Justice Leonen: ‘The rule of law is always the rule of just law, it is no code for servility’
For the first time in history, the Supreme Court held the oath-taking ceremony of bar passers over the internet, through videoconferencing. Justice Marvic Leonen, chairperson of the 2020 bar exams, gave an inspirational speech on what it means to be a lawyer. It was a speech that embodied the spirit of UP Law, the institution he graduated from and where he served as Dean from 2008 to 2011.
Aside from announcing projects for easing access to the bar exams such as regionalizing a bar exam in Cebu and initiatives to computerize the exam itself, Justice Leonen adjured the bar passers, and by extension all lawyers, on their role in society: “Lawyers can either … allow the law to further our collective human perdition, or we can collectively use law to liberate. The rule of law is always the rule of just law; it is no code for servility,” he counseled.
UP Law proudly joins this battle cry for active participation in social justice as it has from its founding in 1911. It is the basis on which it educates—and will continue to educate—its students.
Justice Leonen further exhorted his listeners to “Protect those who have less in life, Do not stand for abuse; be accepting of different identities; speak up against corruption, do not succumb to having more than enough; do not trade kindness for the false badge of success. When you enter public office, discharge it for the public trust that it is.”
Finally, Justice Leonen ended his speech, paraphrasing from the UP Naming Mahal hymn, “Humayo nang buong giting at tapang, paglingkuran ang sambayanan.” The words he uttered on this day, June 25, 2020, will not be lost on the would-be lawyers in attendance, especially the graduates of the institution he has cherished, taught in, and led as Dean.