Humanizing the Legal Profession: Atty. Egon Cayosa’s Vision for the IBP
by Atty. Kyle Bollozos
Although the event fell on a rainy Thursday evening, the young lawyers and law students of Universitas were not deterred by the weather from attending the third Universitas Lawyers Quarterly (ULQ) last August 8, 2019, especially given that the guest speaker was no less than the incumbent President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Atty. Egon Cayosa himself. What with all the issues currently being addressed by the IBP, such as the recent spike in violence against lawyers and magistrates, the participants were eager to hear from the guest speaker. Having also braved the rain, Atty. Cayosa was in high spirits, mingling with the participants and staff of Universitas, even entertaining selfies, during the cocktail reception.
When the program started and the speaker was introduced by ULQ’s Project Manager, Atty. Angela Butalid, many of the participants were pleasantly surprised by some interesting details about Atty. Cayosa’s life such as the fact that he was a former seminarian, having entered a minor seminary in Cagayan, as well has his being an established and dedicated practitioner of environmental law and an advocate for environmental protection. During his speech, Atty. Cayosa alluded to the foregoing when he said that he left the seminary because he became more fully aware of the responsibilities of a priest and thought that “it’s better to be a good lawyer than to be a bad priest.” He likewise jokingly remarked that when he initiated the Cagayan Anti-logging Movement, his parents, who were legally engaged in the same line of business in their province, felt that he was giving them a hard time.
Seemingly animated by the eagerness of the participants, Atty. Cayosa gave a heartfelt speech, talking about a topic which he has been consistently and courageously fighting for, that is, his vision for the IBP.
Atty. Cayosa began by expounding on his vision to “humanize” the legal profession through the IBP by putting emphasis on taking care of the “human being” behind the title “Attorney”. He mentioned the importance of going beyond our “technical profession” by going back to values and morals which are inherently “human” and which remain the same everywhere and across time, unlike laws which may change according to the prevailing circumstances.
Explaining further, he used, as an illustration, our legal ethics which relies heavily on the interpretations of rules by the Supreme Court through its decisions, which at any rate may change from time to time. This is in contrast to values which remain constant; for instance, “honesty is honesty” regardless of what the law may say.
In connection with this, Atty. Cayosa posed a challenge to the foundation and the participants present during the evening to help the IBP in making this vision a reality. He thus encouraged the audience to work towards creating a better culture in the profession so that gone would be the days when lawyers are referred to as liars (on a lighter note, the mention of the latter wordplay elicited giggles from many of the participants who were familiar with it).
Continuing, Atty. Cayosa then revealed the direction in which IBP was heading, that is, towards globalization. He mentioned as basis for this the shared humanity of all persons regardless of nationality or citizenship saying that “if we mean well, there are thousands of others who are willing and ready to deal with us because they mean well too” and that, at the end of the day, it is all about connection. In relation to this, Atty. Cayosa talked about the possibility of having IBP Chapters abroad in order to stay connected with Filipino lawyers who have opted to stay in other countries.
Finally, Atty. Cayosa ended his speech by talking about a new perspective on the dispensation of justice. He explained that lawyers are taught from the beginning that their role is to deliver or dispense justice; however, Atty. Cayosa believes that more than justice, lawyers should be dispensers of peace, which is a universal concept and one which, in the last analysis, everyone actually and truly aspires for.
Harmonizing the two concepts, he went on to say that through justice, lawyers can and will be able to deliver peace. As a practical way of effectuating this vision, Atty. Cayosa mentioned a few initiatives, such as entering into memoranda of agreement with other professions or sectors in society in order to foster mutual cooperation and understanding, as well as training lawyers to “listen” more because they have always been trained to talk, rather than to listen. With that, he ended his speech and opened the floor for questions from the audience.
When asked how he felt the reception of lawyers would be with respect to his vision, Atty. Cayosa responded by saying he does not believe that it will be met with indifference or even opposition. Since morals and values are innately human, these are things that need only be awakened, or to borrow the word he used, “ginigising”, in every lawyer as it is presumed that they already have these within them.
Another interesting question that was asked was with regard to the recent spike in the number of incidents where violence is committed against lawyers and magistrates, and the actions the IBP has taken to address them. To this, Atty. Cayosa gave a number of compelling answers.
First, he mentioned that pursuant to his vision of taking care of the “human” behind the title “Attorney”, he went out of his way to personally visit and condole with the victims’ families even though doing so put his safety at risk. He then mentioned that IBP has also increased the financial aid which would be extended to the families, increased the reward for any information that would lead to the capture of the perpetrators, and implemented procedures that would ensure the recognition of the legacy of the victim because, as Atty. Cayosa stated, when you show the world that the victims are in fact heroes, you shame the killers or perpetrators.
Looking back at the things Atty. Cayosa spoke about, one might think that the insights he shared about his vision for the legal profession through the IBP are both daring and radical. Perhaps, this is because the vision of “humanizing” the profession and bringing back to it the importance of morals and values presents ideals we now find too lofty to associate with the legal profession, what with all the rumors and generalizations we hear about lawyers, especially those relating to the moral and ethical aspects of their persons.
However, suffice it to say that Atty. Cayosa’s vision did not fall on deaf ears as he was sharing these insights to young and idealistic lawyers and lawyers-to-be. Not only do these young people share his aspirations for the legal profession, but they are also ready and eager to respond to the call for change.
NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.
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