By Farah G. Decano
SINCE three weeks ago, the 2019 bar passers have started taking the final step in becoming full-fledged lawyers by signing the roll of attorneys. To be enlisted in this roll is a remarkable privilege reserved only for the few who were able to successfully hurdle what is touted as the toughest civil service examination in the country. With this last stride of affixing one’s signature in the huge logbook of attorneys, finally, one can have the right to append the title “ATTY.” to one’s name.
Attorney. To utter this title before one’s complete name is like music to the ears of the new lawyers, their parents, guardians, spouse, and all those who love them. It puts an end to the agonizing days and nights of studying, reading, and digesting cases. The money spent for tuition fees, books, photocopying, and drink-the-stress-away sessions become worth every centavo. Being called an attorney is a badge of privilege which bestows upon the holder the immediate impression of intelligence. How many of us have witnessed instances when people submit to the observation and decision of lawyers just because they are the so-called experts of the law? On the lighter side, being a lawyer is also like wearing a magic cloak which transforms the unattractive into a beautiful charmer. How many of us have heard of real stories about some bar passers, who, despite their moon-cratered and pimple-ridden faces or breath that smells like poop are suddenly sought after by the people who initially rejected them?
Attached, however, to these society-given privileges of lawyers are numerous responsibilities to society, the courts, the clients, and fellow lawyers as enumerated in the Code of Professional Responsibility. In a nutshell, all lawyers must always adhere to what is true and just. The title “ATTY.” must not be misused to put one over the other or a tool for quick-get-rich schemes. There is nothing to admire about lawyers who rake in millions through their practice when all they do is to enrich themselves; be slaves to the wealthy and powerful; and, worse, be glamorized facilitators of bribery and illegal activities. These attorneys have mastered, not the law and justice, but the tricks of the trade. By being experts of guiles, these lawyers have abandoned their solemn oath to be respectable officers of the court. They have become merely court jesters, tricksters, or clowns of justice.
Lawyers behaving like court jesters are those who debase the profession by acting merely as paid orifices of their clients. They do not uphold the law. At the right price, they circumvent the legal orders and drive them to their knees to serve their client’s interest. These pseudo officers of the courts falsify documents, tamper with evidence, or bribe witnesses. They would not stop at anything even if they resort to illegal or unethical means just so they win a case and collect their fees.
It is unfortunate that these jokers do not receive the same amount of public bashing and criticism similar to political clowns. Their grievous sins and deceitful practice are hidden from the public’s eyes and are talked about only in huddles. For dissatisfied litigants, their recourse is to file a disciplinary action against the erring lawyer. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has its Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) whose members hear cases against blundering lawyers and prepare recommendations for approval of the IBP-Board of Governors. But who will assist the aggrieved the client? The impoverished litigants may not see this as a viable option due to lack of resources. The wealthy do not have much alternatives either because lawyers within their area are usually unwilling to prosecute colleagues in the profession.
Perhaps, it is time the IBP also establishes the prosecuting arm of the CBD whose members shall be tasked solely to assist victims of unethical acts of lawyers. Hopefully this suggestion could minimize the incidence of court jesters in the justice system.
The title “ATTY” is not merely for our pride and ego. Lawyers owe it to the country that grant them this exceptional privilege their unflinching adherence to the Code of Professional Responsibility.
To the new members of the legal profession, do not be the best attorney that money can buy. Instead, let us follow the advice of the progressive National Union of People’s Lawyers, “be the best lawyers that money CANNOT buy.”
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