GAJE and Tofil

THE LEGAL curriculum is determined in large measure by the requirements of the workplace. Most law schools train students to be technicians adept at applying statutes to known facts to arrive at tenable courses of action for specific clients. Only a few schools take the extra effort to go beyond this vocational orientation and to zero in on human rights and the attainment of justice for justice’s sake.

Global Alliance for Justice Education. That is why the weeklong conference (Dec. 7-13) of the Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE) at the Ateneo Law School in Rockwell Center, Makati is praiseworthy. It spotlights the pristine ideals of justice through legal education.

This is the fifth time this international conference has been called, the earlier ones having been held in India (1999), South Africa (2001), Poland (2004) and Argentina (2006). GAJE has also organized regional conferences in Australasia (2002) and North America (2006).

I have gladly consented to be the keynote speaker during the opening ceremonies on Monday. I agree with GAJE’s goal to produce judges, lawyers, legal educators and civil society leaders who focus on upholding human rights, assisting indigents and bringing justice to the helpless, rather than on helping clients build fortunes or escape liabilities through legal technicalities. With the assistance of the Asia Foundation, the international gathering has been made accessible and affordable to delegates from over 50 countries.

GAJE has facilitated a wide range of cross national collaborations including educational exchange programs, joint research projects, “train the trainer” workshops, teaching handbooks, curricular materials and multinational co-authorship of books and articles. Further information is available from Carlos P. Medina Jr., executive director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center or Anna Katrina A. Carillo at

I think GAJE’s advocacies are timely. In many places in the world, there are rulers and leaders who still believe in and practice authoritarianism in various forms and contexts. Although many times shrouded in libertarian veneers, their governments are really shaped by their wiles and whims, not by laws enacted by the people’s representatives. Dictators and autocrats use the colors of democracy but actually govern by decrees and rule by law.

On the opposite extreme are regimes where mobs and charlatans abuse democratic processes and defy duly constituted authorities. Governments are rendered inutile or are destabilized by armed partisans, pressure groups, parochial interests, money politics, drug power and corrupt practices that do not respect and, many times, overturn legitimate authority.

Many people in these regimes prosper not because they follow the law, but precisely because they are able to circumvent, bend, misuse and abuse the law. A simple example are motorists who are able to beat red lights and drive around with impunity because they bribe the police or use their relations or connections with the city mayor as their shield from arrest. There are many variations of this simple example, the point being that some individuals are able to abuse the processes of democracy to get what they do not deserve. They wrongly incant “people power” to justify abuses in circumventing the law.

I believe GAJE could moderate these extremes of authoritarianism on the one hand and lawlessness on the other by strengthening the rule of law through education. No one should be so powerful, so moneyed or so influential as to be above the law. Democracy cannot prevail, liberty cannot thrive and prosperity cannot flourish unless people know and follow the rule of law.

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The Outstanding Filipinos. As chair of the board of judges of The Outstanding Filipinos (Tofil), may I congratulate the 2008 winners: Metrobank chair Antonio S. Abacan Jr. (banking), Sister Mary Placid Lorna Abejo, OSB (music), Rustica C. Carpio, PhD (culture and arts), Rafael D. Guerrero III, PhD (science and technology), and Federico M. Macaranas, PhD (economics). The Philippine Jaycees Senate and the Insular Life Assurance Company sponsor these annual awards.

I have headed the board of judges of many eminent searches for the prominent men and women of our country, including twice for The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM), but I must say that this year’s Tofil ranks among the best. We started with a list of 28 nominations and ended with the five finest.

The board had moments of difficulty and dilemmas during the selection process because we wanted to put the Tofil seal only on the most deserving among the qualified nominees. Lively discussions and debates we had. We used computer charts, white boards and comparative analyses. But in the end, we were unanimous in and proud of our choices.

Aside from me, the judges were Miriam College president Patricia Licuanan, St. Luke’s Hospital chair Robert Kwan, Insular Life director Alfredo Parungao and Jaycee Senate past president Senen Quiambao. I regret that I will be abroad during the awarding ceremonies on Dec. 11 at the Insular Life Auditorium in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. I thank Dr. Licuanan for agreeing to deliver the message of the board of judges during the program.

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Arroyo’s options. Last Sunday’s column on the Cha-cha drew an interesting question: if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s partisans fail in their Charter change (Cha-cha) bid, as they probably will, what—if any—are the President’s options to stay in power beyond June 30, 2010? See my answer next week.

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