For the People: Atty. Taule’s take on Human Rights and the Legal Profession
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
By: Archiebald Faller Capila
Written in stone is the fact that the law profession should be a symbol of hope and justice—and an embodiment of what is righteous. Time has always been a witness to how men and women of the law have become catalysts of change. Citizens of the world have seen how lawyers used their respective brilliance in order to fight for a cause—a good cause.
Along the way, however, it cannot be denied that some lawyers see the profession not as a tool to help the needy but a gateway to uplift one’s status and gain personal interest. For some, they see the profession as a tool to elevate their status to fame and fortune. For some, they see the profession as the only way in order to gain power over something that they want in their respective lives.
From time to time, aspiring members of the legal profession forget their reasons for why they are pursuing law in the first place. Whatever reason there is—however clear or vague the same may be, once in a while, people forget their “why” and stumble upon a path that seemingly becomes more mechanic than human. They become out of touch of reality and lose their foresight on why they want to become a lawyer. Accordingly, this also leads to the fact that some lawyers have already lost sight of their purpose. They have become too preoccupied with the fact that they are lawyers and that there is no life beyond the context of the law.
However, some genuine officers of the Court still stand out and remain in touch with what they want, and how they want to do it. Standing at the helm of lawyers who chose to serve the people rather than pursue personal interest is none other than Atty. Maria Sol G. Taule.
Atty. Taule is known in the legal community as a progressive lawyer who fights for the rights of the people. Often seen with clients whose rights are violated or restrained by the state, Atty. Taule is no stranger to voicing out her opinion. For her, she needs to fight injustice. For her, no one will talk if everyone remains silent.
In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Taule shared her thoughts on human rights, the institutions of the state in general, and a message to all aspiring lawyers who also have the heart to serve the people.
Barrista Solutions: The profession today seldom banners practitioners who engage in human rights practice. However, you are part of a group of lawyers that pushes for the same. When did you realize that you want to engage in and specialize in such a field of law?
Atty. Taule: Simula pa lang alam ko na. I had my undergrad and law studies in a state university, so I was well-aware of social issues back then even at an early age. Mulat na agad ako sa social issues. Marami na agad akong nakita na inequalities. One of the most striking cases I encountered was the Hacienda Luisita Massacre wherein I saw first-hand the plights of our farmers. Even back in my undergrad, I was already a student activist. I also joined the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL). Dito hinimok din namin ang ibang mga tao to engage in people’s lawyering. Dito, namulat ako na kasalanan din ang hindi magsalita kapag kaharap mo na ang problema.
Barrista Solutions: Having been engaged in several cases and instances wherein your clients are often deprived of their rights, what can you say about the justice system here in the Philippines?
Atty. Taule: For me, imperfection of the justice system is just a part of the bigger system. Let’s remember that the judiciary is only a part of the government. Mayroon pa tayong executive and legislative branch. It’s a systematic problem. If the whole system is in itself flawed, marami pa ring violations na mangyayare. There are a lot of inefficiencies in our legal system. For example na lang, with what is happening today. There are a lot of quarantine violators na hinuhuli. Simple infractions like these, kakasuhan pa. Hindi na lang ayusin. Because of which our courts are clogged. Malaking factor din yung reality na our justices and judges are appointed by existing leaders. Sometimes, it affects impartiality. Our laws, while they embrace innovation, eh hindi rin ganun ka-effective. Kulang sa ngipin. They do not stop harassment and impunity. So it’s the entire system that is problematic.
Barrista Solutions: Being one of the progressive minds in the profession today, what do you think should change in the mindset of lawyers today?
Atty. Taule: I think more lawyers and even law students should look into the possibility of engaging in human rights lawyering. It is imperative that we all recognize the importance of advancing and fighting for our constitutionally-protected rights. Kung hindi tayo, sino? Tayong mga abogado ang dapat manguna sa pagprotekta ng mga karapatan ng tao.
Barrista Solutions: A lot of young lawyers and law students today are more engaged in the talks pertaining to human rights. What do you think should they do in order to fully elevate this field of practice in our time?
Atty. Taule: Immerse yourself to the struggles of ordinary folks. Hindi pwedeng kwento-kwento lang. You need to know and learn first-hand the problems of the basic sectors. By doing so, magkakaroon ka ng will to push forward and fight for their rights.
Ito ang ginawa ko rin noon. Isa ito sa mga motivating factors kung bakit hindi ako nag-quit sa law school. Ibang klaseng motivation kung sa puso mo, alam mong may makabuluhang bagay kang ginagawa para sa ibang tao. Accordingly, ito rin yung motivation ko kung bakit hindi ako tumigil. Hindi ako first time passer. Isa sa mga reasons kung bakit ako bumangon ule at nagreview ay dahil alam kong may mga naniniwala sa akin—mga magsasaka at manggagawa. It made me feel human.
Barrista Solutions: Lawyers today now access various social media platforms in order to address certain social and political issues. For you, what role should social media play in making good of every lawyer’s sworn oath and their respective duties?
Atty. Taule: If there is someone who needs legal advice, entertain them as much as possible. Hangga’t kayang sagutin, bakit mo ipagdadamot yung knowledge mo? Lalo na yung mga naaabuso? Yung mga walang-wala talaga? Let us try our very best to be of help to people. Reach out to those people who are violated. Huwag nating ipagdamaot kung ano ang mga nalalaman natin. Hangga’t kaya natin, tumulong tayo lalo na sa ordinaryong mamamayan.
Barrista Solutions: Back when you were still a law student, what were the main problems that you encountered in the study of law and how did you overcome them?
Atty. Taule: Apart from the nakakatamad and nakakapagod eh yung frustrations talaga ang naka-apekto sa akin. I was already engaged in human rights work while I was studying law. I noticed that the theories taught in law school are very different and out-of-touch from reality. Nonetheless, I kept going kasi sabi ko nga, may mga taong umaasa sa akin and yun yung one of the reasons on why I did not give up.
Barrista Solutions: If you could change any decision you have made in your life with respect to the practice of your profession, what would it be if there is any?
Atty. Taule: Siguro sa choice na ginawa ko sa people’s lawyering, kung may ibabalik ako, siguro mas naging masigasig ako as a law student noon. I would have encouraged more people to engage in this line of work. I would have encouraged more classmates in law school to pursue a career protecting human rights. I should have allotted more time to organize people and convince them that we need more people in this field of law.
Barrista Solutions: What are you looking forward to in the future with respect to your current profession?
Atty. Taule: I think I’ll continue this path as much as I can, whenever I can, and with all that I can. Gaya ng sinabi ko, it would be a sin to close my eyes when what is in front of me are the inequalities brought about by the system. Sana, mas marami pang tumahak sa ganitong field. Sa akin kasi, this practice makes me feel human and sleep soundly at night kasi nakakatulong ako sa ibang tao. Hindi nagma-matter kung magkano ang kinita mo. It’s the legacy you leave behind as a person. For me, this is not a career. This is a responsibility.
Barrista Solutions: What are your tips and message to those who are aspiring to become lawyers any time soon?
Atty. Taule: Do not be too hard on yourself. Madalas self-centered kayo. Madalas, ang mundo nyo ay law school at library. If and when you immerse yourself with the realities and inequalities of life, you will realize na ang petty ng problema natin. Just fight for your dreams din. Huwag kayo mag-give up. Ang setbacks ay temporary.
For those who failed the bar on their first takes, I know na mahirap ulit-ulitin. Tapangan ninyo ang loob. Be brave. Failures are part of daily lives. Be thankful of failures because these make us stronger. Rest. Take time to prepare. Find your inspiration aside from your family. Be part of the struggle of the people. Tumayo ka para sa kanila.
· Atty. Maria Sol G. Taule took up Public Administration and Governance at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). She took up law at PUP and at the Manila Law College. She is a member of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) and the legal counsel of KARAPATAN.