My dusty diaries tell of my ten-year journey
so that I am still keeping my schedule the traditional way!
I am aching to write about my ten years as a lawyer in public service. Alas, I did not keep a journal. It is no accident that every writer has one, but can you blame this soul when scribbling is a luxury since post-bar era and typing is the trend since day one in my work area? But I just can't give up, so an idea just came about. I dusted off my ten schedule books that served me from February 2005 until December 2014.
In my schedule books are the cases for trial. It is a tragedy that the cases for mediation were not entered there; they will just fade away unless my memory can salvage them. I started with the notebook-sized moss-green book with gold-inscribed print: 2005 diary. It seems I need not move forward from there because on the inside cover, I copied from the wall of the old MTCC sala, these profound words from Daniel Webster on the profession.
"Our profession is good if practiced in the spirit of it; it is damnable fraud and iniquity when its true spirit is supplied by a spirit of mischief-making and money-getting. The love of fame is extinguished; every ardent wish for knowledge repressed; conscience put in jeopardy, and the best feelings of the heart indurated by the mean, money-catching, abominable practices, which cover with disgrace some of the modern practitioners of law."
As I leaf through from February to December, I can recall the cases where I get dazed by the mere conduct of pre-trial, where I got the initial fluttering in my stomach because of my first cross-examination, where I was frozen because direct examination frightens me, where I realized that the book on art of cross-examination is not useful in real life, where I realized that I should also be a walking lie detector because of tales coming from my clients, and the list can go on as my learning progressed till the first year ended.
I should not fail to mention here that on my first year, I defended myself from false accusations when I was made to explain by our central office because I got a handwritten letter-complaint from a sister of a client who was residing in Manila and who has not inquired of the status of his brother's case here in Negros Occidetal. Well, I got another one within my decade. I was vindicated in both but was I bothered? Of course, I was. As a mentor said, even if we try hard to do the right thing, there will always be a complaint. That is part of our job.
My Executive Diary 2006 is maroon in color and still a regular notebook in size. On the fly leaf, I scribbled the Centennial Prayer which I remember I copied from an old calendar of an MTC. I believed then and now that lawyers and all workers in the justice system should look no farther for inspiration in their daily grind but to strive to embody to be the answer to this meaningful prayer.
"Almighty GOD, we stand in your holy presence as our Supreme Judge. We humbly beseech you to bless and inspire us so that what we think, say, and do will be in accordance with your will. Enlighten our minds, strengthen our spirit and fill our hearts with fraternal love, wisdom and understanding, so that we can be effective channels of truth, justice and peace. In our proceedings today, guide us in the path of righteousness for the fulfillment of your greater glory. Amen."
This year's entries reminded me of my cases where I eventually had acquittals years after. An entry on the 20th of January, a case for promulgation was logged. This is a case where I got an acquittal for my client in Theft. It was an inherited case but I presented the accused and submitted a memorandum on this one. I can recall my client was acquitted for a different reason but I just can't forget that, among others, I argued here whether it is theft if the tree said to be stolen was still standing when it was stolen. I was trying to establish that it is not a personal property. I forgot how the argument I made went. I am just happy that up to now, I still have the same amount of enthusiasm for each case I encounter every now and then.
Taken at a 2012 seminar in Bayview Hotel.
My 2007 Daily Planner looks like a handy Bible. I know that I bought this in a hurry because I like the weekly dates in one spread rather than this a-page-a-day type; I want to see my cases in a week at once. No quotes on its fly leaf. In lieu, I can see among the stapled one-eighth of a bondpaper with scribbled notes on my course of action in a civil case. This is a case where the "notice of hearing" taught me hard and well. In the fit of a mozart-like dedication in composing pages and pages of my motion for reconsideration, I forgot to put a notice of hearing. My MR was denied because of it. I was devastated that I want to bite my elbows, left and right! I want to dissolve in the face of earth until I was solid again upon learning that my clients cannot afford the appeal bond so that appealing became out of question.
My 2008 Executive Planner is also a navy blue with the size of a regular notebook. I saw no quotes worthy of my scribbling because the fly leaf is only peppered with names and contact numbers. From the entries in my planner, one name surfaced and this name pestered me for years to come. This client is in the number one spot in my most diffcult clients, and overtaken by another only December last year. I am glad that they did not arrive together in time and space. With this client, I have to stretch my patience like the Biblical forgiveness of seventy times seven. With this client, I have to read books on psychology, and even psychiatry because merely understanding sociology or social psychology is not enough. I believe, it was no coincidence that sanity-saving Desiderata was written by a lawyer. With this client, I have become a lawyer-philosopher myself and I should expand a line in the prose poem to say, "listen to others, even the dull, the ignorant and the almost-insane; they too have their own story."
Pocket Diary 2009. I love the size of this one and my diaries onward will be of this size. On the fly leaf, I saw a name of a future client for declaration of nullity of marriage. I filed the case but the same was withdrawn later on by her because she and her husband reconciled. I can't forget her letter to me telling me that her marriage is not working anymore because it is like putting the switch into off and on over and over until the bulb got destroyed. When she approached me that she wished to withdraw her petition, I wanted to ask her whether what they did in their case was to buy a new bulb!
While skimming the pages, I folded two more pages. I smiled when I saw the names of the parties in a civil case for ejectment. While we were conducting an informal conference, the environment-protection-advocate plaintiff said that what she really can't accept from my client, a land laborer in his late twenties, is that he destroys the growing trees. My client immediately countered saying, "No, I did not destroy the trees, I just cut and burned down one fist-sized serguellas." I saw the plaintiff's rosy cheeks turn pale!
On a serious note for this year, I should tell this one. One defining moment for a defense lawyer is when her client is acquitted at the end of trial. But a long and hard look at it, sometimes, I want to push myself more telling myself to spare the innocent the earliest possible time from the court processes. This is one case that I wished I did more to spare the guy. He was acquitted at the end of the trial and after the promulgation of his sentence, it was the first time that I saw a man shed tears in the courtroom.
This is my canvass for the year 2015.
2010 Weekly Planner. Brown with snake-skin cover design. There is the case where I requested the NBI for handwriting expert. Also, I can see the case where I learned about shotgun, 45 caliber, 38 caliber etc and the wounds they create. I can also see the name of a client whose case I want to see ended as soon as possible, otherwise, I can publish a book entitled, "Sign Language Aside: How To Deal With Almost-Deaf Client With No Shouting Please." I also saw the name of a client whose luck is so bad because when she was a baby she was registered thrice. We were able to cancel the second registration via a court judgment, only to find out that there is an earliest registration. I see here the name of one client of mine whose name included Maria and we filed a case against her husband. She said, she can't just throw vindictive to her husband because his name is "Jesus." From this one, let's move on to a whole new year!
2011 Executive Diary. It is navy blue and pocket in size. No quotes in the fly leaf which saddened me a bit. No one is decorating the walls with inspiring words anymore; I should start a tradition myself here. One case logged in my diary reminded me of my disappointment when only last year I learned that the Order of Finality issued to my client by DAR was still set aside by same office which granted it years ago; sprouting criminal cases are the interrim result until the case will finally be decided by the national office.
There is also this case where my clients were acquitted and where I can also say to myself that sometimes our justice system cannot guarantee peace even after trial. The aging private complainant cried out her disagreement while still in the courtroom and while walking down the corridor. I told my clients to remain humble, afterall, she is their aunt and to delay going home as they might get into trouble if they leave together. I appreciate the wisdom and policy behind the mediation and conciliation. There, the parties leave shaking hands and greeting each other after reaching an agreement which serves as judgment.
2012 Diary is apple green with spiral binding. I spotted the name of an accused but I believe his case started even at least a year ago. This one, and actually countless others, is one of those who have obnoxious characters so that I wish I have a choice of denying my legal services to him. Since I have no choice, I have to! He was convicted to a lower charge and was given a minimum penalty. To my dismay...
I have funny anecdotes for this year involving the relatives of my clients which will better wait for their proper exposure in a book I am preparing which I provisionally name as "Legal Laughs."
2013 Wallet Planner is navy blue in color and opens horizontally. I have a case this year that brought to mind the indigency requirements that were surreptitiously removed from my desk. Since the office has no CCTV, I cannot prove who actually took it but I can surely lengthily discuss who has the motive to get it. Because of this case, I got my second letter from the central office requiring me to explain my side within 72-hours. I was vindicated in 2014. Memorable case! And the memorable lesson? Keep your table clear so you can keep an eye on your documents.
I have a few entries on nullity cases where I represent the defendants. My clients in this kind of case want freedom too. They also want peace of mind; they want to move on. But still, they want me to oppose the petition of their husbands/wives because they contain fabrications and they cannot stomach the falsehood hurled to them. I told them, it was only a dramatized narration of facts and they should not take offense over them. But then they insist and I have to heed them! (Generally, they cannot come during their own presentation of evidence).
My 2014 planner is still lying in the office, so I have to end here. There are still many defining moments waiting to be told but I have to stick on what came first to mind. So long, my friend, till the next ten years!