MANILA - A group of black-clad lawyers and human rights defenders trooped to the Bar examinations Sunday to mourn the Supreme Court's ruling allowing the burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery.
Led by the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), the group mounted their "Black to Block" protest with chants of "Marcos no hero, no honor" in front the bar exam venue at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) in España, Manila.
The protesters, with their fists raised, also waved banners stating their battle cries of "Respect and uphold the rule of law", "Never forget" and "No hero's burial for the dictator."
'JUSTICE IS BE-ALL OF LAW'
In an open letter, the NUPL reminded the bar examinees of their duty to use their knowledge and skills to defend justice in spite of "the Supreme Court decision; the lawyers who (like Marcos the Dictator) legalize cronyism, corruption, human rights abuses, tyranny, oppression and exploitation by using or abusing the law; the seemingly partisan and abstract court decisions; the twisted laws during the martial law era and beyond."
"Justice, you see, depends as much on the people as well as those on who, educated and trained in the law, upholds the law and fights to ensure that it serves the greater good, and not the few powers that be," the NUPL wrote on a Facebook post.
"Studying the law, taking the bar, and becoming a lawyer, becomes relevant and meaningful only when it serves justice, takes notice of the judgment of history, confirms self-evident truths, and sides with the oppressed: in short, when the knowledge and skills learned in law school are used to ensure that justice is achieved," they added.
The country needs good lawyers, especially now that "the law is being downtrodden and diminished by skewed reinterpretation", the group group added.
The NUPL said their protest signifies not only their grief over the SC ruling but also their commitment to help change the stance of those favoring the burial for Marcos.
"We wear black today while you take your Bar to mourn and protest the way justice has been diminished again with no compunction. But we also wear black to signify that we will not forget this dark night in our legal history," they said.
"Our rage is as dark as the night; our memory just as long. We will continue to rage as we mourn. But we will help change things. Who knows, we might, with the power of the people scorned, even be able to put sense in the heads of the gods and show their way clear."
Concluding their letter, the NUPL told aspiring lawyers, "Do well in the bar examinations. But be mindful what this is all for. From your ranks may also come those who will exorcise the demons in our midst, dead or living. Your people -- and Lady Justice -- are waiting for you."
SNUBBED BY EXAMINEES?
The protesters earlier urged bar examinees to show support for Sunday's mass action by wearing black shirts.
A DZMM report, however, said most of the bar candidates were dressed in their school colors.
Policemen also blocked the activists from crossing a center island and getting near the the UST gate.
Among the group were Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, former congressman Neri Colmenares, and activists from Karma, Karapatan and Selda.
Voting 9-5 with one abstention, the SC last week ruled that President Duterte's move to allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani did not break any laws nor did it show a grave abuse of discretion.
Petitioners -- many of whom were victims of rights abuses during Marcos' dictatorship -- are set to file a motion for reconsideration (MR) urging the court to reverse its ruling.
In the meantime, the group has filed another motion asking the court to hold in abeyance or refrain from executing any plans on the burial pending the finality of the SC ruling, Zarate said.
There were over 6,000 examinees at the UST today, the second Sunday of the month-long Bar exam.
Marcos topped the 1939 bar exam while in jail for the murder of his father's political rival Julio Nalundasan. -- With reports from Hajji Kaamiño, DZMM; Ernie Manio, ABS-CBN News