Mr Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, May 17, 2006 edition, p. A6.

I sat with a half dozen new lawyers who were discussing Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban’s speech. They were playing some kind of guessing game.

The first lawyer asked, “Was Chief Justice Panganiban referring to the congressmen lawyers who aborted the impeachment complaint when he said, ‘Society has the most to fear from this crop of lawyers who have a wealth of legal knowledge but a threadbare ethical mooring; they may turn out to be worse than the criminal they defend?’”

Lawyer number two wondered, “Was Panganiban tellng us not to emulate Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s legal team when he channeled the spirit of the late Justice JBL Reyes and told us to keep our ‘souls attuned to the demands of morality and honor, since a just cause cannot be protected or defended by dishonorable means?’”

“Did you notice,” I interjected, “that Panganiban focused only on their dishonorable means and gave them a free pass on the just cause bit?”

“Yup,” agreed lawyer number four. “And what could be better proof of using dishonorable means to cover-up an unjust cause than copying a line from someone else’s unjust proclamation? It reminds me of our stupid classmate who was caught cheating in the bar exams because he copied everything including his seatmate’s name.”

A fifth lawyer didn’t bother to join the guessing game. He simply stated, “I’m sure Panganiban meant Raul Gonzalez when he said, ‘Quality justice always begins with ethics. Without sound and firm ethical moorings to anchor the profession, attorneys are bound to drift in a vast sea of professional uncertainty and even of personal degeneracy.’”

Lawyer number three looked lost, so lawyer number five continued, “Who got thrown out of the lower courts thrice and received lectures in law to boot? And how did he react to it?”

Before anyone could respond, lawyer number five answered his own question and said, “He accused the judge of being anti-government because, in addition to telling him to butt-out of the Subic rape case, the judge also threw out his kidnapping charge against Samuel Ong.  Never mind that Ong allowed his alleged victim to keep a semi-automatic pistol and a girlfriend while he was supposedly being detained against his will.”

“Well,” said lawyer number one, “to Gonzalez, those are only mitigating circumstances. “

Lawyer number five was not finished. He added, “As to the female judge who laid him flat on his back, Gonzalez was screaming, ‘I’m not done with you yet, lady!’ as they carried him out on a stretcher.”

Number three finally spoke up and said, “Yeah, he’s like the beaten fighter who kept insisting, ‘I won. I broke his fist with my face.’”

It was obvious this group of new lawyers weren’t fans of Gonzalez. One of them even recited verbatim an excerpt from Carmen Guerrero Nakpil’s classic on Gonzalez and the Subic rape case:

“Pasty-faced, with slicked-down thinning hair and a redneck suit of clashing plaids, he made reference last week to the victim’s ‘panties,’ as the most exciting thing in the preliminary hearings….With many sidelong glances and sly smiles, he squirmed and quivered through a TV interview, as he reported the visit of the complainant to the DOJ building, and how he refused to receive her, making it all sound as if the poor girl were trying to arrange a tryst with an alpha male like him. He implied that he was only protecting his reputation. But that item has been in shreds since he presided over the canvassing of ballot certificates in 2004.”

“Mismo!” the lawyers exclaimed.

Then one of the lawyers said, “Let’s not forget who inspired the constructive resignation thing.  And how accommodatingly they took their time before CPR, EO 464 and Proclamation 1017 were struck down by his court.”

I said, “You mean Chief Justice Panganiban’s line about, ‘They have lost sight of the fact that their duty, first and foremost, is to serve the ends of justice; and that their primary fidelity is to the courts and secondarily only to their clients,’ was a soliloquy?”

“If the shoe fits!” the group replied.

And they wandered off into the night certain only of their uncertain future as lawyers in a land made lawless by an outlaw regime.