Batas at lakas.
His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, DD highlighted the important interplay between law and power in his message before 151 Juris Doctor (J.D.) and two Master of Laws (LL.M.) graduates of the Ateneo Law School (ALS) during its 69th Commencement Exercises held last Sunday, April 26, 2015, at the Meralco Theater. The Archbishop of Manila served as the culminating speaker of the ceremony.
“Power underpins law. But law is more than sheer power. It is rooted in authority, and not just brute power. The right, the authority to decide for another is meant for the good of the other, para maging matiwasay ang buhay nila at pati ng sambayanan,” he said.
Recognizing the potential of the graduates to be the future leaders of society, Cardinal Tagle then pondered on the abuses made by those who wield law and power. “[But sometimes I wonder,] who regulates the power of the lawgiver and the power of the law practitioner? If power marks laws, it is the law also that must regulate power. At dyan ako nalilito. Kasi yung mga may kapangyarihang gumawa ng batas, parang hindi sila nagpaparegulate sa batas. Yung may kapangyarihang gumawa ng batas, sila rin ang may kapangyarihang makatakas sa batas. So who regulates power, and the wielders of power, when they are the ones who make laws and practice laws?”
As such, he made a plea to Batch 2015, “Balikan ho natin iyong lakas, the power, that underpins laws that really promote the good of human beings and the common good. In most religions of the world, law plays an essential role. In Christianity, law is an instrument of God’s self-communication. It is an instrument of God’s authority, the power that enables human beings and their communities, to live in love, justice, and divine life.”
“Nakikiusap ako sa inyo, balikan po ang tunay na lakas na nasa ilalim ng tunay na batas. At sa inyo pong paglilingkod sa bayan, sana ang lakas ng katwiran, and lakas ng dangal, ang lakas ng pakikipagkapwa-tao, ang lakas ng pagdamay – ito ang maging bantay ng mga wala nang tinitingnang batas,” he continued.
The Cardinal’s speech was among the several inspiring messages that greeted Batch 2015 during Sunday’s ceremony. Earlier in the program, 2015 Class Valedictorian Patricia Anne D. Sta Maria set the mood for the event when she thanked everyone who helped her and her batch mates throughout their journey in law school. “No regrets, just gratitude,” she asserted.
For being at the top of her graduating class, Sta. Maria was conferred the Gold Medal for Academic Excellence. She also received a Second Honors Silver Medal for having obtained a cumulative QPI (qualitative point index) of 89.22% during her tenure in law school. Sta. Maria also won the Dean’s Award for Best Thesis for her work entitled “Life, Death, and Data: Examining the Human Rights Implications of Introducing Data Exclusivity to India’a Pharmaceutical System, in Light of the Global Situation of Diseases such as HIV/AIDS in the Philippines and Other Developing Countries.”
Meanwhile, Felicisimo F. Agas III emerged as the Class Salutatorian, for having obtained an overall QPI of 89.08%. Aside from Sta. Maria and Agas, 43 other graduates received the Second Honors Silver Medal for garnering a cumulative QPI of at least 85%.
This year, there were two recipients of the Evelio B. Javier Leadership Award: Armand Louis T. Dulay, 2014-2015 ALS Student Council President, and Jaypee B. Ortiz, 2014-2015 President of the ALS Choir and founder of the Initiatives for Social Action, a non-government organization. The Roberto A. Gana Service Award was given to Maria Lucia B. Lopez, 2014-2015 Executive Vice-President of the Ateneo Human Rights Center.
Claudia Gabriella R. Squillantini won Second Best Thesis for her study “Demystifying Dominance: Establishing Legal Parameters for Abuse of Dominance,” while Anne Katherine P. Navarrete was awarded Third Best Thesis for her work entitled “Unsolicited Notoriety: Establishing a Framework in the Application of the Public Figure Doctrine to Private Individuals whose Lives Intersect with Public Interest.”
Tribute to Fr. Bernas
The latter half of the program was devoted to honoring ALS Dean Emeritus Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. A documentary was shown, covering his life as a Jesuit, writer, educator, and eminent constitutionalist. Fr. Bernas was bestowed the Dean’s Council Award and was elevated to the ALS Professors Hall of Fame.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo, former student of Fr. Bernas, gave a testimonial. He recounted how Fr. Bernas believes in the capabilities and potentials of his students. For Justice del Castillo, Fr. Bernas is not just a mentor, but also a friend, adviser, and confidant.
Upon receiving the honor, Fr. Bernas expressed his heartfelt gratitude. Despite his old age, the wit and candor that his students and colleagues grew fond of still stays with him. “I will be teaching here for as long as I am able and for as the Dean will accept me. Nevermind if they don’t pay me. St. Ignatius will take care of that,” he jested.
Batch 2015, ‘lead us’
Justice del Castillo also addressed the graduating class. He advised them to “prepare for disillusionment,” as he narrated the trials and adversities he faced in climbing the judiciary’s ranks. Seeing that the real world is very much different from the pampered confines of the Law School, he also advised them to “stay humble” and to remain “ethical professionals.”
He urged Batch 2015 to join the judiciary. “We need you, the young Jesuit-trained lawyers to help us lead the ranks. Show us the way. After all, this is your world now.”
“The stage has been set for you. Take your stage and shine there,” he ended.
For the final words, Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” T. Villarin, S.J. echoed the message of Justice del Castillo. “Please lead us.”
As University President, Fr. Jett was the one who conferred the degrees upon the graduates. He was also the one who personally handed them with their diplomas. The day before graduation, Fr. Jett was the main celebrant and homilist in the Baccalaureate Mass held in the St. Thomas More Chapel of the Ateneo Professional Schools Building. (READ: ‘You are shepherds first,’ Fr. Jett reminds graduates)
Before the recessional, he gave his blessings to Batch 2015, “Go forth, take heart, let love take lead.”
Fr. Jett ended the ceremony on a high note. “Class 2015, the Ateneo has changed you, time now to go change the world. Congratulations.” P