Judge Reprimanded for Taking Undue Pride in the U.P. College of Law

An Inquirer article caught my eye which will cause not a few raised eyebrows and guffaws among my esteemed compañeros and compañeras in the profession.

In a recent resolution, Judge Medel Arnaldo B. Belen of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Calamba, Laguna was reprimanded by the Supreme Court for unbecoming conduct. It seems the good magistrate told a lawyer appearing before him that since he (the lawyer) did not graduate from the UP College of Law, he and the judge could not be equals. He was referring to Atty. Melvin D.C. Mane, who referred to himself as “a proud graduate of MLQU”.

What apparently pissed off Judge Belen was the insinuations of partiality which Atty. Mane previously made in his pleadings before the court and a motion for inhibition which the judge felt was “a direct assault on his integrity and dignity”. This made him testy with the lawyer, which led to a discussion which transpired in open hearing and went like this:

COURT:

. . . Sir, are you from the College of Law of the University of the Philippines?

ATTY. MANE:

No, your Honor, from Manuel L. Quezon University, your Honor.

COURT:

No, you’re not from UP.

ATTY. MANE:

I am very proud of it.

COURT:

Then you’re not from UP. Then you cannot equate yourself to me because there is a saying and I know this, not all law students are created equal, not all law schools are created equal, not all lawyers are created equal despite what the Supreme Being that we all are created equal in His form and substance.

This became the basis of a charge of unbecoming conduct filed by Atty. Mane with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of the Supreme Court against Judge Belen for “demeaning, humiliating and berating” him. He later withdrew the charge, citing his “impulsiveness”, but the die had been cast and the OCA decided to investigate the complaint.

In reprimanding the good judge, the High Court, in a decision penned by Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, herself a U.P. alumna, rightfully said:

An alumnus of a particular law school has no monopoly of knowledge of the law. By hurdling the Bar Examinations which this Court administers, taking of the Lawyer’s oath, and signing of the Roll of Attorneys, a lawyer is presumed to be competent to discharge his functions and duties as, inter alia, an officer of the court, irrespective of where he obtained his law degree. For a judge to determine the fitness or competence of a lawyer primarily on the basis of his alma mater is clearly an engagement in an argumentum ad hominem.

A judge must address the merits of the case and not on the person of the counsel. If respondent felt that his integrity and dignity were being “assaulted,” he acted properly when he directed complainant to explain why he should not be cited for contempt. He went out of bounds, however, when he, as the above-quoted portions of the transcript of stenographic notes show, engaged on a supercilious legal and personal discourse.

This Court has reminded members of the bench that even on the face of boorish behavior from those they deal with, they ought to conduct themselves in a manner befitting gentlemen and high officers of the court.

U.P. law school grads sometimes exhibit a ridiculous grandiosity when they make reference to their alma mater, a probable residue of their having been taught law “in the grand manner”. This refers to a quotation attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell (“not Long John”) Holmes, Jr. etched into the wall facing the entrance to Malcolm Hall which states: “The business of a law school is not sufficiently described when you merely say that it is to teach law or to make lawyers; it is to teach law in the grand manner, and to make great lawyers”. Seeing this almost everyday is bound to make an impression on even the most indifferent law student, which, unfortunately, included me.

All throughout my stay in the college of law, no professor ever bothered to explain what exactly teaching law “in the grand manner” meant. We were left to draw our own conclusions. And so the closest I and my cohorts ever came to having a grand learning experience was when we went to Grand Inihaw at the Quezon City Welcome Rotunda, where education on an entirely different sphere of instruction awaited us.

The decision in Mane vs. Judge Belen will let the air out of fatuous alumni who still believe that old quip about there being only two law schools in the Philippines, U.P. and others.

A good piece on the pecking order of schools by Raul Pangalangan. His conclusion: Look to the man and not to the school.

18 thoughts on “Judge Reprimanded for Taking Undue Pride in the U.P. College of Law

  1. Kasama yung yabang sa training ng U.P. Law, even if it’s not warranted.

    Good luck to DLSU in the UAAP basketball games. I hope U.P. wins some games though, para hindi naman nakakahiya as host during its centenary.

    Nice to hear from a fellow Baguio boy. BTW, the new dean of the U.P. College of Law, Marvic Leonen, is from Baguio.

  2. hindi naman siguro, siya lang siguro mayabang..

    sorry, don’t know who she is…I’m too young, P3.75 na pamasahe nung nagkamalay ako…

  3. no offense meant to you but its not just the law school grads or studes. there’s something about up eans that make others brace themselves in fear of getting blown away by gale-like wind whenever one is around in a group. it seems their greatest talent is maneuvering to let it be known they “went” to u.p. (regardless of intellectual depth or lack of it). nonetheless, i admire their pride of their alma mater. ah, if only they could vanish the thought that they are better than everybody else.

  4. which brings me to mind why not teach justice in the grandest manner instead of teaching law as it is? then, siguro, there won’t be lawyers who would pride themselves of their roots, or worse, who would use the law to aggrandize themselves at the expense of justice.

  5. which brings me to mind why not teach justice in the grandest manner instead of teaching law as it is? then, siguro, there won’t be lawyers who would pride themselves of their roots, or worse, who would use the law to aggrandize themselves at the expense of justice.

    did justice carpio-morales mention about the latent underpinnings of such pedantry? I mean that speaks well about her biases as a judge and that is more important an issue to me than her “boorish behavior in court”

  6. @ EBUDAE88, point well taken. What is lawful is not always just. Unfortunately, a sense of justice cannot be taught by the usual pedagogy. It has to be learned by by example and then put into concrete practice.

    @BENCARD, so true. They can be insufferable.

  7. But some UP grads are better (more articulate; more solid technical skills) than grads from, say, Mapua. Unless, of course, the Mapua student also went to Santa Clara University (or even better maybe, if the Mapua stude then went Berkeley).

  8. Granted, U.P. engineers may be more articulate than their counterparts elsewhere . But I think Mapua grads more than hold their own in terms of skill and innovativeness. Plus, per industry feedback, they are less likely to job-hop
    compared to U.P., Ateneo or DLSU grads.

    Ironically, the largest single individual contributor to the U.P. centennial fund (thus far) comes from Mapua alumnus and Silicon Valley technopreneur Dado Banatao, who took his Ph.D in Stanford. He pledged US$500,000, larger even than that of the U.P. Alumni Engineers’ $400,000 pledge. Malamang takot sa asawa, as he is married to a U.P. alum.

    Thanks for dropping by, LS 82.

  9. in the u.s., being a graduate of u.p. is non sequitor, especially in law, which is of course understandable. even pinoys in america routinely ask a fil-am practitioner if he/she attended american law school.

    ivy-league law school graduates get the best placements. a high score in the bar exams is not at all considered a measure of a lawyer’s mettle.

  10. Very true, the Ivies have an edge in the U.S. legal profession, mainly because of the long-standing old-boy network. And the bar is not as big a thing there as it is in the Philippines. Even here, how one performs in the bar is not an accurate gauge of how good a lawyer is or how successful he/she turns out to be. I know of bar flunkers who are are ahead of their peers, in terms of professional accomplishment and earnings. It’s the man (or woman) and not the school.

  11. funny that after reading Pangalangan’s piece, all of you start berating UP alumni in general and then compare them with alumni of this school or that school… look to the man, not to the school nga eh!

  12. u.p. lawgrad., i think you’re right on the money. with guys like harry roque, whose claim to fame is his rabid hatred for the president of the republic, it’s really not about one’s alma mater. every forest has a snake.

  13. “Look at the man,not the school”

    I know a couple of lawyers from U.P., most of who were my profs at law school.(Yes,they do teach at other law schools,too).I never found any of them to be arrogant,smug or condescending.Same goes for the profs who were from Ateneo. (Again,yes, they do teach at other law schools,too).They were very strict , even to “working stupids” like me ( I had to work my way through law school) but that comes with the territory and they can really roast anyone down to the core during recitation.But none of them were smug.

    So who were the smug,arrogant and condescending law profs?The ones who graduated from the “other law schools”. And I though they would be more sympathetic to students like me who belong to the “other law schools”,but they really knew how to put someone down.They were the “terror” profs.Insecurity,not being from either The grand lawyeing school in Diliman or The law school in Rockwell made them over-compensate,show everyone that they ought to be feared,that they were BETTER.Hence,we hated them down to their very guts.But then again,not all those profs for the “other law schools’ were like that.

    Hence,”Look at the man,not the school”.

  14. If one would only experience the way UP law trains its students, one will say that indeed, its a humiliating augury. A graduate of UP Law must be the most humble of all.

    … And the reverse was exuded by the infamous judge..

  15. grabe ka judge talagang mukha kang pera grabe ang takaw mo sa lagay. binebenta mo laht ng naging decision mo, sana masuspend ka ulit.

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