Ignorantia legis non excusat. This is one of a handful of Latin maxims that I can still remember, and it means that ignorance of the law excuses no one [from compliance therewith].
This principle is applied when determining the culpability or liability of a person. The words "I didn't know that what I was doing was wrong" cannot exempt anyone from being liable for the consequences of his or her actions.
If this is the case, then we could say that we have higher expectations of people who are well-versed with the law than those who might have not heard about it, much less studied it.
For government lawyers, therefore, who had any part in the preparation and implementation of Proclamation No. 1017, which on its face is a mockery of Constitutional Law and Criminal Law as we know it, we could find nothing that could justify their actions. They are accountable to us, the Filipino people, and not to the few people who are welcome, and still loyal, to the Palace.
Furthermore, if these lawyers, got their degree from Malcolm Hall, where we were supposedly taught the law "in a grand manner" to "make great lawyers", our utter disappointment with them is perfectly justifiable.
Since cases have been filed questioning the legality of Proclamation 1017, we have the Supreme Court to count on now, as the final arbiter in saying what the law is, and to declare as invalid and unconstitutional this convtroversial proclamation. Let us trust that the standards that the justices would use would be nothing less than what we ordinary Filipinos would expect from them.
I was buying ensaladang talong from one of our favorite carinderias this noon when I made small talk with the Manang who was measuring the eight cups of rice that we ordered for our office, it being Fat Tuesday for us (the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season, when we fast). My officemate and I were choosing from the turo-turo window when Manang asked us if Cuaresma had set in. I said, "Bukas pa po, Manang".
She replied, "Hay naku, kuwaresma na, dapat magsisi na iyang si Gloria at magtika para sa lahat ng mga kasalanan niya."
My heart went out to Manang who was voicing out her sentiments at the sight of palpable injustice that has been permeating our country for a long time now, but who probably did not know exactly what laws were violated by this administration, especially in the last four days. Or maybe I'm complicating where she's coming from, given my own sentiments at the current crisis that we are going through.
We may twist the laws of man and get away with it, but the Lord sees everything. Ultimately, the masterminds and plotters of Proclamation 1017 are accountable to God, who is after the sincerity of hearts.
As we wait for the outcome of the petitions filed in the SC, we hope that our justices would say this prayer, from words that came from our Lord Jesus:
"I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me." - John 5:30 (RSV)
May each justice seek neither his own interests nor that of the directly appointing power, but may his decision be guided by the laws of the land in his mind, the voice of the people in his heart, and the laws of God in his conscience.