MANILA — President Benigno S. Aquino III graced on Thursday the 123rd founding anniversary of the Philippine Bar Association (PBA), commending the lawyers’ group for “being a consistent voice for the rule of law.”
In his speech delivered before some 200 lawyers at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City, President Aquino lauded the PBA for constantly upholding the rule of law, particularly during the martial law regime, the Arroyo administration and the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
He said that same as his principles, the PBA has always considered the common good in upholding the rule of law.
The President particularly cited the advocacy of the PBA against human rights violations, which include the investigation into his late father’s assassination; the group’s support for the restoration of democracy during the People Power Revolution; and questioning the “midnight appointments” during the Arroyo administration.
President Aquino recalled the supposed wrongdoings during the Arroyo government involving Corona, including his supposed midnight appointment, his non-disclosure of Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and the flip-flopping cases under his leadership.
“I made it a point to be here with your association today not just to thank you for taking a similar position with us, but to thank you for being a consistent voice for the rule of law,” he said.
“Even when so many other lawyers’ groups seem so willing to add to the noise and clamor, your association remains sober and measured in its statements. This is what sets the Philippine Bar Association apart from all other groups. Even in disagreement, you do not pander to public sentiment, but raise the level of discourse and uphold the rule of law — in all situations, you have found that there is only one answer to the question, “Does this redound to the common good?” he added.
President Aquino extolled the audacity of the PBA lawyers for supporting the administration’s impeachment case despite knowing that such action would jeopardize their careers.
He said ensuring equity and justice is a duty not just by the government but by the lawyers as well, expressing confidence that the PBA will continue to uphold its integrity in serving the Filipino people.
“Whether as lawyers today, or as judges and justices, each time you make a decision that redounds to the benefit of all — each time you choose the straight path, you are not only living up to the oath you swore when you were admitted to the Bar, you are also and more importantly helping to build a more just, a more fair society. Whether or not you are a member of the PBA, whatever your alma mater or area of practice, this is what must unite all those in the legal profession: a firm resolve to uphold both the spirit and the letter of the law, towards serving your fellowmen,” he said.
During the event, the PBA accorded President Aquino a resolution of support.
The Philippine Bar Association is the oldest voluntary national organization of lawyers in the Philippines. It traces its roots to the Colegio de Abogados de Filipinas organized on April 8, 1891 and the bar association organized by American lawyers in the Philippines in 1900.
On June 24, 1904 under the inspiration of Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano, the Colegio de Abogados de Filipinas and the association of American lawyers in the Philippines merged to form the PBA.
The PBA joined the nation in condemning the proclamation of martial law in 1972, mourning the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino on August 21, 1983, and welcoming the return of democracy on February 25, 1986. During martial law, the PBA investigated various violations of human rights and successfully won cases for the release of many detainees.
The PBA condemned the gruesome carnage in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009 where 58 people (mostly women, two of them female lawyers, and some journalists) were killed. They have urged authorities to punish the murderers.
The PBA was the lead organization that questioned the “midnight appointments” before the automated elections on May 10, 2010.
It likewise commended the Senate, sitting as an Impeachment Court under the leadership of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, for its May 29, 2012 historic decision — voting 20 for, 3 against — to remove from office then Chief Justice Corona.