AT the age of 25, I was in second-year law school at the Ateneo de Manila College of Law, on my way to a Juris Doctor degree. At the same time, I was working as a full-time law clerk for one of the justices of the Supreme Court (SC), holding the position of Executive Assistant I, an entry position.
I just finished my two-month summer internship at the SC, a requirement of the Juris Doctor degree. Immediately thereafter, I was offered a regular job by the justice I was working for. It was an irresistible offer. As law students, we thought of SC justices as demigods. It was every law student’s dream to become a justice of the Supreme Court. We were amazed at how they penned their opinions. And here I was, being offered a regular job while I was still a second-year law student. I could not say no to the offer.
While my immediate goal was to graduate from law school, take the bar and become a lawyer, I could not pass off the offer. After all, it was what I wanted to do after passing the bar—be a lawyer.
It was not easy being a working law student. I had to be at work by 7:30 a.m. Leave Padre Faura at 4 p.m. to be in Ateneo in Makati City in time for my 5 p.m. class. Traffic was not as bad then. I would always barely make it to class. Cramming was a way of life. I would end my class at 9 p.m., have dinner at home, and start studying by 11 p.m. until around 3 a.m. or until I doze off, whichever comes first.
My work in the SC kept me going and going. I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was working on actual cases pending in the Supreme Court, which required me to go over pleadings filed by my professors in law school and the best law firms in the country—while I was still in law school. Nevermind that I occupied the lowest position in the office. What mattered most was the work I was doing, not the position I was holding.
It was not easy juggling schoolwork at Ateneo with actual work at Padre Faura. Sleep was a luxury. I would always catch up with schoolwork during weekends when I needed rest. Not much time for family, not much time for non-law school friends. Law classmates were the BFFs at that time. You study together, you discuss cases together, you get embarrassed by the law teacher, at the same time, you eat together, you breathe together. Your female law classmates become prettier and prettier.
In no time, however, I was promoted constantly in the Supreme Court until I occupied the highest position a law clerk can have. The cases I was assigned to became more significant and difficult. It was a recognition of my submissions. I would never submit a work that was not well written and well researched. It was not unusual to rewrite a memorandum 20 times before submitting it.
I never thought of having a career in the judiciary. When I was in first-year law school, I saw myself as a lawyer in a prestigious law firm in Makati. Back then, Bonifacio Global City was still Fort Bonifacio, a military camp. I saw myself in a suit, having power lunches with rich and famous clients, going to court and corporate meetings. But I was not able to leave the Court anymore.
In the Court, I worked from one justice to another. I consider myself lucky in this sense because I worked for the best legal minds in the country. I saw the demigods up close and personal. They are also people like any one of us. I emulated their strengths and avoided their weaknesses. I was trained by the justices of the Supreme Court.
In the Court, back then and up to now, I never thought of rewards and promotions. I just did my assigned tasks in the best way I knew how and more. I never considered myself as sipsip. I abhor that. Sipsip for me is when you do or submit the best work you can. Rewards and promotions will come when you least expect them. Then, you just have to be thankful for them.
I take pride of the fact that what I have achieved was borne out of my own sheer industry and work ethic. Hindi dahil sa kamag-anak, ka-klase, kaibigan, kapamilya, kapuso, o kapatid. I live by the Panunumpa ng Linkod Bayan. Lagi kong isasaalang-alang ang interes ng nakararami, bago ang pansarili kong kapakanan. This is what I personally chose. I have to live by it.
Positions of consequence are never permanent. Nothing is permanent. When occupying these positions, one has to keep his feet on the ground. One has to help as much as he can, especially if that is the function of his office—without expecting anything in return—as one will not be able to help forever. One must never be big-headed because occupying these positions is bigheaded enough.
Becoming the spokesman of the Supreme Court was never a dream. I thought about it before I was appointed, but I never aspired for it. I just thought that it must be big time to speak for the Court. I was only the second of three spokesmen of the Court, while there are already 173 justices. Being the spokesman is very challenging. It is never easy. But one just has to rise to the challenge all the time. Given another opportunity to occupy the position, I will have to think twice, thrice, four times, five times….
I never dreamt of becoming the court administrator. It was never a dream job. But like any good soldier, I have to do it. I don’t say no to work. When I was appointed as court administrator, I told myself that I shall, first and foremost, work for the good and welfare of the judges and court personnel, a vow that I keep up to now. Sila ang boss ko. It never means though that I will condone their wrongdoings and indiscretions. They will have to accept the consequences.
In the same manner, I do not aspire to become a justice of the Supreme Court, even if that is the natural progression from a court administrator. After all, many court administrators have become justices of the Court. While it may be a dream when I was a law student, dreams fade away. One becomes a justice of the SC through divine providence. If it is not for you, you will never get it no matter what you do. If it is for you, you will get it when you least expect it. In the meantime, you just always have to do what is right and work for what is best for the institution you have chosen to serve.
• As e-mailed by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez to our Supreme Court reporter Joel San Juan.