Let's take a breather from binge-watching the toxic and stressful war between Hamas and Israel, which threatens the stability of West Asia with Cassandra's augur of a Third World War. There are concerns involving the Muslim region of autonomy that also beg attention.
I premise this article on the infancy of my law practice. It was not a walk in the park, but it was exciting. While one learns the ropes in the confines of the classroom, its application in real life is another thing. It is a struggle. Law theories are learned through the black letters in textbooks, but law practice is more than that. Human behavior and the social and legal ecosystems have verities not taught by professors, although they factor very much in the practice of the profession. They often take a leading role in the litigation process rather than theories. I credit the modest success of my law practice and life to my exposure to this harsh environment. The totality of my life's outlook and response to headwinds were forged in the crucible of raw and untamed environments.
Fresh from admission to the Bar, I took the bull by the horns, so to speak, accepting public interest cases, largely pro bono (unless you consider offers by clients of fruits and paltry material things as lawyer's fees) which brought me to roads described by poet Robert Frost as "less traveled."
One of the memorable cases I handled, which has impacted my psyche to this day, was a murder case filed against the security guards of the Matling Industrial and Commercial Corporation or Matling. (If I remember right, Mr. Richard Spencer, the corporation's president, was also accused). I was asked by then Governor Mohammad Ali Dimaporo to lawyer for the victims-kin of his uncle, then mayor of Marogong, Lanao del Sur, Hadji Abdul Madid Dimaporo. The hearing venue was the Municipal Court of Marogong. This was circa 1970s, and travel to the town from the capital, Marawi City, where I was based, was harrowing because of the unpaved near unpassable roads.
The road was not much of a problem. The main problem was the exposure to danger in going to Marogong. One had to pass checkpoints manned by fully armed, battle-ready security guards of Matling. (Were they members of the so-called para-military CAFGU?)
To say that it was nightmarish is an understatement. Every time we passed through the checkpoints, we were ordered to disembark, frisked for weapons, and subjected to all forms of harassment. They asked for identification documents to remove one's sunglasses and golf cap, and we were subjected to unnecessary questions about our purpose of travel. And to think that we had to suffer the same ordeal returning from the hearing even though it was the same security guards manning the checkpoints.
This overbearing show of power and authority has impacted my outlook on life. I still harbor a rebellion against this unmitigated abuse of power committed with impunity. Nobody told me that the company held so much sway and lorded it over that swath of land. I am sure this was not an official policy of the corporation. But has the situation changed after the lapse of decades? Maybe the overzealousness of the guards was triggered by previous incidents involving the security of the plantation.
Recently, my sister, a resident of Malabang (the Matling plantation operates in a portion of the town), mentioned to me that her family once owned a piece of land that they were forced to sell because the security guards of the plantation would not allow access to the land despite the law on easement. My niece likewise has a lot in what they call "Red Beach" but cannot visit it regularly because of harassment by the same security men.
But whatever personal experience this writer had with the security guards of the Matling plantation is beside the point. As the saying goes, time heals all wounds. But tales of overbearing and condescending use of power persist to this day. I received documents from a concerned resident listing a litany of complaints.
(To be continued)