Sereno urges lawyers to fight culture of impunity
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno called on lawyers to be courageous amid violent times and to do the right thing and uphold the rule of law to prevent a culture of impunity from spreading.
“When judges and lawyers hesitate to do the right thing for fear of being derogated for the company they keep, or when they respond to vilification, threats and actual violence with surrender and capitulation, the rule of law is shoved out and impunity steps in,” Sereno said at the 16th National Convention of Lawyers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Friday evening.
“The reality of the violent times we find ourselves in should make us – we, in the judiciary, and you, in the practicing bar – all too aware of our role in combating impunity and promoting the rule of law and the law of hope,” she added.
She also reminded them of their role in bringing out the truth, especially in this age when fake information abounds.
“In a world where ‘alternative facts’ and ‘hyperbole’ are fast blurring the lines between truth and lies, a lawyer who can help the courts, clients and the public sift truth from lies performs a valuable service,” she said.
Good lawyers should not hesitate to swim against the tide, she went on.
“Challenging the status quo may mean that lawyers must occasionally confront traditions that may have taken root through inertia and, if necessary, create new traditions,” she said.
She also called on them to sign up to help others, such as by filing a suit to protect rights.
According to Sereno. her call was not directed at any one person or institution, but at a culture that enables wrongdoing to be committed.
“We are not fighting against a person or against an establishment. Rather, we are fighting against a culture, a way of thinking, of seeing, and thus of acting – or not acting,” she said.
“It is a culture that is ingrained and deeply rooted,” she added. “It is a culture that started when people started to look the other way; a culture that thrived when people stopped caring; a culture that prevailed when people stopped hoping.”
To fight this culture, lawyers must stand up for what is true and what is right, and must speak up and take action when others refuse to do the same. They must also continue to hope even when others have given up, she said.
“The IBP must stand up for what is true, what is honorable, what is right, what is pure, what is of good repute, what is excellent and worthy of praise,” she said. “This is the transcendent essence of the lawyers’ oath.” /atm