By: Archiebald Faller Capila
“Hardwork beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
We have seen and heard this particular phrase more than once in our lives. The same saying has echoed through the sacred halls of our respective law schools as well. From our very first day, we were taught that we know nothing and that we have to start from scratch in our journeys to become a lawyer.
From dreams to realities, we have heard several stories on how lawyers worked hard in order to reach the platform they are in today. We have read narratives that inspire and motivate us to become like them. We have witnessed several success stories that make us want to be them.
However, the glory of the law is not always about a lawyer’s person. The glory of the law comes in how lawyers use their respective platforms in order to educate the people of programs that matter—of issues that are of paramount importance that we need to address them and be knowledgeable of their respective details.
A lawyer becomes great not because solely of his or her name but because of his or her drive to inspire others. Indeed, lawyers serve as beacons of hope and instruments of change which is for the better.
In the long list of lawyers who remain to be influential with respect to various social issues, Atty. Klinton M. Torralba stands as one of the few and the proud to speak his mind about his advocacies. In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Torralba shares his fight for the rights of the LGBTQIOA+ community, his thoughts on the current pandemic, and his message to all aspiring lawyers out there.
Barrista Solutions: What or who inspired you to pursue a career in the legal profession? Looking back at your journey, how do you describe the road towards where you stand right now?
Atty. Torralba: Initially, I wanted to become a lawyer because I want to fulfill the dream of my family for me. People in my town always told me that I’ll be a lawyer someday. When people see you as the brilliant kid in the block, they usually assume that you want to become a lawyer or a doctor.
After graduating in college, I received a scholarship invitation from Dean Nilo Divina of UST Faculty of Civil Law. For lack of better thing to do and thinking that it’s my family’s dream for me, I entered law school. However, I started my journey half-heartedly.
Since I was doing it half-heartedly, I lost my scholarship during the second semester of my first year in law school. I failed to recite any Supreme Court case in my first recitation; I miserably failed and I was at the bottom five (5) in the first examination I took in law school. Suddenly, all the cramming and strategies that used to work in college were not working in law school. These events made me believe that I was a law school misfit. I kept asking myself, “Why am I here?”
In fact, I posted a Facebook status last 13 August 2013, just few months after first semester of law school, which reads: “It always feels like a day is full of moments that could lead to self-annihilation and I dare to face each moment with a hope that in annihilating myself, I could create a version of me who will fit in this institution where I am trapped. That since I don’t have the courage to turn around and leave, I could but hope that in the long run, I will find myself smiling and will finally feel that I truly belong here.”
Upon reflection, I realized how privileged I was to have this kind of “existential” dilemma. I am a kid who was raised in the rustic town of Badoc, Ilocos Norte where majority of the people do not have the same opportunity and chances I had – many of them cannot afford to enroll in college or universities, many of my friends back home need to work in order to send their selves to school. There I was in law school fighting for my dreams and there they are fighting for their lives and the chance to have a better future. I felt so humbled and privileged and it is in that moment that it dawn on me that I was not doing this only for myself but for a purpose bigger than me; that the least I can do that moment is to not squander the opportunity given to me.
Since that moment, I whole-heartedly gave my all to become a lawyer, thinking that one day I will give back to the community and lend a voice to the poor, the underprivileged, and the oppressed.
Barrista Solutions: After landing a place in the Top 10 of the 2017 Bar Exams, how do you look at and deal with the expectations of your peers?
Atty. Torralba: I don’t deal with other’s expectations of what I should and should not be. After topping the Bar Exam, I promised to myself that I will not let other’s opinions and expectations define my worth and value. I will keep doing my best with or without their expectations.
Barrista Solutions: Trapped in the new normal, how do you see yourself overcoming the struggles our profession is facing today?
Atty. Torralba: In the same way that a law student must welcome the transformation that law school demands, a lawyer must also embrace the changes that the new normal bring. After all, it is not the strongest and most intelligent lawyer that thrives in the new normal, it is the one most adaptable to change.
Barrista Solutions: What are your thoughts as to the current state of legal practice and legal education in our country today?
Atty. Torralba: May the comfort of knowing the law and having a comfortable life because of the fruits of legal profession NOT make us indifferent to the plight of those who are suffering. Outside our comfort zone, there are powerless people who need our voice and protection. May we forever uphold the social justice principle in our Constitution that gives life to the slogan, “He who has less in life should have more in law.”
Barrista Solutions: What are the advocacies that you continue to fight for now that you are a lawyer and an esteemed member of the legal profession as well?
Atty. Torralba: Fighting for the rights of LGBTQIOA+ is personal to me. Last year, I confirmed and celebrated my true self in a national television. Since then I’ve been advocating for equality and the passage of laws championing gender equality. When I was a kid, they told me that the job of a lawyer is to fight and defend the right of others. Due to fear of judgment and discrimination, it took me a long time before I accepted the fact that my life as I want to live it and my rights are also worth fighting and defending. We, the LGBTQ+, do not need to prove ourselves first before being accepted, loved and celebrated.
I could not wait for the day where people, especially those in power, would eventually understand that we respect the marriage institution so much that we also want our love to be recognized in the eyes of the law. The word “LOVE” was mentioned twice in the 1987 Constitution. First, under the Preamble, which ensures the reign of “REGIME OF LOVE” as we achieve the ideals of our nation; Second, under Section 3, Article XIV, which mandates educational institution to “FOSTER LOVE FOR HUMANITY.” It is about time to foster love for humanity regardless of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE). It is about time to let the regime of love reign supreme in the Philippines.
Barrista Solutions: How do you see young lawyers, including yourself, help and contribute to what is currently happening now in the country in the midst of pandemic?
Atty. Torralba: Being a lawyer is both an honor and a responsibility. This pandemic highlighted the responsibility that every lawyer has to the country.
The young lawyers like me should use their platform to educate the people about their rights under the relevant laws affecting their lives. For instance, the most common law issue I encountered during this pandemic relates to termination of employment, for just causes and authorized causes. It is no secret that a lot of companies suffered serious business losses due to suspension or strict regulation of business operations as a consequence of the spread of COVID-19 vis-à-vis the community quarantine imposed by the government. What options are available to the employer whose business is suffering losses due to the restriction brought by the pandemic? How do we protect the laborers, without necessarily hemorrhaging the assets of the employer? It asks us to balance the interest of the employer and the employee. This was given life when the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (RA 11469) mandated the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other agencies to implement social protection programs to mitigate the effects of the pandemic to the most vulnerable sectors of the society (COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program).
Young lawyers like me may also mobilize their platform to extend help to those in need. A year ago today, I launched JUAN for BADOC, it is a small charity organization which seeks to help Ilokanos, especially my townmates in Badoc, Ilocos Norte whose livelihood were affected because of the imposition of community quarantine. In total, we were able to raise approximately Php200,000.00. Our first beneficiaries were the more than 100 Badjaos living in our town which were not given any relief good by that time, maybe because they’re the easiest to forget in a town where they are seen as the “Others”. In Ilokano we have a word called, PANAGSUBAD. It means giving back, and this JUAN for BADOC is my way of giving back to the Ilokanos.
Barrista Solutions: If you could give an advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Atty. Torralba: Love yourself more. You do not need to adorn yourself with laurels to be accepted, loved and celebrated by the people who matters.
Barrista Solutions: What are your tips in order to effectively study and prepare for the Bar for those hoping to pass or even top the same?
Atty. Torralba: Be health – spiritually, physically and mentally. Review each subject one at a time. Stick to the syllabus, focus on the frequently asked topics in the bar exam and master the basics. Adopt the language of the law and speak/write like a lawyer. Above all, prayers.
Barrista Solutions: What is your message to all the students of the law out there trying to be a part of the legal profession someday?
Atty. Torralba: You should never give up on your “Atty” dream like you want a lover to never give up on you. A dreamer like you is allowed to breathe. You are allowed to stumble. You are allowed to struggle. What you are not allowed to do is to give up.
Here you are fighting for your dreams and there are people out there who are fighting for their lives. May it make you feel so privileged to the point that it will dawn on you that you are doing this not only for yourself but for a purpose bigger than you; that the least you can do for now is to not squander the opportunity given to you. So, however giant the challenges you are facing in the midst of pandemic, I hope you listen to the little David within you – that part of you who kept going and who never surrendered; that part of you who gave you courage to keep showing up.
· Atty. Klinton M. Torralba is an Associate for Divina Law. He is a professor at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law and a former intern of the Office of Associate Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio of the Court of Appeals. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws from the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law as Cum Laude and was recognized as his batch’s Third Honorable Mention. He placed 9th in the 2017 Philippine Bar Examinations.