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‘Musta Atty!’ Lawyers’ social media page proves they’re only human

By RAYMUND MARTELINO Published Dec 15, 2020 10:53 pm

Barely a month since going online, the “Musta Atty!” (MA) Facebook page, got about 20,000 members consisting mostly of lawyers, law graduates and law students. The creators never imagined the group to grow at a phenomenal rate or that the legal community nationwide would be in a frenzy over the hilarious posts, entertaining videos and online “rumbles.”

A Tiktok dance video challenge gave away a P120,000 cash prize. The prize was pooled from lawyer-members and some law firms. The contest became the talk of the legal community with entries from lawyers going out of their usual routines to performing saucy numbers on video. Presidential Spokesperson, Atty. Harry Roque confirmed in a post that he will be one of the judges for the contest.

“Musta Atty!” started as a thread in a Philippine lawyers’ Facebook page, “Abogadong Pinoy” (AP) where practitioners shared experiences on friends, families, and clients attempting to free-load or get free legal advice online or by text. The thread gained traction after members of the bar shared quips and comebacks to follow up questions after the opening greeting “Musta Atty!”

AP, however, is strict with some members policing others for what they feel are offensive posts. Censorship and prior restraint on speech became an issue. The page became too serious for the creators of the MA page, hence, the idea to create a new, more liberal forum. AP to date remains exclusively for lawyers while MA allows law students and law graduates to join.

AP and MA complement each other. AP is like the serious aunt taking the moral high ground most of the time, and reminding family of the norms of conduct, while MA is the happy-go-lucky uncle who lives a carefree life.

MA promotes responsible free speech. Hate speech, bullying, and disrespectful comments and posts are taken down. On the other hand, the page rules include a warning to “snowflakes,” “Karens” and snitches.

Cancel culture and onion-skinned members are considered as bad as trolls and cyberbullies. A post may be in bad taste or something that others may disagree with but for as long as it is within the bounds of the law and protected by the Constitutional right to free speech and expression, it will be respected.

Being a lawyer is not easy. There is too much expectation to live up to and the daily grind robs you of life. Sometimes it sucks to be a lawyer.

Occasionally there are “fights” that break out between and among members. Online debates result like a rumble, a free for all, with spectators and lurkers enjoying their “popcorn” moment. The good thing is that at the end of the ruckus cooler heads pacify the combatants. This is one of the things that make membership in the page more interesting. The page is like a powder keg just waiting for a spark for an explosion.

What else can you expect when you put lawyers on a Facebook page?

Ed Chico—lawyer, comedian and one of the founding members of MA—says that they don’t aspire for anything for the page. “That would be too pretentious”, he says. “We just want to have fun, provide an outlet where lawyers can be themselves, articulate their interests and more importantly, bond.”

Ed sees MA as a welcome respite from the toxic legal environment. “Being a lawyer is not easy. There is too much expectation to live up to and the daily grind robs you of life. Sometimes it sucks to be a lawyer.”

After the Tiktok challenge, MA plans to do more crazy stuff for its members. There’s an upcoming Singing Jamboree, Online Dating Game, and of course, Tiktok Challenge Season 2!

One may ask, do these activities violate Canons of Professional Ethics and Code of Professional Responsibility of lawyers? Lawyers are required by Canon 7 of the Code to strive at all times to uphold the honor and to maintain the dignity of the profession and to improve not only the law but also the administration of justice. Rule 7.03 of the Code also requires that a lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that ‘Like Ceasar’s wife, a judge must not only be pure and beyond reproach but must appear to be so.’

Judges and members of the judiciary have an even stricter Code of Judicial Ethics. A judge’s official conduct should be free from the appearance of impropriety, and his personal behavior, not only upon the bench and in the performance of his judicial duties, but also in his everyday life, should be beyond reproach. Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that “Like Ceasar’s wife, a judge must not only be pure and beyond reproach but must appear to be so.”

Before anyone files a disciplinary action or disbarment case before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines or the Supreme Court against members of the bar from the group, administrators of the page submit that the intent and actions of these members are in the spirit of good, clean fun and camaraderie.

In the Philippines, lawyers are highly regarded by society. When a person becomes a lawyer he acquires the right to use the title of “attorney” as an appellation to his or her name. Lawyers are expected to be skilled and knowledgeable in the law. A lawyer’s image and reputation is the only ethical means of promoting his or her professional services because the Code of Professional Responsibility does not allow advertising. The practice of law is not a trade or business but a noble profession.

MA admins believe that it is a safe space where members of a profession converge in a time when personal interaction is limited due to the pandemic. Over the past months, we see a proliferation of online groups in social media and apps like Viber and Telegram. In a time like this, people—even lawyers—need a venue for interaction, discourse and release.

MA serves “good vibes” in generous doses. This is why members keep coming back for more. It’s an online watering hole for attorneys. It’s a refreshing respite from the stressful world of lawyering, a profession thriving in conflict.

The MA Tiktok Challenge finalists were attorneys Lucky Damasen (Isabela), Daniel Carpina from (Metro Manila), Katherine Sarte (Bohol), Marian Cayetano (Metro Manila) and Al Jumrani (Mindanao).

A panel of judges, consisting of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, actor Jake Cuenca, Viva Hot Babe Jaycee Parker and Sex Bomb dancer Mia ranked the contestants. Members were also asked to cast their votes to support their favorites. Supporters instantly formed cult-like groups like “The Lucky Ones,” “Carpinatics,” “Buffalo Soldiers,” “Marian Devotees,” and the “Jumranics.”

The winners of the MA Tiktok Challege were announced last Sunday, Dec. 13, via Facebook live. Atty. Lucky Damasen won first prize with a cash prize of P150,000; Atty. Carpina came in second, winning P20,000, a portable speaker and hotel accommodation. Coming in third was Atty. Sarte who was awarded P8,000.00.

Musta Atty! Continues to grow. As of this writing, it has more than 23,000 members and 200-plus posts a day.