(Excerpts of my speech during the 2nd Rule of Law National Congress for law students)
I BID you all a warm welcome to Ateneo de Davao University. It is indeed an auspicious occasion that you are all gathered here to conduct the 1st Rule of Law National Congress for Law Students.
This activity is a good opportunity to allow young leaders, like you, to explore various perspectives of issues of the time and to discuss and address them with the guidance of your mentors and other legal luminaries, professionals, and practitioners.
Spending time with them can be a good opportunity for you to gain knowledge and appreciation of the law.
I stand before you as a former law student like you, and now part of the framers of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which eventually became the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Let me begin my discussion by reading to you the Preamble of the BOL...
This preamble invokes that, above all laws, there is a higher power that rules over us all. It is what our Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim calls “moral governance” in the Barmm. Each and every person is ruled by his or her own sense of right and wrong, and it is in this right that we try to create laws that reflect our humanity.
The values we cite in this preamble – an enduring peace, justice, human rights, liberty, justice, democracy – are all things we must look at as law practitioners and legislators. The BOL, in this case, seeks to highlight the freedoms and right to self-determination that our forefathers struggled for.
It was John Locke that said, “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.”
Here in the Philippines, when you think on the rule of law, we are often focused on preserving peace and order in our cities, or law enforcement. Although it is an important facet of our democracy, we must also look at the kind of laws we have, and how these can be indicators of good or bad governance.
Those who are practitioners of the law intrinsically know that the rule of law is important. But, because we are tasked with this knowledge, it is also our responsibility to emphasize this importance in sectors that do not necessarily know it.
Each and every Filipino citizen is constitutionally granted the right to speak for their rights. This is not limited to those who know the law – this is also includes the common farmer who is waiting on the harvest season, the office employee that commutes to and from work every day. For the common farmer, laws that he will be interested in would be in subsidies and grants that will help him/her increase their yield, for example; for the office worker, any changes in transportation and urban planning that will make their commute easier.
This means that we cannot enact laws without thinking of those who will be most affected by them. You cannot separate the Bangsamoro Organic Law, for example, from the hopes and dreams of every Moro-Muslim in this country who has been waiting for the right to self-determination. To not adhere to the tenets in these acts is to not value the rights of the common Filipino.
That is why, as law practitioners, we must also help to promote the proper implementation and enactment of the rule of law. This means proper information dissemination, awareness, and understanding, to our constituents. Although it is true that ignorance of the law excuses no one, laws must also be made accessible and clear to every single Filipino citizen.
It is very easy to lose one’s self in the rhetoric of certain passages in the law. The ability to be able to communicate these aspects effectively, however, must be our goal; when people are made aware of the laws that are in place, and understand why they are there, the more effective implementation and enforcement will be.
We have been given an enormous responsibility as law practitioners, and because of that, we must not forget to do our duty to the people, first. That the role and rule of law must speak for the people, always. We cannot have a truly just and moral governance without these ideals.