“Our end goal as alternative lawyers is to put ourselves out of business.”
Strange words for the son of Chinese entrepreneurs who have created a family business from scratch and who want nothing more but to have their lawyer-son at the helm. Strange words for an exclusive-school bred boy, with the world under his feet and all opportunities his for the taking.
But to those who know Levy Ang, those words are right on the mark. A labor lawyer and a member of Saligan, Levy believes that the role of an alternative lawyer is primarily to empower the sectors and to allow them to craft their own decisions and chart their own destinies with minimum intervention from technocrats and lawyers. In his line of work, Levy comes to the defense of the working masses – fighting for fair labor standards against oppressive employers, ensuring the enforcement of their rights, advocating free trade unionism.
It was an odd choice for a scion of a wealthy family and to this day, his parents and relatives still scratch their heads in disbelief. “My parents wanted me to join the family business, pero ayaw ko talaga. I went to law school to “buy” myself four more years. Nung nasa law school na ako, na-expose sa volunteering, sa human rights center, sa issues ng mga sector.”
And that was that: at the heart of capitalist, consumerist Makati, Levy Ang made the decision never to go into corporate lawyering and cast his lot in alternative law.
There was, at first, no deliberate effort to go to Labor and make it his field of specialization. It was the only slot that was open in Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan), the legal NGO he works for. In time though, he realized that he found his true calling. “Sa labor ko nakita ang kahalagahan ng sama-samang pagkilos para sa kaligtasan ng manggagawa.”
It has, of course, its share of heartaches. Like for example, surviving the wheeling and dealing at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) with one’s scruples intact. And not getting disheartened with losing what appears to be cut-and-dried cases where injustice is patent. Slowly, however, incremental changes are being made and incremental good is being done. Policies are slowly being crafted that reflect the experiences and struggles of the ordinary worker. Levy is proud of being part of that movement. He has been one of the most persistent advocates of the AKBAYAN-sponsored Right to Self-Organization Bill, drafting it and seeing it through its eventual passage in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In AKBAYAN’s campaign against military infiltration in urban poor areas, Levy stood as counsel. He remains supportive and committed to the AKBAYAN values of social justice and civil liberties.
“The important thing is to see yourself as one piece of a puzzle in a bigger project. It’s not just your work and your commitment; it’s you joining your voice with a million others.”
And in that sea of voices, Levy’s rings loud and clear.