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With Due Respect

Of legal technicians and social engineers

As a part of the yearlong celebration of the 100th birthday of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, the Ateneo Law Journal published a special hardcover edition focusing on his life and work. I was asked to launch it formally last July 10. Here are excerpts from my speech, edited to fit in this limited space (access full speech at cjpanganiban.com).

The Ateneo Law Journal has a special place in my heart. In the recent past, I have been twice requested to write its foreword, once by lead editor Jewelle Santos and another by lead editor Angelo Francesco Herbosa. And in the present issue is published my extemporaneous speech during the 25th death anniversary of CJ Teehankee, with some welcome additions by lead editor Jason Sy.

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To be sure, I have great respect for the editors and writers of law journals in general. To write a well-researched article every semester in a credible law journal is like graduating with Latin honors, or placing in the Top 10 in the bar exams.

The best practicing lawyers are not the obnoxious charlatans who try to impress with highfalutin irrelevancies; they are the tireless writers of term sheets, memoranda, contracts, treaties, complaints, answers, motions, briefs and memorials; and, the best jurists are the rippling authors of decisions and orders.

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To top the bar exams, one needs to memorize and master definitions, differentiations, enumerations and quotations from codes, special laws and Supreme Court decisions. The more one photographically remembers them, the more are the chances of passing, nay, of topping the exams.

One of our bar reviewers many decades ago said it so picturesquely: “To top the bar exams, you must read and reread and reread the Constitution, the codes, the Rules of Court and all the damn statutes over and over, over and over till the words are erased from the pages.”

On the other hand, journal editors and writers are expected to analyze, criticize and improvise the law in elegant, persuasive and measured language. Instead of being mere legal robots who parrot laws and decisions word for word, and instead of relying on the texts, they look at the essence, the raison d’être of the law.

And as they grow with the essence, they are transformed from being mere schemers and slaves of the texts, punctuation marks and grammar—yes, the technicalities—of the law to advance their clients’ private causes. Instead, they become critical thinkers and innovators who search and reach for the loftier purposes and intents of the Constitution and the statutes.

They look at law as a brick in the building of the social edifice and as a means to advance the public welfare; they metamorphose from being mere legal technicians to being social engineers who view the law not as an end by itself, but as an instrument in the building of a just society. They interpret it liberally to fulfill the ultimate ends of justice and not literally to serve commercial interests and pecuniary causes.

CJ Teehankee knew the technicalities of the law, its ramifications and limitations. After all, he graduated summa cum laude and topped the bar exams. But he was not just a legal technician who repaired his clients’ wares. He was a social engineer who reached out to the stars to render justice via the all-encompassing rule of law.

To close these remarks, permit me to add quickly that like the Claudio Teehankee Foundation, the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (FLP) realizes that law students should not only top their academic studies and the bar exams, but also be competent editors and writers; that they must mutate from being mere legal technicians who troubleshoot the rickety structures of their clients to being social engineers who build durable institutions for the nation.

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This is why the FLP awards 20 law scholarships annually at P200,000 each; rewards honor graduates at P25,000-P100,000; and, sponsors yearly dissertation writing contests with 25 prizes ranging from P20,000 to P300,000 to recognize elegant masterpieces composed mostly by law journal editors and writers.

The details of these FLP contests for next school year will be announced soon in the FLP website (www.libpros.com).

Comments to [email protected]

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