- Carlos S. Hernandez Jr. is the valedictorian of the UP College of Law Class of 2017
- He delivered an inspiring valedictory address during the commencement exercises
- In his speech, Hernandez spoke about gender equality, privilege and the rule of law
Valedictorian graduate Carlos Hernandez’s speech during the Commencement Exercises of the UP College of Law Class of 2017 has gone viral.
Hernandez used to work as a chemical engineer for a pharmaceutical company in Laguna before taking up law.
While going to law school, he was also working in Makati.
His loving mother wanted to finance his schooling, but he declined her offer so that she would not have to borrow money for his tuition.
KAMI presents to you excerpts of Hernadez’s valedictory address taken from his Facebook page.
“The road we had to take to arrive at this moment of so much joy and great pride was paved with sweat, tears, but most of all, love. I would like to honor them today as it is such a great honor to learn the law in their good company.
Our stories are a testament to the truth that the doors of the UP College of Law will be opened to those who are brave enough to knock, and stubborn enough to knock repeatedly and persistently.
Each of us here had to overcome many obstacles on our way to becoming lawyers. These obstacles may not be in the form of juggling work and law school or in the form of doing a balancing act like reading SCRA while standing in a moving jam-packed MRT, but all these obstacles tested our grit nonetheless. Today we reap the fruits of our labor. And today we honor those who are with us every step of the way.
Our graduation is one of the most eloquent ways of thanking our parents for making our dreams come true. We thank you our dear parents for the love that is pure, selfless and unconditional the kind of love which our law books tell us is so difficult to find. I thank my mother too who is here today for the selfless love she gave her son who is so ambitious to dare to become both an engineer and a lawyer despite our extremely limited resources. Maraming salamat po, Nanay.
I always imagine Malcolm Hall as Hogwarts where wide-eyed law students like me are under the tutelage of professors like Prof. Dumbledore, Prof. McGonagall and Prof. Snape, who are the leading experts in their respective fields. I would not name who I imagine to be Dumbledore, McGonagall or Snape or well, Dolores Umbridge. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will forever be grateful for the knowledge you have imparted to us, and for giving us such intellectual experience that is one of a kind.
I would like to thank in particular Prof. Mark Dennis Joven, my professor in Credit Transactions. I flunked his Midterms. Instead of signing my dropping form he challenged me to study hard for my finals. I would not have been a member of the Order of the Purple Feather, and would not be speaking before you now had Prof. Joven signed my dropping form. Thank you Sir for believing in me at that time when I failed to believe in myself. Dumbledore once said: “Help will always be given at Hogwarts, Harry.” [And I imagine myself as Harry. Or better yet Hermione. . . because she is brilliant and bold.]
I made friends in law school whom I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you for being my anchor. I found a treasure in Malcolm Hall and that treasure is our friendship.
This is not to say that sheer determination alone is enough to reach one's dreams. I do not want to contribute to the spread of the big lie that poverty is not a hindrance to success. It is. Poverty IS a hindrance to success.
My life as a law student became more manageable with the scholarship grant from the family of the late Justice Jose Campos and Prof. Maria Clara Campos. Every semester I would have lunch with Ms. Patricia Campos-Domingo and Atty. Rico Domingo. They are here with us today. Thank you Ma’am Patricia and Sir Rico for everything. I promise to pay it forward someday.
I could not have afforded UP Law if not for the subsidy of the taxpayers. I will forever be grateful to each and every taxpayer who subsidized my UP Law education. And I hope I can repay them big time one day.
Five years in law school were both a humbling and rewarding experience. The experience made my resolve stronger to fight for the things that are worth fighting for. Allow me at this point to share my thoughts on three issues that are close to my heart. These are gender, privilege, and most importantly, rule of law.”
Hernandez, who founded the UP OUTLaws for law students who are members of the LGBTQ community, also spoke about gender equality in his address.
He also thanked Dean Pacifico Agabin for being an ally in fighting for the LGBTQ community and urged our leaders to prevent discrimination against members of that community.
“At first I thought law school would be an ultraconservative enclave. I once feared that students like me who are members of the LGBT community would have to suppress our gender identity and expression so that we would not attract too much attention to ourselves. I even practiced introducing myself to my professors and classmates in an alpha male voice, which is, of course, not my real voice. I practiced saying “I AM CARLOS HERNANDEZ JR.” in front of a mirror several times. I was wrong. Because the moment Prof. Gaby Concepcion entered the room for my first class in law school, I knew right then and there that I belong, that I did not have to use a different voice to introduce myself to her and to my classmates…
I fear that there are those who still think that a lawyer is less effective or less credible simply because he is gay or is flamboyant. That is why I think gay lawyers suppress their gender for professional reasons. I am confident that the members of the UP Law Class of 2017 would not entertain any such homophobic notion. One of the reasons why I studied so hard is because I want my competence to be measured based on merit alone, and that my gender would not get in the way of me getting retained, hired, promoted or even appointed…
The glass ceiling against women in the legal profession is gradually being shattered by the influx of many brilliant women lawyers. Our Chief Justice is a woman. The Chair of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution is also a woman, Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma. I hope that the same glass ceiling set against LGBTQ+ members in the legal profession would have big cracks on it soon, and be completely shattered forever. Our only wish is that we will be judged not by the effeminateness of our voices, not by the gayness of our faces, but by the content of our character and by the sheer force of arguments in our pleadings.
"There are two aspects of privilege that I would like to highlight about being a UP graduate and a UP Law graduate in particular.
Firstly, our UP Law education gives us a certain level of credibility whether we deserve it or not. This is a double-edged sword. We can use it to educate or to ridicule. The rampant smart-shaming against UP students may have its roots in the tendency of some of us to mock. Maybe we have been using ridicule as a tool of persuasion very often, even at times when the circumstances do not warrant its use. We have been mocking the uninformed and the ignorant as if the quality of the opinions they form and things they believe in are ultimately of their own doing alone, without taking into account that they might not have been exposed to the kind of education we have been exposed to because of circumstances beyond their control such as abject poverty.
Of course, fake news, attempts to revise history, and malicious propaganda being propagated by self-serving individuals must be dealt with with the full force of what we know and what we believe in. Now more than ever, we need to win the war against untruth, and the battle against memory.
Secondly, the culture of pervasive 'othering' has to stop. I am referring to our tendency to label people who are not from UP as 'The Others' with all the derogatory and pejorative connotations we attach to the label. It is harsh to even joke about one’s competence based on the school one has attended. It is a subtle way of speaking highly of oneself by reducing another’s worth.
We raised our voices so that the muted cries coming from the graves of the victims of Martial Law would be heard when Marcos was buried in Libingan Ng Mga Bayani. We protested against the death penalty because it is a cruel and inhuman punishment and the usual victims of wrongful convictions are the poor… Let us be hated for these reasons, which are principled reasons, and not because we are seen as boastful of the education that we received.
The thing about privilege is that it’s like air: we’re oblivious of its existence yet it’s always there."
ON RULE OF LAW
The rule of law is the raison d'être of the legal profession. It is pointless for all of us here to master the law if we could not even invoke it. We assume that everyone should appreciate and cherish the due process of law.
But we are wrong. We are wrong to assume that we share the same faith in and devotion to the rule of law with the rest of the public. Law or due process is now seen by many as an unnecessary bureaucracy, an inconvenience, or worse, a tool for the dangerous elements of our society to go unpunished and roam free. We are suddenly awakened that our shared belief that the rule of law is beneficial to all is in reality abhorred and despised by many.
We are shocked that many of the poor and the powerless approve of disregarding due process even if it is their only shield against the arbitrary use of the state’s power.
We all graduate today against this gloomy backdrop.
In a world marred by so much inequality, the last bastion of hope in preserving our dignity as men and women is the law. The moment this last bastion collapses, the only alternative left is a revolution which can be bloody and violent. May our graduation today bring balance to the force.
I was advised not to be preachy to you in this speech. And I am heeding such wise advice. Our venerable professors who are literally and symbolically facing us now have done a good job in instilling in us the value of honor and excellence. Their constant wish is for us to give back. Much has been given to us. Let us give back much more.
To that well that our professors have allowed us to fetch wisdom, let me just add something mundane. It is in our best interests as future lawyers that the rule of law reigns forever supreme in our land, whatever political sides we may find ourselves in.
If there is no rule of law, our soon-to-be profession would become obsolete. We would be reduced to mere actors and actresses in a pantomime whose only role is to give semblance of legitimacy to a legal system run by whoever is in power or who can give the highest bribe.
I have no doubt that many of us will be successful and brilliant members of the legal profession. Some of us, years from now, will be in positions of power. Some of us will wield the awesome powers of the State. We will become close advisers to those who wield such powers.
My only hope is that when the moment comes that we have to take a position on a simple legal question that becomes complex because of political or financial considerations, whatever creative legal position that we take, may it always be something that fortifies, and not something that undermines, the rule of law.
There are some lawyers who now spit at the supremacy of the courts in all things legal just because they are now ensconced in the other two co-equal branches of the government, the legislative and the executive. They willfully forget the fundamental rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights they once memorized so that they can cling to power. Let us not follow in their footsteps. Let us instead erase those footsteps from the face of the earth.
The people have lost faith in a system they rightly perceive as highly legalistic, always in delay, and serving only the interests of the rich and the powerful.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: '[W]e shall overcome, deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome. And I believe it because somehow the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.'
My fellow graduates of the UP College of Law, I am excited to work with all of you, as future great lawyers of this nation, in bending this stubborn arc towards the direction of justice.
Maraming salamat po.
Isang mapagpalayang hapon sa inyong lahat."
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