Why law school is like Hog­warts

OS­CAR FRANKLIN TAN

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION -

QUEDLINBURG, Ger­many — I still re­flex­ively stand up when my old pro­fes­sor Vi­cente V. Men­doza texts. Yes, the law pro­fes­sor of law pro­fes­sors, jus­tice of jus­tices and le­gal leg­end of le­gal leg­ends fact checks my col­umn. Jus­tice (ret.) VVM surely smiled see­ing his stu­dent, for­mer so­lic­i­tor gen­eral Florin Hil­bay, de­fend Sen. Leila de Lima be­fore his stu­dents, Se­nior As­so­ciate Jus­tice An­to­nio Car­pio and Jus­tices Pres­bitero Ve­lasco, Tere­sita Leonardo-De Cas­tro, Fran­cis Jardeleza and Mar­vic Leo­nen. Or he at least laughed at my playby-play com­men­tary.

My stu­dent self so eas­ily for­got that VVM de­cided the cases we study. Be­yond VVM, a ter­ri­fied class­mate had to re­cite the Estrada de­ci­sion on Edsa II to Dean Paci­fico Agabin, who quipped: “When I ar­gued that to the Supreme Court, they said I was wrong.”

In that bliss­ful world, Jardeleza was merely my Philip­pine Law Jour­nal ad­viser. Joel Bu­tuyan was my le­gal aid ad­viser. I had no idea Raffy Mo­rales, Tere­sita Her­bosa and Su­san Vil­lanueva were lead­ers of their fields. I handed out law jour­nals to Car­pio and his vis­it­ing brethren with­out ever say­ing, “Your Honor.”

And it was just nor­mal when now In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court Judge Raul Pan­galan­gan sued the pres­i­dent over Randy David’s 2006 ar­rest, and sparred with then Chief Jus­tice Rey­nato Puno in a three-hour hear­ing.

I never won­dered if my pro­fes­sors had con­ver­sa­tions that ran: “Hurry up and lose, Lord Volde­mort, I have to teach De­fense Against the Dark Arts in an hour!”

There is some­thing mag­i­cal about be­ing able to study law in its purest in­tel­lec­tual beauty.

The Hil­bay of my stu­dent world was fresh from Yale, with long hair, tweed blazer and frayed jeans. We ar­gued the right to pri­vacy at length in his of­fice. When I later sat in Prof. Lau­rence Tribe’s lec­ture on the two rights to pri­vacy — in­for­ma­tional and de­ci­sional — I re­al­ized Hil­bay and I had each been ar­gu­ing some­thing else.

It is too easy to for­get that the cast and I are no longer stand­ing in a Univer­sity of the Philip­pines cor­ri­dor. I formed many key ideas I write about when I was a fresh­man. But for the stakes, to­day’s na­tional de­bates dif­fer lit­tle from old ca­sual ban­ter with VVM.

One ap­pre­ci­ates magic not when one is sur­rounded by it, but when one goes off into the Mug­gle world and bus­ies one­self with the minu­tiae of no­tar­ial rules (which, in­ci­den­tally, were cited to jail De Lima).

Corol­lar­ily, law stu­dents are obliv­i­ous to their own power. They have no idea they are hold­ing the El­der Wand or study­ing un­der Dum­ble­dore — or maybe, The Boy Who Lived. In­deed, when Car­pio wrote his fa­mous 2003 MVRS dis­sent, he cited his own 1972 Philip­pine Law Jour­nal stu­dent ar­ti­cle.

To protest the Mar­cos state burial, for ex­am­ple, UP Law stu­dents blew up a page from a key Supreme Court de­ci­sion con­demn­ing Mar­cos on a gi­ant tar­pau­lin. Their rally plac­ard was far more bril­liant than the silly word games ac­tivists brought to the Supreme Court.

Young lawyers Gil An­thony Aquino and Tin An­to­nio won the first “am­paro” pe­ti­tion against “tokhang” be­fore the Supreme Court, in less than a week. They re­cently filed a sec­ond pe­ti­tion for San An­dres Bukid, Manila, with less me­dia fan­fare than less con­crete pe­ti­tions by more prom­i­nent ad­vo­cates.

Sadly, our pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion snubs young un­knowns, who may not even re­al­ize it when they de­stroy a hor­crux.

De­men­tors twist law from magic into po­lit­i­cal pawn. Our so­ci­ety pre­scribes no penalty for bla­tantly mis­stat­ing law. The­o­ries spon­ta­neously mocked by fresh­men on Face­book some­how de­fine head­lines.

Be­yond the last de­fend­ers of Camelot such as new In­te­grated Bar of the Philip­pines pres­i­dent Ab­diel Fa­jardo and the few im­par­tial le­gal com­men­ta­tors, per­haps law stu­dents should take it upon them­selves to guard the in­tegrity of law in our na­tional dis­course. If our law schools are at the in­tel­lec­tual front lines, the Bat­tle of Hog­warts was won by stu­dents.

One can as­pire to sim­ply pass the bar. But if one styles one­self a dreamer, an ide­al­ist and a wizard, per­haps one should as­pire to bring magic back into law and our dreary world.

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