3/29/2011
Shades of gray

There was a good point raised in this week's episode of Castle.

The climax of the episode, so to speak, happens when Captain Montgomery faces his good friend, the New York district attorney. By now we've figured out that he's had a hand in protecting he real culprit behind the murder of the daughter of a prominent family. Everybody thought it was some guy who robbed her car: turns out it was the victim's brother, who accidentally shot her while in the middle of a drug-powered joy ride.

The cover-up? The victim's family turned out to be major contributors to the DA's campaign for mayor of New York. Fearing he'll lose some clout, he decided to handle the case personally, pin an innocent person who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and get away with it. But this being a television show, the bad guy had to fall sooner or later. Thus, the inevitable confrontation.

"The problem is," the DA said, "you see everything in black and white. In our case it's all gray." He was, of course, rationalizing himself. And he has a good point. Or should I say the show's writers have a good point?

I was listening to the lawyer of military comptroller Jacinto Ligot during one of my morning walks. This was a day after he and his wife begged out of the Senate's hearing into corruption at the armed forces. They said they were not feeling well. The Senate had their doctors check on them; turns out they're perfectly fine. The former general was detained in the Senate for refusal to cooperate, and his lawyer is talking on the radio, discussing what happened before, and what they'll do next.

I don't remember what he exactly said, but his point was somewhere along the lines of, "I just submitted my client's excuse letter to the Senate." Perfectly reasonable, yes, although I can't help but think something is amiss. Surely, being a lawyer sworn to uphold justice, he would've told his client to do the right thing, right? Sure, you're sick, but you're not that sick, and you can make it, so just go before you get yourself in deeper trouble. Surely he's smart enough to think of that, right?

Today the Ligots don't have much of a choice. Now they have to answer the questions the senators (who are more or less grandstanding, but that's a different entry altogether). Then again, it's another opportunity to invoke their right against self-incrimination. Or mention that they don't have any recollection of, say, having this amount of money, or having taken these trips to the United States. Or, in the case of Erlinda Ligot, make an emotional speech explaining their behavior. "Kami ay tao rin na nasasaktan," she said, while forgetting that she's a person who has to fess up to her corrupt behavior. Surely that's not just her idea, right?

Lawyers are sworn to uphold justice. Not that I know the exact words, but we all have the impression that being a lawyer is a noble profession, where you get the chance to do good for society. And yet being a lawyer is prohibitively expensive. If you can afford it, you become part of an elite circle, and you know what elite circles tend to do - get caught up on their eliteness, have fun through the good and the bad, and come out of it with all the camaraderie, but none of the intentions.

And they move up their ranks, learn from their mistakes, decide to take what's best for them, and we end up with lawyers that defend the bad guys - and, in some cases, even help them get away with it, maybe squash their personal beliefs that they're on the wrong side all this time - just to stay in that circle. Lawyers that insist he victims of the Maguindanao massacre killed each other, or were bitten by poisonous ants, and somehow managed to bury themselves with a backhoe. Lawyers that think the best defense is to invoke one's perfectly legal right against self-incrimination, even if it means denying the greater good.

My cousin recently passed the bar exams. In a couple of weeks, he'll be swearing in as a lawyer. I know he's a good man, and I hope he stays that way when he pursues his noble profession. The same goes for my many friends who are currently taking up law. I know they're good people with good intentions, but who's to say they'll stay the course, especially after they get a taste of how things really go around here? It no longer becomes black or white. It's all gray, shades of gray, and in those shades are loopholes that will help you gt away with it. They justified it themselves. They're lawyers. They're smart people.

And your responses...

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