Malcolm Hall, a building and more

Engraved in the entrance lobby of Malcolm Hall, the building that houses the University of the Philippines College of Law, are these words from United States Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “The business of a law school is not sufficiently described when you merely say that it is to teach law, or to make lawyers. It is to teach law in the grand manner, and to make great lawyers.” Last night, as UP Law’s alumni gathered in the Rizal Ballroom of the Makati Shangrila Hotel for its 2014 Grand Alumni Homecoming, hosted this year by the Class of 1989 (my batch) celebrating the 25th anniversary of our graduation from UP Law, I could not help but see the words of Justice Holmes enfleshed in my classmates.  With apologies to those I have omitted, let me write about some of them.

To start, what would our legal system and business community look like without our classmates? In the corporate field, Pilipinas Shell General Counsel Jannet Cruz Regalado was my seatmate and best friend in law school; nowadays, I tease her that we once co-wrote a paper critical of oil companies when we took up Natural Resources Law under Prof. Salvador Carlota. Leny Casabar Oxales, who was my Vice-President when I was President of the UP Law Student Government and past President of the Tax Management Association of the Philippines, is currently Assistant Vice-President of First Philippine Holdings Corporation. Other classmates occupy important positions in many top companies, including Gemma Nitorreda, Amie Amado, Maria Liana Antonio, Rowell Barba, Monalisa Manalo, and Maritess Parilla-Elbiña. Some have retired from their corporate jobs and now teach law, such as Wijohn Reyes who also served for a decade as Commisioner of the bar discipline of IBP.

Members of UP Law 89 have also risen in the ranks of major law firms or have successful law practices. These include Reggie Quimbo (our class valedictorian who spends as much time in Catbalogan, Samar as in board rooms all over the world), Al Navarro, Tess Mercado-Ferrer, Josephine Cochico, Jun Salita, Mon Hildawa, Thad Alvizo, Boyet Medina, Domingo Carillo, Alan Maglasang, JJ Portugal, Ricardo Espina, Kennedy Sarmiento, Agnes Maranan, Marsel Meneses, Rene Espano, Edgar Mendoza, and many others. I would be remiss if I do not mention my Section A classmates Min Chua, Boyet Pangan and Lalen Parlade who have pioneered in such areas as energy, arbitration and cyber law respectively or those from our class who are abroad like Luz Torre, Stephanie Dy, Nanette Logarta, Dennis Chua, and Spunky Abad.

There are those also who have taken the road less traveled: Lisa Araneta who runs hotels and restaurants (and who led our first year evening classmates in reminding Professor Haydee Yorac to release us early because my wife and I, then newly married, were under medical orders to have a baby quickly), Jimmy Hofileña (salutatorian of our class) who left a successful litigation practice and joined us at the Ateneo de Manila University, becoming its Vice-President for Social Development, Meyose Libunao, a brilliant innovator in legal information and research through CD Technologies, photographer-lawyer Larry Marbella, media personality Gaby Roldan Concepcion, and entrepreneurs Loida Poliquit-Mayo and Mimi Andaya Martin.

Of course there are the best of our class, those who practiced law with excellence while continuing to do what they love – to sing and make others happy: my classmates who form the Chorus Juris – Bernard Lopez, Juor Buted, Tim Abejo, Mario Santos, Ariel Magno, and Al Oxales. As Juor, our class representative, describes the group, it found “its origins in the UP College of Law where in between their studies, these gentlemen managed to leisurely sing their way through law school.” And I would say beyond.

Finally, there are many in UP Law ‘89 who have distinguished themselves in public service: Senator Koko Pimentel (graduated later than us and the Bar exams topnotcher when he took the exams), Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio De Los Reyes, Representative Martin Romualdez, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (Bar exams topnotcher who, with Hofileña and Quimbo were my bar study group mates and who I credit for my good performance also in the Bar exams; many of us hope he will come back to public life soon), Ambassador King Sorreta, former National Labor Relations Commission Chairman Benedicto Bitonio, former Chief Administrator Reynaldo Regalado of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, former Defense Undersecretary Bong Valenzuela, Director of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office Mario Molina, Regional Trial Court Atty. Jun Mendoza, General Counsel of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, Deputy Secretary for Legal of the Commission of Appointments Alvin Cruz, Vice-President for Legal Affairs of the University of the Philippines Hector Danny Uy, Senate officials Esperanza Ayson and Jocelyn Yuzon, and several others who served our government in many capacities.

I would like to single out our classmates who joined the Judiciary and the prosecution service: Court of Appeals Justice Nina Antonio Valenzuela, Judges Angelene Quimpo-Sale and Tess Rana Bernales, and former Prosecutor Venipi Canta. Likewise, special mention should be given to those who serve at the frontlines of local government, such as Naga Mayor John Bongat (the worthy successor of the late Jesse Robredo), former Isabela Vice-Mayor Constante Foronda, and former Iloilo Representative and Vice-Governor Rolex Suplico.

Senator Pimentel, in a recent ceremony honoring UP Law alumni in government service, articulates what is expected of us all of us as graduates of the premier public law school of the country: “We must continue to personify good governance as our homage to this prestigious school and the alumni association that we belong to. Our alma mater deserves nothing less than our shared integrity, our unwavering commitment to serve the people as iskolars ng bayan and servant leaders of our republic.”

I have been teaching law for nearly 25 years, as I joined the UP Law Faculty immediately after passing the bar. When I first met my first group of students in Criminal law and Persons and Family Relations in 1990, I told them that I had three teaching objectives: (1) to make them lawyers by passing the bar; (2) to help them become good lawyers that can argue and serve their clients in an excellent manner; and (3) to mold them into great lawyers for the country and the world.

I do not teach in UP Law anymore but at the beginning of all my classes in Ateneo Law School, Xavier University College of Law, and De La Salle University College of Law, I repeat these objectives, and emphasize that the last is most important. This is the most important lesson I got from Malcolm Hall – a building, yes, and much more.

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