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The Philippine Bar Association, the oldest and most prestigious voluntary lawyers

group headed by Beda Fajardo, met last March 26. As the guest speaker, I had three
messages, summarized as follows (see full speech at cjpanganiban.com):
First, I look for competent and ethical lawyers who are responsible, dependable and
morally upright, and who courageously uphold truth and justice above everything
else. These simple values will keep our peoples faith in our profession and in the rule
of law.
Some shyster-lawyers defend the indefensible by delaying cases in the hope that the
witnesses would forget the facts, or get tired, or die; or that presiding judges would
retire or get promoted, thereby passing the cases to new magistrates who had no
opportunity to observe the witnesses on the stand; or that the victims would give up
the fight.
On the other hand, prosecution lawyers at times skew cases by blatant bribery and by
subtler methods, like the filing of defective information (or charge sheets), omission
of vital evidence and frequent absences during trials.
While the accused may find solace in their eventual acquittal, they still have to
undergo humiliation at being arrested, and to incur expenses, anxiety, and loss of time.
Filing baseless charges, whether for money or malice, is not only unethical. It is also
brazenly criminal.
Second, let us safeguard liberty and nurture prosperity. We inherited our constitutional
framework from the Americans who enshrined the liberating cries of the French
Revolution and the English Magna Carta in their Constitution. Their revolutionary
ideals are captured in Patrick Henrys hypnotic oration, Give me liberty or give me
death.
And so it is with our people. We fought Spanish and American colonization, and our
own leaders bad governance. That is why our basic laws guarantee the political
aspirations of our people. In singing hosannas to protect human rights, our courts
liberally copy American jurisprudence. How I wish the same vigor and vitality to
uphold our political rights would also be used to promote our economic rights.
Our 1987 Constitution was promulgated when the prevailing economic mantra was
Filipino First. Our laws restricted the entry of foreign goods and services, and
promoted Filipino enterprises and products even if at times they were inferior in
quality and price.

At that time, the government operated basic industries. The result was a disaster: Not
only was the government grossly inefficient; it also lost heavily. The National Power
Corp. alone lost almost a trillion pesos and yet failed to produce enough electricity,
resulting in rotating blackouts in the early 1990s.
Soon after our new Constitution was ratified in 1987, the world changed and
abandoned protectionist economic theories. Liberalization, globalization, deregulation
and privatization bloomed when the World Trade Organization (WTO) was born on
Jan. 1, 1995.
The Philippine adherence to the WTO was challenged in Taada vs. Angara (May 2,
1997), on the ground that the WTO Treaty allegedly violated economic nationalism.
This novel case was assigned to me in 1995 when I joined the Supreme Court.
In upholding the WTO Treaty, my unanimously-concurred ponencia argued: While
the Constitution mandates a bias in favor of Filipino goods, services, labor and
enterprises, it recognizes the need for business exchange with the rest of the world on
the bases of equality and reciprocity, and limits protection of Filipino enterprises only
against foreign competition and trade practices that are unfair. In other words, the
Constitution did not intend to pursue an isolationist policy. It did not shut out foreign
investments, goods and services in the development of the Philippine economy.
May I stress that in embracing globalization, our country pursued its national interest.
We recognized the stark reality that the world has become a global village where no
country can progress in isolation. Even socialist countries like Russia and China
joined the WTO. Only hermit states like North Korea have not entered the WTO. To
prosper, we must learn to compete globally.
Third, let us help globalize the legal profession so Filipino lawyers can practice in
foreign countries to help our 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and assist
Philippine enterprises operate in foreign markets. Our OFWs brought in over $26
billion last year.
San Miguel Corp. and Philippine Airlines have long been world-class brands. But
after globalization dawned in the 1990s, more Philippine companies expanded
overseas, like SM Investments, Robinsons Land, Metrobank, LT Group and
Liwayway Marketing (makers of Oishi) in China, Ayala in Vietnam and Burma
(Myanmar), Petron in Malaysia, Meralco in Singapore and Nigeria, Metro Pacific in
Indonesia and Thailand, Energy Development Corp. in Chile and Ecuador, and
Jollibee, Cebu Pacific Air and ICTSI, all over the world.

These conglomerates need Filipino lawyers to practice in these foreign lands to ensure
that their businesses conform to our laws, in the same manner that multinationals
operating here want their foreign lawyers to check whether their operations here
conform to the laws of their countries.
However, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court limits admission to the bar to Filipino
citizens. I believe this should be amended to allow foreign lawyers to practice here,
not about Philippine law but about foreign law, provided Filipino lawyers are given
reciprocal privileges to practice in their home states.

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