[Blueboard] A paradigm of excellence in law (BusinessWorld)

Gia D. Dumo gdumo at ateneo.edu
Tue Sep 28 09:04:28 PHT 2010

A paradigm of excellence in law (BusinessWorld)


By Cesar L. Villanueva, Dean, Ateneo Law School


First posted on September 27, 2010

Poverty, Capacity, Nation

BusinessWorld <http://www.bworldonline.com/main/content.php?id=18460> 


Reposted on: http://www.ateneo.edu/index.php?p=120



When March and April set in, all law schools, together with the new law
graduates, begin watchfully waiting for the release of the list of
successful examinees who took the bar exams in September of the previous
year. This ritual holds much significance to both. To bar examinees, this
marks their entry into the bar, the roster of lawyers in the country; to law
schools, this will bolster their prestige and stature, and hopefully
enrolment for their schools.


In 1939, the first graduates of the Ateneo Law School sat for the Philippine
bar examinations, and in 1940, the school produced its first bar topnotcher
in the person of Claudio M. Teehankee, who would become Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court. Thus began the long tradition of "topping the bar," for
indeed, good performance in the bar examinations is the only official gauge
we have today in determining the fitness of candidates to be admitted into
the practice of law. The Ateneo Law School has kept tabs of its own record
of performance in the bar exams, to wit, an average passing percentage of
91.24% over the past 10 years and around 200 or so of its graduates topping
the bar.


However, in recent years, "topping the bar examinations" has to a great
extent become a beauty contest in the Philippines, with much media exposure
guaranteed to topnotchers each year. This reality bears out more than ever
that it is in the daily mission of representing the poor and marginalized,
in being in public service, and in the proper dispensation of justice, that
one finds the true measures of a law school's "excellence in training" in a
country that is mainly poor like the Philippines.


The Ateneo Law School by geography -- from Padre Faura to Salcedo Village to
Rockwell Center -- as well as through its faculty and graduates, has been at
the heart of the political and commercial pulses of the country. It has
tended therefore to be identified with the elite. But the hearts of its
graduates have never been far from the poor and marginalized sectors of
society. The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) and the Ateneo Legal Services
Center constitute important components of the make-up of the law school.
They not only offer legal aid to laborers and the poor, but also train
student volunteers in the art of developmental lawyering and in human rights
advocacy. Each graduation, we offer two awards to deserving members of the
graduating class -- the Evelio B. Javier Leadership Award and the Roberto A.
Gana Service Award. The awards are given to only two graduating students
who, throughout the entire law course, have consistently pursued in an
exemplary way the ideals of genuine leadership, concern for fellow students
and selfless service to the law school and the community.


The Roberto Gana Award is given in honor of the late Roberto "Bobby" A.
Gana, who was my student at the law school. He displayed a total devotion to
the study of the law and, in spite of his intellectual brilliance and
privileged family background, found joy in being with and serving the poor.
He graduated with honors, placed fifth in the bar exams, became a member of
the law faculty and devoted his life to the founding of Saligan, an
alternative lawyers group that to this day provides legal services and
paralegal training for the basic sectors -- farmers, women and children, the
urban poor.


I did not know Bobby during his college days at the Ateneo, but stories
about him abound from friends and co-workers who remember him with much
fondness and deep affection to this day. Of Bobby, one of them wrote:


"Bobby stood out because of the sheer simplicity and childlike-ness that he
possessed. All through his college years, Bobby was known for his
red-and-white-striped short-sleeved polo shirt, faded blue jeans, Robertson
rubber shoes that had seen better days, and the ever-present ballpoint pen
happily twirling in his hand. His innate intelligence coupled with a gentle
yet firm spirit was brought to bear in the various advocacies and challenges
that he embraced. In college, as an active member of a student organization
whose apostolate area was being demolished, Bobby stood "kapit bisig" in the
front lines of the barricade to stop the police from destroying the homes of
the community and friends that he served and loved.


"In fact, during that ill-fated plane ride that eventually caused Bobby his
life, he was on his way to Sumilao, Bukidnon to continue his work of
assisting the farmers fight for their land. Bobby did not live to see the
day when finally the Sumilao farmers won their battle and got back the
rights to their ancestral lands after the historic march by 55 farmers from
Sumilao to Manila from October to December 2007. Should he have been alive
then, he would have walked side by side with the farmers all through the
1,700 kilometers journey. Surely, it was because of the work, perseverance
and commitment that Bobby and his colleagues planted which allowed the
battle to be won."


Evelio Javier finished Law School much ahead of me, but I came to know him
when he would regularly attend the bar operations. Although he was already
the governor of Antique at that time, he would serve the bar candidates and
sleep on the carpet of the hotel with the rest of the research committee. He
always boasted that at the time he was reviewing for the bar examinations,
he was the "standard bearer," that is, "If Evelio can pass the bar
examinations, anybody else can." Evelio never pretended to have great
intellectual prowess, but he demonstrated that what really mattered was
having a big heart: that hard work and dedication to one's passion could
carry a person all the way. He became governor of Antique at a very young
age, winning the hearts and minds of his province-mates through his humble
ways and a true caring for their concerns. Evelio was gunned down in a most
savage way because of his support for the widow Corazon Aquino and his
opposition to the Marcos regime.


Evelio Javier and Bobby Gana represent the best in the Ateneo lawyer. Both
lived and died serving the poor because they loved our country, indeed an
exploit far beyond topping the bar. All around the country, be it in the
small villages, behind the Bench, or within the corridors of power, Ateneo
lawyers day in and day out each toil in their individual and unique ways
toward realizing the mission of the law school: the formation of men and
women not only skilled in the science and art of the law, but also imbued
with a burning passion for justice and the fervent desire to serve others.



Atty. Cesar L. Villanueva is the dean of the Ateneo de Manila Law School. He
may be reached at cvillanueva at aps.ateneo.edu.


The Poverty, Capacity, Nation series is an initiative of the Ateneo
Professional Schools to connect to the readers and invite them to share the
stories of their own struggles and efforts of building capacity to attack
poverty. We seek to inform, inspire and move people to action, whatever
their circumstances, offering our value proposition as their handle to build
the nation. For inquiries, please contact 150.ateneo.edu.

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