Chief Justice Gesmundo Tells Ateneo Law Graduates to Use Their Ateneo Education to Serve Others
December 11, 2022
Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo has urged the 2022 graduates of the Ateneo de Manila School of Law 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” as he stressed that above all else, they should be “lawyers for others.”
The Chief Justice gave this inspiring message during the 76th Annual Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo de Manila School of Law held at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater at the Ateneo de Manila University Loyola Heights campus in Quezon City on December 10, 2022, where he also cautioned them against the trappings of an Ateneo education, and reminded them to be of service to others.
“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,” stressed Chief Justice Gesmundo.
The Chief Justice said that 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. You will not be simply lawyers; you will be lawyers trained in the Ignatian tradition of magis—of serving the greater good, of aspiring to do great things, of doing more for others,” he stressed.
The Chief Justice also 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,‟” said the Chief Justice, as he cited an excerpt from a tribute to Fr. Bernas published in the Ateneo Law Journal.
He added: “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 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.”
Chief Justice Gesmundo said he talked about Fr. Bernas at length because the late Jesuit‟s life‟s work points to that lesson he would like to emphasize to the Ateneo Law graduates—that lawyering is a vocation. He added that Fr. Bernas emphasized and exemplified the first and the most important lesson of law school: that lawyering is service. “It is a service to others in need of justice. It is a service to others in search of truth.”
“This is the same lesson I always emphasize to young law graduates like you, so that for both your first and your last lesson in law school, you may be reminded that lawyering does not give you entitlement. It 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. Lawyering does not exploit a person‟s ignorance; instead, it flourishes in keeping people informed and aware of their rights. Lawyering thrives on truth, not on lies,” expressed Chief Justice Gesmundo.
The Chief Justice, who obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1984, praised his alma mater, referring to it as among the country‟s “best, oldest, and most prestigious institutions of learning.” Waxing nostalgic, he said that he remembered how rigorous legal education the Ateneo way is. “Our law school accepts and graduates only the best, the brightest, and the hardest working. On top of that, having learned and trained under a pandemic, you have already been tested by fire,” he said.
The Chief Justice is among the seven incumbent Members of the Supreme Court who are from Ateneo Law.
The other Members are Associate Justice and 2022 Bar Examinations Chairperson Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa (Batch 1985); Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting (Batch 1982); Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda (Batch
1987); Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario (Batch 1983); Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez (Batch 1993); and Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh (Batch 1991). Except for Justice Inting, who is a graduate of Ateneo de Davao University, the rest of the Justices earned their respective law degrees from the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law. They were also present during the graduation rites of the Ateneo Law School Class of 2022.
Chief Justice Gesmundo also shared in passing the Supreme Court‟s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovation 2022-2027 (SPJI) and called for the support of everyone “to be part of the concerted effort at reform being led by the Supreme Court, in fulfillment of our shared oath to serve our nation and our people to the best of our ability, and in the pursuit of our collective aspiration to fortify the stronghold of the rule of law for the next generation.”
The 76th Annual Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo de Manila School of Law was originally scheduled on July 24 of this year, but had to be cancelled because of an unfortunate shooting incident. The Chief Justice took time to pause and remember the victims of the tragedy.
“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 them one moment is no assurance that they will be here the next,” he said. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)