Alex Lacson
Graduation Speaker
23 July 2016

Dr Jesus Estanislao sir, Mr Oliver Tuazon, Mr Tomas Socrates, dear graduates –  I am truly honored to speak before you tonight as your graduation speaker.

I have chosen the topic “The Lawyers Our Nation Needs”.

Let me begin my sharing with you a story about my favourite law professor, the late Haydee Yorac. Yorac was one of the most respected lawyers in our country during her time. When she was appointed Comelec Chairperson, she was feared by electoral cheats, by political dynasties and warlords, even by Ali Dimaporo, the most feared political warlord in Mindanao at the time.

As a law professor, Yorac was also the most feared in the entire UP College of Law. She screamed at students and made students cry on their feet. Students who wanted good grades and were running for honors, avoided her. Her reputation preceded her.

Yorac became our class’s first teacher during the first day, on the first semester, during our freshman year at law school. And because our entire class knew her reputation, we were all scared. When she entered the classroom for the time, she was her usual self – stern faced, seemingly stoned hearted. And the very first thing that she said was – – “Class, everything that you heard about me is true”. It confirmed all our fears about her.

But the second thing she talked about was something I could also not forget – it was about the “heart of the law”.

“What is the heart of the law?”, she asked with a booming voice. Is it money? Is it power? Is it fame?

If what you are looking for is money, the law is not for you, Yorac said, although there is a lot of money in the practice of law. If what you are after is power, the law profession is not for you, she said, although if you become a good lawyer, you will have a lot of power in your hands.

Since you have chosen to live the life of a lawyer, then you must understand that the heart of the law is fairness and justice, and its end goal is peace & order in society. When you write a contract, you must write down what is fair and acceptable to all parties involved. When you sit as a judge or justice, you must lay down what is fair and just under the circumstances. When you become a legislator, the law that you pass is presumably what is good, fair and just for everyone.

Yorac’s life’s motto was this – “Fiat justicia ruat chaelum”, which means in English as “Let justice be done though the heavens may fall”.

Yorac kept on stressing in our class that when you become a lawyer, your business is fairness and justice. So “Fiat justicia ruat chaelum!” – Let justice be done though the heavens may fall!

Please do not get me wrong. The quest for money and comfort is not wrong per se. But the legal profession is served well if money, power and fame are not the primary motivation in the practice of law.

Let me share with you another story, a story about Michaelangelo, the famous painter who painted the celiing of the Sistine Chapel, and the great sculptor who scuplted David.

Michaelangelo was commissioned by the Pope to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michaelangelo finished the job in more than 4 years, which means that practically everyday for more than 4 years, Michaelangelo was there on his elevated platform or hagdanan – standing, sitting or lying there, while doing his painting. One day, there was a young gentleman who observed Michaelangelo closely while he was painting one of the corners of the chapel, far away from the public eye. Michaelangelo was in his usual self, dedicated and self-absorbed. The young gentleman could not resist it anymore and asked Michaelangelo – – “Sir, you are now painting a corner of the chapel, far away from the scrutiny of the public eye. Why are you still paying so much attention to the small details of your painting there? I mean, it is in the corner, and no one would see them.”

According to the story, Michaelangelo stopped his painting, looked this young gentleman straight in the eye, and said – – “Oh no, sir. You are wrong. God would see them”.

This story is about integrity, pure and simple.

Michaelangelo chose the life of a painter. And he did his work with integrity, even in areas that were beyond the scrutiny of the public eye. More than that, he did his work for the glory of God, not for people.

When you become lawyers, you will be tempted a lot. Some clients will invite you to meetings in some corners – – perhaps in some dark, smoky, corner meeting rooms – – where clients or people would offer you things that would be too difficult to refuse for ordinary mortals. When you accept it once, when you cross that line, you may do it again, and again, and again. And before you know it, you have already become a prostitute in your chosen world, the world of the legal profession.

The legal profession is mined with so many temptations, because that is the nature of the profession, because the law is a powerful weapon in the hands of a lawyer. The law, in the hands of a corrupt judge or justice, can set a criminal free, or can win a multi-billion property dispute. And the better you are as a lawyer, the more powerful you become in the justice system and in our society.

There is a movie and book entitled “The Devil’s Advocate”. Did you ever wonder why the devil always chooses the lawyer to be his advocate on earth?

Because that is the nature of the legal profession. A lawyer performs an important role in society. A lawyer is always in a position to do a lot of good things, as well as evil things. A lawyer is trained to write well, to speak well, to argue well. He is expected to be an influencer, a spokesperson for a group, a fighter for a cause, a promoter, a defender, a leader. In any group or organization, a lawyer is always expected to speak for the group, to represent the group or to lead it.

The temptations will come in different ways, from different people, even from those close to you. If you become a practicing lawyer, some of your clients will tempt you with anything, just for you to win their case or to achieve their business goals. If you become a prosecutor, a judge or justice, people will approach your relatives and some of your relatives may give in and might beg you to help these people.

I must warn you, dear graduates. The law profession is one of the most difficult and dangerous for a person’s soul. If you are a lawyer, it is easy to lose your way and be corrupted. If your moral foundations are not strong, you can easily gain much of the world but lose your soul.

I am therefore glad to know about the Inquies Pro Lege (IPL). I am glad that IPL sees the paramount importance of faith and spirituality, of integrity, of ethics and of the moral foundations, in the practice of law.

Truly, our country today needs lawyers who champion human life and dignity and the basic human rights of our people. Our country needs good lawyers who can defend the sanctity of marriage and the family. Lawyers who can fight for the protection and preservation of our environment so the future generations of our people may also inherit from the present a healthy, livable and sustainable world.

As I see it, IPL today represents one of the best hopes for the legal profession and the justice system in our country. Thank you very much for doing that you are doing.

So far, I have talked about the heart of the law, according to Haydee Yorac. I have also talked about integrity in the performance of your work, and have shared with you the story of Michaelangelo.

I have learned that IPL means “relentless, unrelenting for law”, from the latin word Inquies, which means “relentless, unrelenting”.

Now, let me tell you the story of a man who has been relentless and unrelenting in his pursuit of a better Philippines for all of us.

He served as the Finance Secretary under Pres Cory Aquino, and as Chairman of the DBP under the Ramos administration. I am glad that he is our Inspirational Speaker tonight. Having achieved what only few Filipinos could achieve in our country, Dr Jess Estanislao could have retired in 1998, and simply enjoy life in comfort.

But that he did not do. Instead, in year 2000, he invited kindred spirits and well-meaning leaders in Philippine society, and together they formed a group, a vehicle that can help in building a better Philippines for us.

That vehicle is known as the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), an organization which runs economic development programs with several LGUs and good governance programs with several national government agencies like the AFP, PNP, Department of National Defense, Civil Service Commission, among others.

ISA, as a group, is relentlessly, unrelentingly pursuing a vision of a Dream Philippines – a country where there is enough for everyone, where no Filipino is left behind in poverty, a country where every Filipino family enjoys a life of comfort even if not prosperity, a country where every child has a future, where every graduate can find a good paying job or business, a country that can bring out the best in the Filipino people, and one that can make the Filipino truly great and respected in the eyes of the world.

But for us to attain this Dream Philippines, we need the key players in society to buy into the dream, to be part of us in ISA.

That’s why we need you to become, not only as lawyers, but great lawyers in the grand manner. Lawyers who believe that the heart of law is fairness and justice. Lawyers who will do their work with integrity, even in areas that are beyond the scrutiny of the public eye. Lawyers who will be true to their oath of office, so fairness and justice may be attained though the heavens may fall.

Lawyer who truly love our country and people.

Last month, ISA launched the “GoodFilipinos” Movement – as an advocacy for responsible citizenship for good governance. This will serve as the ISA’s vehicle for citizen participation. And we are looking for 10,000 Filipinos, young and old, men and women, to join us in this dream.

For our Philippines to become world-class country, it needs world-class citizens and world-class leaders. For Filipinos to become world-class citizens, we need a few good men to take the lead; a core group of Filipinos who are willing to serve as models.

In essence, this is what GoodFilipinos is all about.

It is open to everyone. You and your friends can join.

In joining the GoodFilipinos, there are at least 3 things we want you to do – –

First, we want you pledge or personally commit that you will be a GoodFilipino.

Second, we want to live the life of a GoodFilipino by doing small acts of love for our country and people everyday, like following traffic rules, throwing your trash properly, by doing good in your work, among other little things you can do for our country.

Third, we want you to promote and support good governance efforts in the government, both at the national and LGU level. ISA has a lot of these good governance efforts, and we encourage you to join us in these efforts.

I hope that you will join us in ISA, particularly in the GoodFilipinos Movement. So together we can relentlessly and unrelentingly pursue our Dream Philippines.

My dear graduates, let me end my speech with 3 wishes –

First, I wish that you will become the lawyers that our country truly needs.

Second, I wish that you will dream big, not only for yourself but also for our country and people. I wish that you will also carry and bring the Filipino with you.

And finally, I pray that God will use you wonderfully and mightily for our country and people.

God bless all of you and your parents.

Maraming salamat po.

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