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Panatang Makabayan: Tungkulin ba ng abogado na ibigin ang Pilipinas?

Last May 17, 2019, Block A2021 under the guidance of Atty. Tanya K. Lat conducted the yearly 2019 ALS Legal Symposium entitled “PANATANG MAKABAYAN: Tungkulin ba ng abogado na ibigin ang Pilipinas?” with esteemed former Supreme Court Associate Justice and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. The theme was chosen after recent developments in the current administration’s policies with respect to the West Philippine Sea controversy and the Rome Statute.

Exacting Accountability

“Is shying away from conflict the only choice available to uphold the rule of law?” Hon. Carpio-Morales asked.

She recounted that during the West Philippine Sea dispute, it has been the position of the top government lawyers to avoid creating conflicts with the regional superpower that is China. Indeed, despite securing a victory at The Hague, the current administration refuses to wield the ruling.

When all available avenues at the disposal of the government remained futile, several of the country’s advocates utilized the rule of law by filing a communication with the International Criminal Court against the President of China.

She, together with Former Ambassador Del Rosario and several others said that the filing of the Communication was a legal platform that could exact accountability to those who commit crimes within the territory of the Philippines.

The main question posed on this matter emphasizes whether loving the country is an obligation or not. In response, Hon. Carpio-Morales quipped, “I love my country! That is why I hate the government.”

Different Perspectives

The speech was followed by reactions from the legal field and from the student body. Ateneo Legal Services Director Atty. Axel Cruz gave his reaction on behalf of the legal field and Renz Ayongao spoke on behalf of the students.

As a response to Hon. Carpio-Morales’ speech, Atty. Cruz added that another way to manifest love for country is to serve the poor and underprivileged and to do it out of duty and obligation. He challenged everyone in the room to help the underprivileged and to be patriotic not out of self-interest, but out of a deep sense of obligation. He stated that patriotism is similar to the legal definition of obligation—one must do it even though they do not particularly want to do it.

Speaking from the viewpoint of a law student, Renz Ayongao discussed his appreciation for International Law. He expressed hope that International Law would at the very least, give the Philippines a fighting chance. Quoting Former Ambassador del Rosario, he stated that the International Law is a great equalizer which would allow small states to have more or less the same standing with big states.

Further, he talked about the importance of the Communication filed because of the social narrative it presents; which is that the Filipino people are resilient. The Filipino people will seek accountability from those who prejudice it and that it will not allow impunity to run its course.

A Woman of Unparalleled Integrity and Courage

During the open forum, Atty. Tanya Lat asked Hon. Carpio-Morales why she decided to join in the filing of the Communication despite the fact that she could have retired and spent her life in leisure after several long years of service. Laughing, she admitted that when Former Ambassador del Rosario first approached her, she was reluctant to agree. But eventually, her dedication to the country won out.

She said that after reading the Communication to be filed, she felt obliged to join former Ambassador del Rosario, especially since the President was about to withdraw from the ICC. The fact that the President himself said that he would have nothing to do with the filing only strengthened her conviction that the government would not do anything to assert its rights against China.

When asked by a student how she continued to courageously forge on despite death threats and opposition, she stated that it was because she was a “fatalist.” Indeed, her unparalleled integrity and courage has been shown through the numerous awards she had received for her years in government service.

On a final note, she emphasized that the people and the government should assert its rights and not allow any country to harass our motherland.

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