By ROCKY NGALOB
Indigenous Peoples’ youth clothed in their Indigenous attire beat a traditional rhythm on Cordillera gongs as Supreme Court Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno entered the University of Baguio Cardinal’s gymnasium. Legal luminaries from all over Cordillera stood and welcomed Sereno with applause and smiles along with cheers from the College of law students and other youth; along with Non-government representatives. The din of applause and cheers momentarily halted when UB BIBAK Alumni, Gary Donggayao, purified the gymnasium with an indigenous prayer, an “Ugayam”.
The multi-sectoral delegation were solemn with admiration and awe, glued to every word the Chief Justice Sereno uttered. Except for two of my young professors. my ears caught them saying that they envied the current generation of law students, for being part of the biggest gathering of law students from the “big three” universities in Baguio and the lone law school in Benguet, the Cordillera Career Development College (CCDC).
Then it hit me, could it be that the once tagged “most passive class of students” have awaken? Heads out from the piles of law books, out of the libraries? and now involving themselves with wider social issues that also affect them? Me being part of this generation of law students, I would like to think the affirmative.
Weeks earlier leading to the event, groups of students of law from the “big three” universities in Baguio joined the national coordinated ‘walk out’ of students against tyranny. One university, through their Dean, even suspended class to accommodate law students wanting to join the student demonstration in Session Road.
Law students have every reason to resist certain policies of the administration of Duterte. For one, and on a lighter reason, law students, most specially 4th years, have every right to be pissed by the moves of the Duterte government to amend the 1987 Constitution. Political Law, a Bar subject, is divided into numerous subjects in law school which law students work on so hard to just to pass. Imagine yourself burning your eyebrows far into the wee hours of the morning digesting 90 – 100 pages of landmark cases only to be tongue lashed by your professor because you can’t hold your eyes open in your 8pm class! Most of the readings and wisdom which law students have painstakingly acquired will become irrelevant once the 1987 Constitution is changed. Needless to say they will be back to square one (learning the new constitution) and what kind of insane mind would agree to that? What a waste of gallons of burned midnight oil that would be.
But on a more profound reason, law students know too well that the Duterte administration is whacked; from his war against drugs, activist crackdown, revolutionary government and overall dictator-like administration. Yes, I said dictator-like administration. This because of his thirst of power and authoritarian mode of ruling.
In her speech, the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court left an implied message before the biggest gathering of law students in Baguio rallying the latter not to be consumed by apathy and inaction in times when legal warriors are needed the most. “Don’t fall prey to the limit of memory”, said Sereno while reiterating the need to revisit the struggles and victories of the people.
The 1987 Constitution, the very product of the mass movement. It was forged and hammered from the raging fires of the mass movement that toppled the late dictator Marcos. Simply put, that the 1987 Constitution was crafted specifically to ward off the Philippines from future authoritarian rule. But with the latest development under the Duterte administration, to law students, Duterte is caught with hand inside the cookie jar. It is very glaring to students of law that Duterte’s tactics are contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
For example, the Doctrine of Separation Powers; a safeguard enshrined mainly to shun away dictators. Powers coming from the three branches of government namely; the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, were separated equally and should not be concentrated into one. Coupled with these separate powers is the ability for each branch to check and balance each other.
These mentioned safeguards are threatened to be scrapped in the new proposed Constitution under the envisioned Federal Government of Duterte. Along with it are the independent institutional bodies like the Commission or Human Rights (CHR), an institution created mainly to check and balance the government abuse of power and authority at the expense of human rights vested on the sovereign Filipino populace.
We left the Gymnasium with my classmates feeling even more rejuvenated knowing that we have fighting Chief Justice going against the status quo. In turn, we promise to be even more vigilant and committed to the cause now that a stronger circle of students of law was created composed students from the “big three” law universities in Baguio and the lone provincial law college of CCDC.
With that allow me to re-echo her words to fellow students of law out there; “Remember the gallantry of our Cordilleran ancestors who fought for a world they envisioned to be free . Stand your ground. We do not want cynicism. We do not want hypocrisy. We do not want a State of indifference. Rise up and call on the best out of our people. Don’t give up on your dreams. More importantly, don’t abandon it through apathy”.# nordis.net