Meeting individuals who can instill both fear and admiration is rare. They are usually the ones who can make your knees shake but at the same time make you want to put them on a pedestal. In the halls of the Ateneo Law School (ALS) however, encounters with such people happen on a daily basis. Every day, students walk into classrooms to face law professors who are armed with an arsenal of killer questions for recitation. While most law students dread going to class, they don’t think about skipping it altogether lest they miss the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest legal minds in the country.
The professors at ALS are not your run-of-the-mill lawyers. Many graduated at the top of their class, and/or placed in the Bar examinations. They are not only known experts in their corresponding fields of law, but also published authors, with their names emblazoned across the very books their students study. Some write newspaper columns, while others are seen or heard regularly on TV or radio. Indeed, they are unstoppable forces, which cannot be contained within the confines of the classroom. Fortunately, these people pass on their legacy not only by molding future lawyers, but also by rendering public service through the government.
Juggling professions is never easy, but for professors Commissioner Siegfred Mison and Dean Andres Bautista, being teachers and public servants at the same time was exactly what they wanted.
The Border Patrol
Atty. Siegfred Mison is the current Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration. Appointed last December 18, 2013 by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, he first joined the Bureau as an Associate Commissioner in 2011 and was designated as the Officer-in-Charge on July 16, 2013. Aside from his day job, he also teaches Wills and Succession. His teaching career began on 2000, when he first taught Partnership and Obligations and Contracts.
As a graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, he later served in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from 1987-1999. Government service was in his blood, to say the least. His father served in the Bureau of Customs and was also in the AFP. His uncle was in the police force and a former NBI Director. Yet another uncle was a public prosecutor and elected as a Quezon City Councilor. As to why he entered the government, he simply replies that his calling to serve the country was already his family legacy. “Motivation came from a generation of government officials in the family,” he says.
So what does an Immigration Commissioner do? He describes his job as, “[putting the] bad guys out, [the] good guys in. I lead an agency whose mission is to control and regulate the movement of persons to, from, and within the country in [order to contribute] to national development. We enforce immigration, registration, citizenship, and anti-trafficking laws. We control the borders, making sure only those good guys are allowed admission and prevent the ‘escape’ of the bad guys from our country.” His advocacy is to “make the Filipino regain [their] lost pride by simply doing the little things to make our country better, [and] show the bayanihan spirit and become a good virus to infect the government sector.”
With this, Atty. Mison advises anyone who serve or are planning to serve in the government “[to] serve from the heart. Low financial package is compensated with the highest psychic income. There’s no greater pleasure than seeing your Master (the public) happy with your service. [You] can’t please [everyone] but you can surely touch people’s lives.”
The Anti-Corruption Advocate
Currently the Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Dean Andres Bautista has held the position since September 2010, while teaching Constitutional Law since 1999. His multi-tasking skill knows no limit, as he also served as former Dean of the Far Eastern University’s Institute of Law and member of the consultative commission for the proposed revisions of the 1987 Constitution during the Arroyo administration.
His job at the PCGG, which was established under Executive Order No. 1, has three clear mandates: “(a) recovery of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses; (b) investigation of other cases of graft and corruption; and (c) institution of corruption prevention measures.” In February 2013, he received praise from the Office of the President for his office’s successful recovery of a staggering $29 Million or P1.3 Billion from the Swiss accounts of the late dictator and his family.
For Dean Bautista, his stint at the PCGG is not only professionally satisfying, but has also transformed into quite the learning experience. Being in government was his choice. He believes that “to experience a complete professional career, a lawyer [has] to work in both the private and public sectors. Just like teaching, working in the government allows you to give back and promote the common good.”
Despite his achievements in the government however, he laments the seeming lack of interest of some ALS students to serve in the government. For him, “the top ALS students are probably less inclined because government work is not as financially rewarding (unless you are corrupt).” He observes that the nature of government work makes it difficult to attract the best students. Lack of merit and financial considerations are just two of the drawbacks of public service. “Unfortunately, [the] government has not been able to institute a meritocracy so that its achievers are recognized and rewarded,” he says.
Time Management as Key
Given the gargantuan tasks they handle, Atty. Mison and Dean Bautista always make sure that they manage their time wisely. Dean Bautista shares that he is neither one who absents from class nor neglects responsibilities. While Atty. Mison admits that his work takes precedence, he sees to it that his teaching schedule lets him handle his night classes properly.
Both don’t consider their jobs as a hindrance to their duties as teachers. In fact, teaching helps with their government jobs. Dean Bautista’s work is very closely related to Constitutional Law, while teaching in general allows Atty. Mison to stay updated with relevant laws.
Government service should never be a last option for law students after they earn their stripes. It entails big responsibilities and great skill. After all, our law professors are living proof of these.