‘Strive for excellence with honor,’ Justice Leonen tells new lawyers
MANILA, Philippines — Strive for excellence, excellence with honor “to enable and empower the weak, the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed,” Associate Justice Marvic Leonen told new lawyers.
Speaking during the online oath-taking of 2019 Bar passers, the magistrate said: “Your oath serves as your power to bring about change, that is hopefully just, hopefully systemic, your oath is a promise to empower.”
“Your task is not to hope or seek a better world, it is more than that. Your purpose as a lawyer is to use your life to shape the law so that it authentically contributes to the achievement of the best society for every human being,” he said.
Leonen said there is no more need to look further about ideals because the Constitution already highlighted the intrinsic worth of every human being.
The journey for young lawyers will not be easy, he said adding that there are instances when great courage will be required to make a choice.
“It is tempting to simply exist in the protected comfort of our lives, succumb to the status quo, just get rich, do our thing, and allow our existence to be full of material possessions, but meaningless,” he said.
But he pointed out that the lawyer’s oath “is not an oath of surrender to the unjust and oppressive elements of the status quo.”
Doing nothing about corruption and abuse of power is not only unjust but a cause of injustice when one has the ability to speak but remained quiet.
He said: “Of what use is the palatial home, the latest car, the designer coffee, the swanky shoes, the fashion bags, and clothes when all these have been purchased on the backs of others’ sufferings.”
“Do not temper principle with pragmatism, do not hide behind comfortable acquiescence, do not use comfort in lieu of integrity at critical times, do not disguise your complicity. Instead, be at the frontlines, as a lawyer, resist injustice, make it your passion to resist injustice,” he said.
If the situation gets too difficult, he said to remember the words of activists Lean Alejandro–“the line of fire is always a place of honor.”
He ended his speech by telling the new lawyers to “be better than us.”
Leonen is the 2020 Bar chairperson. It is a tradition during the oath-taking that the next Chairperson for the Bar examination gives his or her message after the successful examinees have finally taken their oath.
A total of 2,103 candidates passed the 2019 Bar examinations out of 7,685.
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