The ignominy of anonymity

There was a time when the Ateneo Law School Secret Files provided pleasurable browsing experience to ALS Facebook users. The page provided the Ateneo Law community with an avenue to reveal their most riveting encounters in law school—from alone moments with one’s crush in the elevator to the usual gore of class recitations. During the site’s early days, everything was shared for the sake of pure, old fun. Catching up on the latest posts became a guilty habit for most who were on their study break. All told, it was a welcome distraction—until the Student Council elections happened.

From its usual staple of amusing anecdotes, the site became a host to black propaganda. At the height of the campaign season, the Secret Files was used as a tool to bash the candidates—not that bashing is entirely reprehensible. In fact, it can be help voters know their future leaders better. Constructive criticism, as they put it. However, what happened was worse than that.

The Ateneo Law School Secret Files, which happens to bear the name of the institution we all represent, turned into one big despicable farce. Malicious rumors were spread. Spiteful insults were hurled. Nasty lies were told. Dignities were lowered. Morale was lost.

After the elections, everyone thought that the page would revert back to its usual harmless state. Alas, they were mistaken. It remained as a source of law school gossip. Instead of candidates, blocks, this time, were made adversaries. People said that Block X is easier than Block Y; that Block Z’s line-up of professors is tougher than that of the other. Suddenly, it all became a question of each block’s and each student’s capabilities.

In its five months of existence, the site has shown a tendency to breed animosity. As if the prevailing atmosphere of law school is not tense enough, the Secret Files sows more discord by allowing some students to bring others down. It fosters crab mentality seemingly inherent in the law school setting—each man for himself. Instead of helping each other, students become instruments of another man’s downfall.

Is this a reflection of the current state of the legal profession? More importantly, is this an embodiment of an ideal Atenean lawyer?

What can we do about it? After all, the persons responsible for spreading these malicious rumors are all hiding under shrouds of anonymity. The site gave them a power to circulate gossip, which they may not have the propensity to do on their own. Indeed, they enjoy the freedom of speech, perhaps more so in the illusory world of the Internet. However, this right also has limits—both on legal and ethical levels.

The irony of it all lies in the nature of the profession we belong in. We, as lawyers, should subscribe to facts and not hearsay. We, as Ateneans, should nurture goodwill instead of harping prejudice. We, as future Atenean lawyers, should subscribe to the truth.

The Secret Files is a glaring reminder of our preoccupations in law school. It feels like high school all over again, where people tend to manifest their immaturities and insecurities. Is this the effect of law school on our senses? We beg to differ. P

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