Luckily, Rizal was not a lawyer

Two presidential elections back, a candidate was heavily criticized for his non-activisim during Martial Law. He was then a law student at a presitigious university known for being the last bastion of democracy.

Known to be a good man, his supporters and friends came to his defense explaining that law students and lawyers are trained to uphold the Rule of Law. That is, regardless of one’s political views and opinions on the Government, those in the legal profession are expected to follow the law, which is usually represented by the authorities. The narrative was that he was observing the Rule of Law which is considered absolute to maintain stability, as well as peace and order, in the country.

Similarly, 100 years back prior to the uprising by Filipinos against Spanish Rule, no lawyer was associated with pre-revolution activities. Lawyers were not known to have written for La Solidaridad nor advocated for independence of the Philippines in Spain. Specifically, no lawyer had the audacity to write novels depicting the harsh and inhumane conditions people were living in under the Government of a colonial master.

It took a doctor by the name of Jose P. Rizal to make it happen with his novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The others who wrote for the La Solidaridad were pharmacists, artists, and other professionals, to the exclusion of lawyers.

Make no mistake, the participation of lawyer Apolinario M. Mabini came after the spark of the revolution when his services was requested to help form a revolutionary government. Prior thereto, it is said that he himself declined to assist in a revolution.

The reasons are fairly similar to our earlier story. There was no shortage of Filipino lawyers during the 1800s. Being a lawyer was a sought after profession due to the social status it commanded. However, it is a very traditional profession where Rule of Law runs deep and is heavily inculculated into the young minds of law students. Add to it that they are taught to use logic and reason, it would thus make sense that there was not much appeal to a revolution, which would cause so much bloodshed. Even Rizal himself was against it, so was Mabini.

It was thus left to the other profession to took on the task of inciting the fervent hearts of the people for independence. The one that forged on came from another traditional profession know for healing.

Had Rizal likewise studied law and got his license, an argument can be made that he will likely not have written his novels due to his indoctrination to the importance on the Rule of Law.

Fast forward to the American colonization/occupation, the charge for independence within a legal framework was led by lawyers, chiefly by Manuel L. Quezon. Lawyer Manuel Roxas, as the first bar topnotcher, would see the independence from U.S. rule to fruition. As these were all within the Rule of Law, lawyers were able to campaign out in the open.

The exceptional experience came when the people fought for the restoration of democracy from Martial Law. Despite the teachings on the Rule of Law, many a lawyer and law student took on the streets to expresss their grievances which ultimately led to a bloodless revolt, a first on the world stage. It bears mentioning that one of these lawyers happen to be now a judge in the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands.

What this evolution has shown is that the doctrine on the Rule of Law, while still being taught in law schools as absolute, is no match against a power that is greater, that one word that has toppled monarchs and dictatorial regimes: freedom. It is indeed an evolution, one that created a precedent for the next great novels that can be written by the only traditional profession which knows the power of the written word, to shape the lives of a people and to chart the destiny of a nation.

Written on 30 December 2019, Rizal Day.