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When the world decided to shut down on me
After passing the Bar, a lot of my friends asked me how will I reconcile my being a Christian with my being a lawyer. Every time I remember that question, I know they were pertaining to a scenario where lawyers defend accused individuals even if they know their guilt.

Long before I entered the legal profession, I already knew that the public perceives lawyering as a profession for overconfident-ambitious-egocentric animals who will go straight to hell, someone who will readily manufacture evidence and commit perjury for the sake of winning a case.

Not all lawyers practice their profession in that manner. Most of us wake up every single day and strive with the help of the Almighty to prove that notion wrong.

I started my practice defending a person accused for committing acts of lasciviousness. It was my first day in court and as a young lawyer hungry for practice I gladly said “Yes, your honor” when appointed as de oficio counsel, an appointment dreaded by many and embraced by public servants like me. There is a truth to that but kidding aside, I got hold of the accused records and interviewed him. He started his story by saying he was drunk and the next think he knew, he was in prison. I doubted him. I was thinking, “Here I am left with no choice but to defend a person whose sentiments I do not believe and whom I think probably did it.”

I wanted to manifest to the judge that I made a mistake of volunteering to handle the case but I realized that giving up on my first case is not part of the grand plan to be known in the art of advocacy. I composed myself, took a deep dramatic breath, I almost closed my eyes but I did not, and reminded my very being that, by law, I have all the legal reasons to help this person because an accused have constitutional rights too. My role now is to see to it that due process will be afforded him. So I smiled my way before the bench as I was able to convince myself to assist him.

Everything went well until I saw the complainant and remembered all the young girls and women who had gone and are going through the same ordeal. I saw the complainant staring at the accused with piercing looks. Suddenly, she turned her eyes on me as if asking, “Why did you volunteer to help a person like him?” I looked away from her and tried to formulate an answer in case my imagination comes to life, but my emotion overpowered me. I started hating and condemning the accused for not having a taint of remorse.

But I caught myself before I could even verbalize it. I looked at the accused and suddenly was reminded by a preaching in church that said, “Jesus hates the sin but loves the sinner.” From that point, I felt like there was a bucket filled with ice water thrown to me. I then began to separate the accused from what he did, condemned the act and not the doer, and vowed to make sure that his rights will not be trampled on by handling the case objectively. That lesson was etched in my heart and I use it to remind me every time the judge appoints me as counsel de oficio.

Understanding that an accused has rights makes me a lawyer. Knowing they have hearts and emotions bring out the Christian in me. That is how I reconcile being a Christian and a lawyer.

I remember telling a colleague that one of the reasons that makes it easy for my conscience to assist these individuals, especially when you see sincere remorse in them, is the idea that at this lowest point in their lives, they need someone who will listen to them, provide them words of encouragement, make them realize it is not the end, and that change can still happen.

Putting myself in their shoes, I would gladly welcome an understanding counsel who would listen to my story when the world has decided to shut down on me.

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