Why Bar Examinees Should Wear Black on Sunday, Nov 13

(This is a re-post of Manila Today's feature article Why bar examinees should wear black on Sunday, Nov 13. Photos and text from Manila Today.)

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the counsel for the first petitioners against the burial of former president-turned-dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) and also counsel for Martial Law victims, called on bar examinees as well as lawyers and law students to wear black during the bar exams on Sunday, November 13 at 6:30am.

Atty. Neri Colmenares of NUPL says people will be enraged if SC allows Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

They quickly launched this campaign after the Supreme Court (SC) has voted 9-5-1 dismissing the petition, setting into motion the burial of the elder Marcos. The bar exams would take place at 8am at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.

In their statement after the announcement of the SC decision, NUPL said the decision “is a big letdown at a time people are desperately seeking for some sense of decency, proportion, sanity and reason.”

In his own Facebook account, NUPL President Atty. Edre Olalia posted: “Stripped of its legalese, the bottom line of the SC majority opinion appears to be: there is no law prohibiting the dictator to be buried at a heroes’ cemetery; the President has the power and discretion to execute laws; such discretion is a political act which cannot be judged.”

He continued, “Therefore a scumbag can be treated like a hero and we can choose to look the other way… That is what you get when the law is abstracted from reality, from truth, from history and from justice. Such contempt.”

Here is a short interview with Atty. Edre Olalia on their proposed action on Sunday.

1. What is the aim of your “Black to Block” campaign?

AEO: It is going to be a silent but eloquent expression that the justice system is not the be-all and end-all of all our troubles and problems, that it is also a disappointment and source of trepidation, that one has choices on how to make the law serve justice, and that our courts are not pantheons of infallible gods. Black is for mourning the death of justice, of law, of decency and of history, and to block the hero’s burial for Marcos.

2. Could there be any adverse effect on bar examinees who would heed your call?

AEO: There would not be reprisal or favoritism. Besides, there will be thousands of examinees out there. It is, after all, an exercise of the right to free speech and expression.

3. For there are many misgivings on how justice has been served with this SC decision, does this impact on how a bar examinee or lawyer views the profession?

AEO: It’s more of a challenge and a call to serve the ends of justice, of the victims of oppression and exploitation, to be lawyers for the people than the iniquitous and unfair status quo. To go Black to Block.

4. Again on the decision, many netizens shared how the justices voted, connecting the decision to who appointed them to the SC. Or that it is President Duterte himself who caused this. How do these hold ground?

AEO: It is a curious indication or basis for serious concern that cases may be decided not really just purely and solely on law.

Valid or not, proximate or not, the immediate cause is the SC decision. It was the SC where petitioners run to. Of course, Duterte and the Arroyo appointees are principal players.

5. With the call “Black to Block”, does this mean the SC decision could still be changed?

AEO: Theoretically, we can still go for a motion for reconsideration within 15 days from receipt. We have not received the decision. Problem is they may bury him right away despite us having a chance to appeal. Key is public pressure and people’s action. These are part of the Black to Block campaign.

Meanwhile, as counsel, we shall immediately ask the court to hold in abeyance the execution of the decision until all motions for reconsideration are resolved with finality. Otherwise, the appeal will be rendered moot and its premature implementation by the Marcoses and the government will smack of bad faith.

6. What could the rest of the Filipinos who are disgruntled by the SC decision do?

AEO: The people can hold all forms of protest at significant places and times. Persuasion and pressure or campaign for a couple of justices to cross over and for the President to go beyond his parochial campaign promise and heed history and justice may resurrect whatever hopes we still have in the system.