Supreme appreciation for ‘Supreme Quotes’

Perhaps, if I had read Supreme Quotes as an undergrad, I might have ended up a lawyer. Alas, while initially convinced that the legal profession was perhaps suited for me as I marked significantly (methinks) in the entrance exam to the UP College of Law, the calling was not sufficiently strong. I left after only a semester.

Supreme Quotes makes reading of Philippine law fun and interesting. What this book does is surface the literary and culture-lens in decisions of the Supreme Court on almost all issues of the law. Only someone like the author, Atty. Victor Y. Eleazar, who I would suppose, has read more than everybody else’s share of SCRA decisions, and instead of falling asleep sat upright, smiled, laughed and deeply appreciated the literary genius behind a ponencia, can come up with an equally literary genius as this book. And only someone, who has a wife like Yolly, can publish a book with such a witty title as Supreme Quotes.

Take for example the breadth of literary references collected in this book — from the varied versions of the Bible, to Children’s Fairytales, Proverbs, Idioms, and even to the slapstick humor of the Three Stooges. It goes without saying that many times, our Supreme Court justices do not want to bore us with plain legal stuff. They try to bridge the law to readers by making use of literature to make their decisions more accessible to every Juan and Juana.

Browsing through its extensive Table of Contents, I came upon a phrase, Lagaring Hapon, for the first time in my life. It was defined using the Filipino Cultural Dictionary as having either a positive connotation (one who works diligently or is employed in various menial jobs in order to earn substantially) or a negative one (a deceitful person, or one who received a bribe from both sides). The phrase was used in a decision regarding a case, Per Curiam, Magarang v. Jardin, Sr., A.M. No. RTJ-99-1448, April 6, 2000, 330 SCRA 79, 89-90. It read:

Respondent judge miserably failed to measure up to stringent judicial standards. Complainant has sufficiently established the corrupt acts of respondent judge in connection with Sp. Civil Case No. 887. He received a bribe from both sides, “lagaring hapon.” He has no place in the judiciary. He dishonored the judicial robe he wore. His acts could even be criminal in nature. We have unhesitatingly removed from office judges and court employees for less serious transgressions. We removed a deputy sheriff from office for asking a bribe of only P1,500.00. We have no reason to depart from this ruling. Respondent judge’s acts of corruption clearly show his unfitness to remain any minute longer in his judicial robe.

Alas, the book also reflects the literary dispositions of our Supreme Court justices. There is very scant reference to Filipino literary works. You will read many references to works by Shakespeare or foreign historical figures and famous people such as Kafka, Machiavelli, and Martin Luther King, Jr. There are almost none by Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio or Philippine national artists on literature. Me-wishes the collection can also help ignite appreciation of Philippine literature among its readers.

The book’s main content is 698 pages long! Not exactly your everyday, novel-by-the-beach reading fare. For interested non-lawyers, this is more than a handy book to keep, not just on your coffee table for more awesome-ness projection, but on your bedside table for actual bedtime reading. For researchers and students of the law, it is an important library tool. It would therefore be very helpful if the indexing of the book could be supported by the National Library of the Philippines.

All said, as a non-lawyer, I am grateful Supreme Quotes was published by the UP Law Center. It gives us a new lens with which to view our Supreme Court justices. That they are not just boring people in heavy robes. That sometimes, their ponencias can also be fun and interesting. (Interested in a copy? Buy yours from the UP Law Center.###sfp