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Lawyers and lessons in humility

/ 05:06 AM August 25, 2018

These are not exactly the best of times to be a lawyer. When lawyers do bad things, they get caught. When they are not doing bad things, still they get caught.

Two incidents that involved lawyers recently took social media by storm. One was about a lady lawyer who lost the debate to a traffic enforcer while trying to escape a P200 traffic violation fine, and the other was about the three compañeros handcuffed by the police while observing a routine inventory during a drug raid.

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The lady lawyer forgot one of the cardinal rules of the trade—to know from the start when you are on the losing side of the argument. If you know your case to be weak, speak gently and take the moral high ground. Instead, she raised her voice and was arrogant from the outset.

The problem was, she was also dead wrong. Illegal parking is already one violation. If you don’t remove your vehicle, it would be towed. Simple as that. She fumed, ranted and raved over the five minutes that the owner of the illegally parked car is supposed to be given to remove it. But she totally missed the point. Five minutes or not, a violation had already been committed—illegal parking. It makes no sense to launch a revolution over those five stupid minutes.

For what seemed like an eternity, they went at it, the lawyer and the traffic enforcer. I pitied the lawyer the longer the argument lasted. The traffic guy put her in her rightful place and showed the whole world in that argument how to kick a lawyer’s butt. And even when the lawyer used the equivalent of “call a friend” in game shows by calling her husband to join the fray, still the husband and wife tag team were an epic flop. If anything, they only succeeded in blowing their chances of saving face, or getting any sympathy from netizens, with their display of arrogance.

It was a different story, however, for the three “abogado de campanillas” who were handcuffed by the police. The lawyers were only doing their job of observing the police inspect a high-end Makati bar for drugs. Realizing there was clearly no case to be made against the three, the cops turned to their creative imagination by charging the lawyers with “constructive possession of illegal drugs.”

There is no such animal in the law books, but, of course, after that legal abomination called quo warranto that miraculously toppled a sitting chief justice, everything is now possible.

Public sympathy should be on the lawyers’ side in this occasion, as the cops clearly went too far. Unfortunately, the outrage the lawyers must have been expecting from the masses, and even from among their professional peers, didn’t come, save for some short-lived lip service by radical members of civil society here and there.

During normal times, these lawyers would have been hailed as martyrs and heroes in suits, the poster boys for decency among lawyers. But these aren’t normal times, and let’s face it, the people who used to command special treatment in our society appear to have lost that status now that the system has radically changed, for better or for worse.

Today, it all seems too much to ask of our jaded collective conscience to cry for justice when lawyers are rubbed the wrong way. Everywhere, the poor are getting killed in broad daylight, and people choose to look the other way. What are three lawyers in handcuffs, if the sight of lifeless bodies in the streets no longer shock people as much?

When Shakespeare said kill the lawyers, it was meant to be a metaphor, right?

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Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.”

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