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Role of Law Students in Upholding the Rule of Law

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

By: Marian Dominique L. Aurora

For law students, one day is not enough to digest everything in our minds. While we continue to push away everything just to memorize one more provision before going to bed, the world is chanting for change and some people are starting to lose their rights and their hope. You finally decide to close your book, lock yourself in your room, and close your eyes. Tomorrow is another day, but the people’s cries remain the same.

Before you continue where you left off last night, you decided to scroll through Facebook. As you swipe up, your eyes land on different kinds of posts – mocking the shut down of a media giant, a college student subpoenaed because of a post against a politician, unconstitutional laws, and orders being meted out. The Motherland continues to suffer from a disease that even the smartest front liners could not cure. You sigh and finally lock your phone so that you could go back to reading. As your eyes pass by the words on your book, a voice inside your head goes, “Are you losing hope?” You might not have heard it because you were too absorbed to notice, but you continue to hear the same words in your head, and you start to wonder why. You once again take a break and you saw that many have resorted to believing fake news sources and started to lose their trust on the media and the legal profession. You want to do something, but you stopped yourself. What’s stopping you?

People, especially law students, have taken the streets of social media to voice out their concerns about the things happening around us. Those in power have resorted to unlawful and unconstitutional means to gain an advantage over those below them – the masses who could not do anything but cower in fear. These events have triggered the fuel within, and these pushed the defenders to make their cries louder.

Today, we are facing injustice. It has become easy for those on top to turn the law around for it to be in their favor, at the expense of everyone’s safety. One legal maxim goes, “Salus populi est suprema lex” which means “The welfare of the people is the supreme law.” During these trying times, there should be no room for injustice. Those above us continue to trample on those below them for their benefit and in exchange for people’s vested rights. Thus, it is our responsibility to make sure that we uphold the law.

The main role of law students in upholding the rule of law in today’s time is to defend injustice in our own ways. As students, we could only do so little until we obtain those four letters before our names and those six numbers that will allow us to practice what we have learned in school. What we do not know is that these small things could do so much. Just like fire, these small acts could make a great impact. We just have to keep going.

Law students play a big part in upholding the law even though we are not yet full-fledged lawyers. Our professors ask us to read and recite countless cases, memorize provisions, and analyze various situations based on case laws and the statutes. There are times when we do it just for the subject and to save us from getting a failing grade, but what we sometimes fail to realize is that what is happening in jurisprudence is still happening today – loss of constitutional guarantees and rights, onion-skinned politicians, and others.

The Rules of Court tell us that those rules shall be construed liberally which means that we should not stick with the words exactly. This provision was placed to promote justice and prevent the loss of vested rights. However, I think that this statement should apply to other laws as well. Amidst all the issues we have seen during this pandemic, we have seen something common that laymen continue to use as a defense: “Dura lex sed lex.” (The law is harsh, but it is the law.) These people continue to state that “Law is law. Sumunod na lang kayo”, but what if following the law word per word would cause its implementers and the authorities to abuse the power that they have just because “law is law”?

To uphold the liberality in applying the law, jurisprudence also exists. As we have read in these cases, the Supreme Court will not mostly stick with existing laws. Even though the law is there, they still must take into mind that applying the law based only on its written words will strip someone of their rights. Because of this, jurisprudence has become part of the law of the land and this is also stated in the New Civil Code. These decided cases have also helped us students to look at the law from a wider perspective and it has allowed us to study actual situations. Just like events around us, laws and rulings also change to conform to the status quo.

People see the law as only plain words that we must follow, but as law students, we were trained to dissect these paragraphs and to look for requisites and to study them alongside established decisions from the high court. Therefore, the general rules and exceptions exist – the general rule, which is based on the law itself, and the exceptions which are based on other provisions and promulgated decisions. Because they treat the law as plain words, they do not care about the exceptions. Some have even turned a blind eye on change and continue to utter that cliché legal maxim that we have learned in our first year of law school. The law may exist, but there are still situations that are out there which could change the application of the law.

We could promote a progressive legal system and maintain the profession’s respect to the rule of law by educating people, most importantly ourselves, so that we could fight injustice. Change starts within us because if we do not do so, how can we promote progress to other people? To change and progress, we must also be progressive.

It is our responsibility to become open to the things around us so that we could realize that what is happening in written texts is also out there. It is just that the world is changing as we live our lives. We should not be limited to the pages we flip because once we step out into the real world and practice law, many things will transpire, and it will be hard for us to step out of our bubble. Once we confine ourselves to the law itself and not consider other factors or requisites, we might lose our client’s case and in turn, he/she might lose his/her rights. As lawyers, we must look at other possibilities that could happen in a certain situation so that we could at least try to solve our client’s question and turn things in their favor.

Engaging in discussions also help us explore what is out there and to see what people think of current events. During these times, many people are just at home and are not pre-occupied. So, they have a lot of time in their hands to engage in a debate. Thankfully, there are still people who are open for a healthy debate but there are some who have resorted to copying and pasting text just so they would get paid. It is easy to be discouraged because they are a lot. These should not serve as a threat to us, but it should encourage us to continue fighting. If we ourselves would cower in fear, how could we defend our rights? We must stand up for us and for the people and we must not give up. It might seem hard because it looks like we have been defeated, but we must continue to stand our ground. One thing could grow strong when a person puts so much hope in it.

We do not have to wait for us to become practicing lawyers just so we could defend what is right and fight for a progressive legal system. The things happening in our country should add fuel to our fire and urge us to stand up. The initiative starts within us. Change might still be a long way ahead, but one day we will look back to when we were locked in our room or sat in the library for countless hours just to finish reading and understanding one more case. We will remember the time when we took the streets of social media to defend ourselves and other little people who have been trampled on by those above. As those memories run through our mind, we once again remember what we once stood for and continue to do so.

* Marian Dominique L. Aurora is the 3rd Placer in the First ever Barrista Solutions Essay Writing Contest. She is a student at the University of the Coldilleras- College of Law.

Note: The views expressed in the essay do not reflect the official position of Barrista Solutions.

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