The foundation of law | Inquirer Opinion

The foundation of law

12:30 AM April 12, 2019

After all, every human being’s life in this world is inevitably mixed with every other life and, no matter what laws we pass, no matter what precautions we take, unless the people we meet are kindly and decent and human and liberty-loving, then there is no liberty. Freedom comes from human beings, rather than from laws and institutions.”

These are the words of a great lawyer, Clarence Darrow, who used the mechanics and technicalities of law to win important, high profile cases. Yet, from his own words above, even he realized that the law does not create liberty but must defend it, does not bring justice but must assure it.


More than just lawyers have come to the same conclusion, from ancient wise men to modern teachers, thinkers, and great minds like Einstein. I believe it is because justice and fairness come naturally to a human sense of it, that the words of law only try to articulate. Unfortunately, even though the dependence of humanity in words grows as the more personal and sensory communication lessen, words have limited capacity to reflect the moral and ethical.

Society must not concede freedom and justice to the legal system and the professionals engaged in it. Freedom and justice were not bestowed by the constitution, by the body of laws passed by legislative bodies. Freedom and justice are sourced from somewhere much deeper, from someone much greater. Man did not teach freedom and justice to itself but hungers for them even from ignorance. Freedom and justice are inner needs that demand to addressed and ultimately satisfied. Laws, rules, and regulations should facilitate this human thirst for freedom and justice. Failure to do so has consistently produced the most natural consequence, the breakdown of order, violence, and war.


If freedom and justice are primordial human needs that human beings cannot avoid but, in fact, designed to seek actively at some stage of life, then the creation of societal laws must be grounded on this fundamental setup. Societal leaders must wisely avoid enacting laws that intend to obstruct this natural progression and instead guide its development. Older generations are always wary of the amount of freedom that younger generations can responsibly use, and there is basis for this. Simple parenting experience can show the pathway of full dependency to full freedom, at how freedom is usually attached to responsibility.

Justice, on the other hand, can be fully applied and understood no matter the age. One’s sense of right and wrong is a capacity that needs and can intuitively understand from childhood. That is why, more than freedom, the denial of justice can be quite damaging from an earlier stage. That is why, too, even without any legal background, most members of society regardless of age quickly sense and react badly to injustice.

This is the context, in my mind, why our representative democracy does not require special qualifications for our members of the legislative branch or Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is very different from the Executive and Judiciary whose primary responsibilities are to execute the Constitution and laws of the land created by Congress. Because precisely the assumption is that ordinary citizens have natural inclinations for freedom and justice and these inclinations have been nurtured by family and community all along. Congress must represent the common and must avoid qualification requirements that make members un-common or elitist by representation.

It becomes contrary, not only by law but by natural reason, when Congress enacts laws that are narrow in interest, that benefit some but not most or all. Members of Congress must never forget their primary purpose, their very reason for being in a body that represents the common man and the common good. If Congress, ours or any other, loses its credibility, the first cause is precisely losing its being representative of the people in general in exchange of favoring personal and special interests. The most ideal Congress is one that the people quickly identify as representing them and the common good. The most important features of the common good are freedom and justice. Without these, good can only be selective and, therefore, unjust to the whole.

In a country that is mired in poverty and corruption, what becomes obvious is that the stage of our development as a people and nation is quite delayed. It is as though our growth is stunted, where our natural talents and resources are deemed abundant but have limited accessibility to the many. Subsequently, the few who can avail of the nation’s talents and resources become ultra-rich and the vast majority scramble for what is left. It is not as though the Philippine elite created poverty and corruption. History is replete with these. But we can say that the rich and powerful are reluctant to enable the weak and share the bounty of the motherland. By doing so, the rich and powerful deny sharing freedom and justice.

Yet, other countries must have had their elite as reluctant in their own process of growth. We must learn how they managed to break the shackles of control, or at least learn the most basic of principles about freedom and justice. The most open secret about freedom and justice is that they cost, they carry a steep price, they demand sacrifice and courage from everyone and not just a few, and that they must be shared. Many people went for bloody revolution. Others joined their nations’ quest to conquer other countries and then share the spoils of war – but war demanded the utmost sacrifice and courage. And some built themselves up by their hard work, discipline and superior productivity.

What, then, would be our way? This is a question for all of us, and its answer must find enough unity among us before freedom becomes real and justice is equal.

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TAGS: equal, freedom, Glimpses, House of Representatives, Jose Montelibano, justice, law, lawyer, Senate, Society
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