Morales reminds UP law grads: Be humble
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales served a sobering lesson in humility to newly minted graduates of her alma mater and one of the country’s top law schools—the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.
“Surely your being a graduate of UP does not give you license to belittle the capabilities of graduates of other law schools,” the brutally frank former Supreme Court justice told the UP College of Law Class of 2016.
A UP law diploma may be laden with prestige, but it is never about “self-entitlement,” Morales reminded them.
“I have come across UP graduates who have nothing to show but their diplomas,” she said.
On Monday night, the UP College of Law bestowed an honorary doctorate degree on Morales, a respected jurist who was plucked from retirement by President Aquino in July 2011 to be the country’s top graft-buster.
Thus, she counted herself as a member of this year’s graduating class.
“I share this accolade with you, ladies and gentlemen of UP College of Law Class of 2016. Allow me to call you my batchmates henceforth,” she said in jest.
The 105-year-old UP College of Law is one of the most prestigious law schools in the country.
It has produced four Presidents, including Ferdinand Marcos, and many of its graduates have topped the notoriously difficult bar examinations.
Taught in grand manner
Morales was by turns doting and stern during her speech. She applauded the law graduates on their big day. Then she warned them not to rest on their laurels.
“Then and now, being a UP law graduate presupposes that you have imbibed the twin virtues of honor and excellence not only in our academic pursuits but in your daily, ordinary tasks as well. You are distinguished because you were taught the law in the grand manner—the UP way, if you will,” she said.
She said a UP diploma opened “a plethora of opportunities to jump-start your law career.”
But it’s not enough.
“Your diploma only provides you the key to opening that door of opportunity, but whether you stay, or overstay your welcome, depends entirely on your competencies and skills,” Morales said.
Humiliating non-UP grad
“It should be obvious to you now that graduates of other schools will be more than eager to engage you and prove to all that they are better,” she added.
Morales cited her own words eight years ago when she penned a decision reprimanding Calamba City Regional Trial Court Judge Medel Arnaldo Belen for “humiliating” lawyer Melvin Mane in February 2006 for not being a UP alumnus.
During a court hearing, Mane had been asked by Belen if he was a UP graduate. The lawyer then answered that he came from Manuel L. Quezon University, and that he was “very proud of it.”
Belen retorted: “Then you’re not from UP. Then you cannot equate yourself to me because there is a saying and I know this, ‘not all law students are created equal, not all law schools are created equal, not all lawyers are created equal…’”
Unbecoming a judge
After Mane filed a complaint, the Supreme Court found Belen guilty of conduct unbecoming a judge and reprimanded him with a warning that any repetition of similar behavior would be dealt with more severely.
Morales, recalling that case, quoted a portion of the decision:
“An alumnus of a particular law school has no monopoly of knowledge of the law. By hurdling the bar examinations which this court administers, taking of the lawyer’s oath, and signing of the roll of attorneys, a lawyer is presumed to be competent to discharge his functions and duties as, inter alia, an officer of the court, irrespective of where he obtained his law degree,” she wrote.
“For a judge to determine the fitness or competence of a lawyer primarily on the basis of his alma mater is clearly an engagement in an argumentum ad hominem [fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual advancing a statement],” the decision read.
Nostalgic of own journey
Turning personal, Morales, whose seven-year term will end in 2018, waxed nostalgic about her own journey upon completing her degree from the UP College of Law almost five decades ago.
“Forty-eight years ago, I was sitting there anxious and fretful just like you—not knowing what life would bring and what destiny had in store for me. Yet, like you—a graduate of the UP College of Law—I was confident that no matter what curve balls would be thrown along the way, I was ‘ready, willing and able’ to take on the journey,” she said.
Love of country
Morales told the UP law graduates that the nation was banking on them “to keep in mind and heart the virtue of love of country” as they stepped up to be future leaders.
“The country does not need the best leaders, for, more often than not, they become the best after engaging themselves in shady compromises and illicit activities. It is enough that leaders remain good in the purest sense of the word,” she said.
“Corruption, I believe, remains the single biggest problem besetting the Philippines today,” Morales said.
“That corruption is commonly observed to be increasingly becoming systemic is valid. No matter how many people we hold liable, no matter how many government officials we send to jail, if the system remains uncured, the vicious cycle of corruption will not stop,” she said.
She concluded her speech by reminding the graduates of their duty to the nation.
Give someone hope
“My supplication to you, members of the UP College of Law Class of 2016, is to give someone hope when all hope is lost; not to turn law into an instrument of oppression; and to be true to one’s ideals,” Morales said.
“These are our basic responsibilities in nation-building, our onus not only as lawyers but as simple citizens. Truth be told, start living your dream. UP has done its part. It is now your turn,” she said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.