Importance of Ethical Responsibility in the Legal Profession by J. Caguioa

“The rules on ethics challenge us not only to profess the technical canons but also to probe the deeper questions of a lawyer’s moral conduct and examine the possible ways in which each of us may be perpetuating injustice.”

Thus stressed Supreme Court Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa to the members of the legal community who took part in the fourth leg of the Ethics Caravan for the Proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (Ethics Caravan) held on January 11, 2023 at Gevers Hall, Saint Louis University in Baguio City.

Speaking as the Chairperson of the Supreme Court Committee on Legal Education and Bar Matters, Justice Caguioa highlighted the significance of ethical responsibility in the legal profession and how the same must be unqualifiedly reflected in the proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA).

Justice Caguioa said that when the legal community speaks of ethical responsibility, it speaks of the very bedrock of the legal profession, or “the way of life that challenges us to orient it with our understanding of the law.”

He added that that the uprightness and sense of justice that lawyers practice and argue for as well as plead and teach about are best reflected in the ways with which lawyers are able to hold themselves to account.

“Ethical responsibility is certainly central and critical to the legal profession’s collective reputation and, consequently, the level of confidence it inspires in the public,” said Justice Caguioa.

Drawing from his experience as a former private practitioner as well as from his years of serving as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, Justice Caguioa shared with the Ethics Caravan participants that “the unchanging call was to exercise all forms of creative problem-solving skills within the contours of what the laws allowed; to work and argue and present innovative and legally defensible routes within the system, without needing to undermine it. For true, legal acuity and courageous integrity are key to good lawyering winning the game.”

He likewise emphasized that ethical responsibility in the legal profession covers not only the acts lawyers are prohibited from engaging in, “but also positive acts which we must engage in if we are to better contribute to the very communities to which we belong.”

Spearheaded by the Supreme Court Sub-Committee for the Revision of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Sub-Committee), with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-Australia, The Asia Foundation (TAF), The European Union, Justice Sector Reform Program: Governance in Justice (GoJust II Programme), the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Philippine Association of Law Schools, the Ethics Caravan is a five-leg series of consultations seeking to incorporate in the CPRA the underlying ethical considerations of a technology-driven Judiciary and legal profession in line with the Supreme Court’s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027.

The Ethics Caravan is part of the Supreme Court’s efforts to update the 34-year old Code of Professional Responsibility and craft a modern, relevant, and responsive guide for legal professionals.

Justice Caguioa was joined in Saint Louis University by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen; Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro- Javier (Chairperson of the Sub-Committee for the Revision of the Code of Professional Responsibility); Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting; Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez; Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan (Co-Vice Chairperson of the Sub-Committee for the Revision of the Code of Professional Responsibility); Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario; Associate Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez; Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao; Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez; Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr.; and Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh (Co-Vice Chairperson of the Sub-Committee for the Revision of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Also present were Supreme Court En Banc Clerk of Court Atty. Marife M. Lomibao-Cuevas, Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva, and Deputy Court Administrator Leo T. Madrazo.

Justice Lazaro-Javier delivered the opening remarks, while Mr. Sam Chittick of TAF and Mr. Christian Eldon of the GoJust II Programme gave their respective messages of support. Senior Associate Justice Leonen spoke on the proposed changes in the Lawyer’s Oath, while Justice Singh gave a presentation of the Proposed CPRA. Justice Gaerlan likewise conveyed his inspirational message to the Ethics Caravan participants.

Prior to the holding of the Ethics Caravan in Baguio City last Wednesday, the Supreme Court held the first leg of the Ethics  Caravan was held September 2022 in Cebu for Regions VI, VII, VIII, and the province of Palawan; the second leg in Davao City in October 2022 for Regions IX, X, XI, XII, CARAGA, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; and the third leg in Naga City in November 2022 for Regions IV-B and V.

The fifth and last leg for Regions III, IV-A, and the NCR will be held in Manila at the end of January 2023.

The Ethics Caravan will culminate in the National Summit on Ethical Standards for Lawyers which will be held in February 2023. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office) [Supreme Court of the Philippines. "Justice Caguioa Underscores the Importance of Ethical Responsibility in the Legal Profession." Justice Caguioa Underscores the Importance of Ethical Responsibility in the Legal Profession | Supreme Court of the Philippines (judiciary.gov.ph). Last retrieved at 4:00PM, January 15, 2023.]

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