“THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is the sentinel of the rule of law. We have all sworn to uphold the primacy of the Constitution. Our oath should not be discarded as another empty recitation of meaningless phrases,” underscored outgoing IBP national president Atty. Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo as the organization recently held its 17th national convention in Iloilo City.
With the theme “Upholding the Rule of Law in Periods of Great Change,” IBP urged its members to unite amid the country’s current situation, which involves killings of lawyers and other personalities in the legal profession.
Fajardo said the Philippines slid two levels down the Rule of Law index in a survey of 126 countries conducted by the World Justice Project. From No. 88 in 2017 to 2018, the Philippines is now on No. 90. The survey had criteria on constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, fundamental rights, order and security, and criminal justice.
Of the 15 countries surveyed in the East Asia and Pacific region, the Philippines ranked 13th, higher in rankings only against Myanmar and Cambodia.
“There is therefore no greater cause to unite ourselves other than under the rule of law. We cannot let this convention pass without recognizing the more potent danger of lawyers themselves becoming casualties in society’s sudden shift to populist causes largely fueled by fake news and manufactured hysteria, causes that take short shrift of the law, causes that criminalize the legitimate exercise of our skills as legal professionals,” Fajardo stressed.
He further said the erosion of the rule of law should not be openly advocated by those who are sworn to defend it.
For the IBP president, a society that attains its objectives by disregarding the law has no need for lawyers and a lawyer who condones impunity and evinces joy in lawlessness betrays his sole cause for existence.
Fajardo invoked that the State has the obligation to protect lawyers so they can practice their profession without the disconcerting effects of fear, harassment and intimidation.
He added that a lawyer who is timid in his blows is a negative variable who can tilt the scales of justice toward injustice.
“And normalizing the killing of lawyers, prosecutors and judges is the most direct affront to the rule of law in this country,” Fajardo stressed.
Above all advocacies, the IBP chief is proud to say that they fought strongly for human rights – a value that rests at the very core of their upbringing as Philippine lawyers.
He noted that upon coming to office, lawyers immediately set the non-depreciating value of the rule of law and the institutions that safeguard constitutional rights.
“It is right to fight for the interests that we represent. It is also right to strongly disagree when genuine differences of opinion do exist,”Fajardo said.
With the objective of the convention to re-ignite strong public interest in stability and in the orderly conduct of lawyering affairs, Fajardo urged fellow lawyers to thrive under a consistent application of the law, undaunted by the winds of populism and political change./PN