I didn’t know such a school like that existed.

But I digress…

Based on its website, the mission and objectives of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines are the following:

SEC. 2. Objectives and Purposes. – The following are the general objectives of the Integrated Bar: to elevate the standards of the legal profession, improve the administration of justice, and enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility more effectively. The purposes of the Integrated Bar include, without being limited to, those specified in the per curiam Resolution of the Supreme Court dated January 9, 1973 ordaining the integration of the Philippine Bar, to wit:
1. Assist in the administration of justice;
2. Foster and maintain on the part of its members high ideals of integrity, learning, professional competence, public service and conduct;
3. Safeguard the professional interest of its members;
4. Cultivate among its members a spirit of cordiality and brotherhood;
5. Provide a forum for the discussion of law, jurisprudence, law reform, pleading, practice and procedure, and the relations of the Bar to the Bench and to the public, and publish information relating thereto;
6. Encourage and foster legal education; and
7. Promote a continuing program of legal research in substantive and adjective law, and make reports and recommendations thereon.

How does that work out, however, in the reality that is the Philippines?

Associate Judge Presbitero Velasco’s message to 2016 Bar exam passers was, “lawyering is not a business.” But don’t lawyers, at their core, make a living out of milking other people for what they’re worth? Hint: next time you commission the services of an attorney here, take a good hard look at all the things you’re going to be billed for.

One question has always come to mind regarding the legal profession in the Philippines:

If there are so many lawyers in the Philippines, how come there are still so many Filipinos who aren’t law-abiding?

Lawyers and the legal profession are necessary in any country; the Philippines is no exception. But they don’t seem necessary here in the Philippines in the way we would conventionally think.

While the legal profession remains necessary for upholding the law, and for actually updating our body of laws, lawyers will always be prominently necessary in the Philippines, where laws are convoluted, and people like to argue their way (magpalusot) out of trouble.

The legal profession likes to say that, “ignorance of the law excuses no one.” But ignorance is a catch-all excuse in Filipino society. Your average Filipino citizen can’t be bothered to read, much less read up on his basic rights under the law.

Even if, for some miraculous reason, Filipinos become more curious about the law and their rights, there will always be a class of people who will discourage such discussion. Instead of focusing on the goal to enlighten more people, this class of people uses its “knowledge” to further entrench its exclusivity.

Di niyo alam pinagsasabi niyo. (You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.)
“I have a degree. What do you have?”
“Who are you to say such things?!?!”

Filipinos can actually make their lives much simpler, and much more comfortable if they strove for a more open, more fair society which follows the rule of law. And yet they have preferred to make their lives so convoluted and so complicated.

7 Replies to “Why lawyers will always be prominently necessary in the Philippines”

  1. Congratulation to all new members to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines…

    Universities and schools are now in Provinces. You don’t have to go to Metro Manila, to get a degree. So, bright students from the Provinces study in the universities and colleges in their own Provinces…

    Some bright teachers and professors, may have moved to their own Provinces to teach in these universities and colleges. Standard of living in Metro Manila is high; plus you have to face the heavy traffic in going to work.

    While in Provinces, you just ride in a tricycle or jeep…mostly no traffic. Same pay , if you work in Metro Manila…

    The Standard of these colleges and universities in Metro Manila; may indeed have gone down. Because the teachers and professors; decided to stay in their home provinces !

  2. FallenAngel: keep it coming. On the mark as usual.

    Lawyers are indispensable in the Philippines because their purpose in life is to make themselves indispensable. As you said, the Law is a shambles. 80% of it is pointless, illogical, and self-defeating, while 90% of it goes unenforced. I would go so far as to say that the Philippines looks like it does BECAUSE OF the Law. There’s also a vast body of – what is it? – made-up nonsense issued by local governments, tax authorities, and the like, which can be enforced outside of the Law at the whim of whoever wrote it.

    Filipino Lawyers, in my experience, are frauds. They have no interest in doing the simplest things – such as writing contracts – and charge money mostly for putting their signatures on things, as if a Lawyer’s signature is some sort of magic fairy-dust that makes everything “legal”. Funny thing is, most people accept that that’s exactly what it is.

    Same with many other so-called “professionals” such as Engineers and Accountants.

    If the Law were written to make life simple for the ordinary man in the street, with clear, logical statues and procedures, life would be immeasurably better, and people would be far less likely to go crying to the lawyer’s whenever there’s a problem. Most people don’t realise the Lawyer can’t fix things anyway: no point appealing to the Law to fix your title dispute because the country doesn’t actually have a titling system (like most things here, it has the right superficial appearance but lacks the critical features that ought to make it work, like a car with the fuel tank missing).

    But the Law will never be fixed, of course: that would put too many important people out of work, or force them to actually do something useful for a living.

    1. “In Japan there are very few lawyers and the codes are mostly unwritten, but they are binding, nonetheless.“
      – Greg Sheridan, Asian Values Western Dreams

  3. A conversation with a taxi driver, (who is probably a professional, moonlighting):
    Libo libo na ang abogado dito sa bansa tuwing taon. Saan po sila napupunta? saan sila nag tratrabaho? ganun po ba ka-in demand ang abogado? dapat po i-regulate na ang kursong yan. Kasi po, ang mga inhinyero, nars, doktor, kumadrona, maestra at iba pa ay pwede pong mamasukan sa ibang bansa na nangangailangan ng kanilang eksperto. habang ang abogado po, di po pupwedeng dalhin sa ibang bansa para maging abogado rin. Tama po kayo na merong mangilan ilan na kumukuha ng international law pero pagkakatiwalaan ba sila ng ibang bansa gaya ng japan? amerika? russia? china? Tama po si Senadora Miriam. E ang mga inhinyero po halimbawa, pagka graduate kahit di lisensyado, pede ng mag saudi. Mey tama po ba ang taxi driver?

  4. @Allab: LOL. It’s true, Filipino lawyers would be unemployable in any other country, and they have to make (fake) work for themselves even in the Philippines.

  5. The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from themselves the violence they do to each other. Failipinos in the Failippines were not designed rationally, but are products of a convoluted history.

  6. Ultimately, the role of lawyers is to aid in settling legal disputes. That’s their usefulness to society; that’s what it ultimately boils down to. If disputes can be solved quickly, as litigants typically prefer, all the better.

    It’s too bad that there’s too much financial incentive to prolong litigation. Couple that with the slowness of the overworked judiciary and it’s no surprise lawyers get a bad rap.

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