A personal manifesto for our times

"There is hope as long as we live and love."



The passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law compels me to write down my core beliefs, the principles that guide in my personal and public life, and my principal engagements. If ever I am red-tagged, accused of being a terrorist or worst arrested or even killed because of such tagging and accusation, this manifesto speaks for itself: who I am, what I believe in, and the work that I do.

My worldview is Catholic, Christian, Humanist, Filipino, and Mindanawon.

I believe in the tenets of the Catholic Church and the Christian faith, as summarized best by the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, the Sermon of the Mount, and the catechism of the Catholic Church. I acknowledge that I am a sinner and that Jesus Christ has saved me and that work of salvation is continuing.

My Christian faith calls me to be a person for others, to be always in solidarity with the poor (concretely indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, the urban poor, people with disabilities), to promote social, environmental, and climate justice, to advocate human rights for all without derogation, and to defend the planet. The encyclical Laudato Si, issued by Pope Francis in 2015, summarizes how I see human engagement with the world and with each other. We are called to love and care for all creatures without exception. We are stewards and not masters of the universe. We must respect nature and acknowledge it has rights.

I am a teacher. I teach philosophy, constitutional and political law, public international law, the art and science of negotiations, environmental law and policy, climate justice, and disaster management, social innovation and entrepreneurship, public management and leadership, and governance. I teach undergraduate students, JD law students, MPM, LLM, JSD, and PHD students in a dozen schools in Manila and Mindanao.

I have scaled up my teaching because the issues I care about demand intergenerational work. The best contribution I can make is to teach and mentor future generations. This I have done and continue to do—teaching and mentoring hundreds of human rights and environmental lawyers, politicians and civil servants, and social activists and entrepreneurs. I have also taught many military and police officials, both high level and rank and file.

I am a thinker. Working with others all over the world, I like to do research, develop and apply academic tools and frameworks to understand problems, and generate ideas and solutions. To disseminate the latter, I write columns, scholarly papers and articles, and books.

I am a lawyer and an advocate. My main legal practice is environmental law which I have practiced here and abroad. Early in my career, I specialized in climate change and I still do a lot of work in that area today. But from the beginning, I have also been a human rights lawyer, having joined the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) immediately after I passed the bar. As an advocate, I always side with the poor and marginalized, aware that our legal system is frequently an instrument of oppression.

I believe in the rule of law, but I am not naïve about how the law is often weaponized against people to perpetuate injustice. A lawyer who is faithful to the attorney’s oath must fight back against such an evil way of using the law.  We see this today in the Senator Leila De Lima case, the Maria Ressa case, the ABS-CBN controversy, and the newly enacted anti-terrorism law.

Today, I am a convenor of Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings  (Manlaban) and Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL). I work closely with the National Union of People’s Lawyers whose lawyers are the most courageous, competent, and imaginative I have worked with. I lawyer, among others, for Kabataan Party List whose leaders and members are the best of their generation. I also lawyer for Aetas that are being driven away by their ancestral domain in Clark.

As a Filipino, I would defend. our national sovereignty and territory. The current government has betrayed us on this—yielding to China, as the previous government did the same to the United States—and we must push back this before it is too late.

I am a leader and social entrepreneur. I am a change-maker, committed to innovation when demanded by the times while making sure the core of institutions is strengthened. I also try to be a servant-leader, knowing that. empathy and personal integrity are good qualities to have and for others to emulate.

I believe in non-violence and the peaceful resolution of all personal and social disputes. I believe in reason and dialogue. I believe in the family and community.  I believe in the young of this country and the world.

I believe there is hope as long as we live and love.

Facebook page: deantonylavs Twitter: tonylavs

Topics: Anti-Terrorism Law , Free Legal Assistance Group , ABS-CBN
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