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CJ: Being a lawyer is not entitlement

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Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo has reminded law graduates of the Ateneo de Manila University that “lawyering does not give entitlement and is not a license to feel superior.”

“Your degree and your title do not make you know better than everyone, and should not make you think you are always right,” Gesmundo said, in his speech during the graduation ceremony of law students at AdMU School of Law last Saturday (Dec. 10).

The SC top magistrate exhorted all law graduates “to be lawyers with the highest standards of legal proficiency, morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing” and “with a burning passion for justice and a fervent desire to serve.”

Gesmundo, an alumnus of AdMU, was finally able to address his fellow Ateneans after the cancellation of the Oct. 24, 2022 graduation ceremony when a gunman sneaked into the AdMU campus and killed three persons before the start of the graduation program.

Multiple murder charges have been filed before the court against the suspect, Chao Tiao Yumol, who pleaded not guilty.

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“My prayers go the families of all the victims. And if you will allow me to say this to you now, please value your parents, your family, friends, and loved ones, for seeing them and being with the….” Gesmundo said.

He then paid tribute to his alma mater. “Having studied in an institution with the best campus for learning, the best facilities and the best professors, easily you can get lost in the comfort, convenience, and excellence of everything that surrounds you. . .”

“But lest you forget, while these may be the familiar trappings of an Ateneo education, it is not its hallmark. Because the hallmark of an Ateneo education is service to others, it is using what you have learned for the service of others,” he stressed.

According to the Chief Justice, being an Atenean lawyer “comes with prestige, with comfort, with success—but it also comes with responsibility.”

“At its core, to be an Atenean lawyer is to be a lawyer for others—just as we are taught here in the Ateneo to be, first and foremost, men and women for others,” he said.

At the same time, Gesmundo paid tribute to the late Fr. Joaquin Bernas, whom he extolled as “one of the best to ever grace its halls, both as a student and as a professor.”

“Fr. Bernas was a man for all seasons: You may know him best as one of the key framers of our Constitution, and one of its leading authorities. Indeed, he played no small part in making our Constitution, which, in the words of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., is the ‘only Constitution in the world that is at once pro-God, pro-Life, pro-Filipino, pro-People, pro-Poor, pro-Labor, pro-Social Justice and Human Rights, pro-Family, pro-Youth, pro-Women and pro-Environment.’”

“Fr. Bernas was also a beloved educator and a leader in the academe; a brilliant writer and commentator; a leading legal scholar; a true amicus curiae (friend of the court) to the Supreme Court; a patriot who fought and worked for democracy, the defense of our rights and liberties, and the advancement of social justice for all,” he said.

Gesmundo is one of the seven incumbent Supreme Court justices who are from AdMU’s School of Law.

The six others are Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa (Batch 1985), Henri Jean Paul B. Inting (Batch 1982); Rodil V. Zalameda (Batch 1987); Ricardo R. Rosario (Batch 1983); Jose Midas P. Marquez (Batch 1993); and Maria Filomena D. Singh (Batch 1991).

The SC’s Public Information Office said that the six associate justices were present during the graduation ceremonies.

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