I had an interesting conversation with a veteran lawyer one day. (Read – Veteran not senior citizen hehehehe, lest he become angry with me) 🙂 Our conversation first started about the Supreme Court deciding that San Miguel shares were really Danding Cojuangco owned and that it was not ill gotten. Because the decision was so preposterous and even referred to as the “joke of the century” by one of the justices that wrote a dissenting opinion on it, I asked him his personal opinion as to whether there was some sort of “maneuvering” (And by that you know what I mean)
He answered me frankly and said, knowing the players involved; the possibility is not that remote. We went on to discuss the corruption in the judicial system. According to his own opinion about 60 to 70 % of those involved in the system are corrupt and there are only a few or a handful that really stand for integrity, honesty and justice. Everybody in the system knows this and this is an open secret among lawyers.
He then went on to ask me, “Do you know what is the most powerful law firm in the country?”
“No,” I retorted.
He said, “What do you think, is the most powerful and most influential law firm in the Philippines?”
I said that I really didn’t know. He asked me to name some of the big name law firms. I mentioned ACRA, Seguin Reyna and Romulo Mabanta. He said, “No, these are big name law firms but they are not the most powerful and most influential law firm in the Philippines.”
I stopped and thought deep and hard for a while. What could be the most powerful and most influential law firm in the Philippines?
I said “What about the FIRM” ? The FIRM of course refers to Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco otherwise known as CVC LAW, which was notorious during the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for being quite influential.
He again replied in the negative and said. “No, this law firm is more powerful and more influential than all of the law firms you mentioned. In fact most lawyers run to this law firm whenever they need to overturn a decision or turn the course of the wheels of justice wherever they like it to be turned.”
I replied “Really? Even in the higher courts?”
He just smiled and said “Yes lower court, higher courts, or wherever you want it”
He then asked “How many years have you been a lawyer ?”
“I passed the bar in 2007, so it would be my fourth year now,” I shot back
“You’ve been four years as a lawyer and you don’t know this most powerful and most influential law firm in the Philippines?” He asked as if expressing a great disbelief.
I replied, “Sorry, I really don’t know. So let’s stop the guessing games and tell me what law firm it is.”
“The law firm of Lim, Escoda and Santos” was his short reply. He then looked at me expecting some sort of reaction. I sat there dumbfounded, left scratching my head. What? I never heard of that law firm. He said there are only 3 lawyers that run this firm and yet almost all lawyers in the Philippines who want a certain outcome gets the service of this law firm. Our conversation revolved around this law firm for a while and I could not get more information from him about this law firm, except the above mentioned facts.
A little while he asked, “Do you have one thousand pesos?” asking me as if asking for cheap cigars. I though he wanted to borrow some money.
Since I left my wallet at the car, I replied in the negative. After a few seconds of thinking, it then dawned on me; little did I know that I was introduced to the most powerful and most influential law firm in the Philippines
. . . Our conversation ended in boisterous laughter. The joke made my day. I walked away feeling good that I had a good laugh, but feeling real sad because the joke was on all of us lawyers knowing that this was in fact a very sad reality in our profession. I hate practicing law 🙁
Post script: I want to point out that Lim, Escoda and Santos are honorable people and are even considered hereos of the Philippines. Vicente Lim was a world war II Filipino general, Josefa Llanes Escoda, was a well-known Filipino advocate of women’s right of suffrage and founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, and Jose Abad Santos was the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and served as Acting President of the Philippines during World War II. Had they been alive today, they would have been so saddened of the state of our country.