Northbound Philippines News

Sereno urges new lawyers to empower provinces with better legal services

MANILA – Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno urged the country’s new lawyers, who took their oath on Monday, to empower the provinces with better legal services, particularly the poor sectors of the society.

”Apart from your record-breaking number, your batch is exceptional in the diversity of your originating residence and law schools, especially with respect to those who did exceptionally well. The top ten bar passers represent no less than seven law schools and all three of the country’s island groups: an indication of the dispersal of quality legal education all throughout the country,” Sereno told 3,747 new lawyers who took their oath on Monday afternoon before the Supreme Court (SC) magistrates sitting in special en banc session held at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

The Chief Justice said non-Metro Manila law schools did well to break the dominance of the usual law schools topping the bar examinations, this could be the window of opportunity to talk about whether can direct more and better legal services to areas outside Metro Manila and other major urban areas.

“We need to talk about encouraging more Mindanao, Visayas and non-Metro Manila lawyers to consider staying and rendering service where they are.I understand that for a young lawyer wishing to provide his or her future family access to top-level education, Metro Manila is the business residence of choice. But, I ask you, batch 2016, to consider that it has been the historical neglect of the countryside that has created the understandably myopic view of the problem of justice in our country,” the magistrate noted.

She said that in pushing for reform we must recognize the historic inequalities that have disadvantaged many regions and populations outside Metro Manila and other major urban centers – and in so doing seek to rectify them on all fronts: through rules and procedures, as the Court is doing; through continuous improvement of legal education throughout the country; and also through the presence of lawyers such as yourselves in regions that sorely need practitioners who are dedicated to addressing these inequities and contributing to their local communities.

Sereno said that country need lawyers who will not back down from serving the rule of law even at great personal cost; who will not bend to pressures to set the law aside in favor of expediency; committed to justice for all; dedicated to equal rights for the oppressed and disenfranchised; who serve where the need is greatest; who contribute to the conversation not only of their local community but to the national conversation as well, of how we might better serve our people.

”My dear batch of 2016, I call upon you to commit yourselves with all passion and drive to join us in changing this. For this is the heart of our reforms: that we must work to ever more closely hew to our people’s deep desire for justice throughout the entire Philippines, for all kinds of Filipinos.

For the first time, no Metro Manila-based school landed in the top 10 of the 2016 Bar examinations, according to results released by SC last May 3.

For his part, 2016 Bar Chairman and Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco said that the country need more lawyers today to attend the needs of the marginalized.

Velasco said that he is truly happy with the result of this year’s bar examinations with the high passing rate of 59.06 percent with total of 3,747 out of the 6,344 examinees who took the 2016 Bar examinations.

He noted that this is the second highest passing rate in the history next to the 1954 Bar examinations with 75.17 percent passing rate. The all-time low was set at 16.5 percent in 1999.

The University of San Carlos in Cebu City had four graduates in the top 10 while Silliman University in Dumaguete City had three graduates in the top 10.

Karen Mae L. Calam, a graduate of the University of San Carlos, topped this year’s Bar Examinations with the highest over-all rating of 89.05 percent.

”I’m very excited, and at the same time, I’m very happy. After seven months, for some, this will be the first that I get to meet my classmates. I have my parents with me. I feel so happy and blessed. Star struck talaga ako pag nakikita ko yung mga Supreme Court Justices,” Calam told reporters before the start of the oath taking ceremonies.

She also said that since she was a child her dream was to become a lawyer, and with also the influence of her mother.

”Yes. It was instilled by my mom. When you grow up, parang sabi niya, you’ll be a CPA lawyer, but I didn’t have any idea back then (about being a CPA lawyer). Pero sabi ko, okay, she noted, who is currently working at accounting firm SGV & Co.

Asked if she will work for the government, Calam said “I’m currently with SGV and company because I’m more confident in commercial laws, corporations. I’m currently staying in SGV and Company, but I’m not closing my doors. Baka nga someday, I’ll work with the government.”

She was also happy for the result of bar exam where the top 10 were all from the province school.

”I’m so happy for my fellow topnotchers, and I’m so happy din kasi yung mga friends namin from Manila schools, you share it with everyone, it becomes a blessing, so I feel so blessed,” she added.

For her part, Athalia Liong of Andres Bonifacio College who placed in third spot, also expressed happiness and was overwhelmed, simply proving that even she came from the province, from a college in the province, it’s still possible to make in the top 10.

”Siguro because we have access to everything already, we have the online lectures, we have professors here from Manila, we have all the online materials already, even if from the province, you can already, access everything. I think that’s the equalizer among Metro Manila schools and provincial school,” Liong said who took first exam, and also mother of three kids.

Also asked if she has plan to work for the government, Liong answered “currently, there are offers from the government. I have an offer from the Office of the Solicitor General. The OSG. We’re still considering things because I’m a family person. I’m married with three kids, so it’s really difficult to relocate from Dipolog to Metro Manila.”

”My initial plan was to have private practice in Dipolog. But since there have offers here, that is why we are also considering transferring here in Metro Manila,” Liong said, who also have small business in Dipolog.

Calam was followed by Alanna Gayle Ashley Khio of Siliman University with 88.95 percent while Fiona Cristy Lao also of University of San Carlos and Athalia Liong of Andres Bonifacio College shared the third spot with a rating of 88.80 percent.

In fourth place is Allana Mae Babayen-On of University of San Agustin with a rating of 88.75 percent; followed by Justin Ryan Morilla of Ateneo de Davao University with 88.40 percent; Mark Dave Camaraol of Northwestern University with 88.10 percent; Anne Margaret Momongan of University of San Carlos with 87.80 percent; Jefferson Gomez also of University of San Carlos with 87.70 percent while Nia Rachelle Gonzales of the University of Batangas and Marie Chielo Ybio of Siliman University shared the 9th place with a rating of 87.50 percent.

In 10th place is Andrew Stephen Liu of Siliman University with a rating of 87.45 percent. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/

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