Among William Shakespeare’s more famous (though eyebrow-raising) lines was what he wrote in Henry VI that “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”. Why the great poet wrote so is beyond us, though for sure, he is turning in his grave what with lawyers proliferating nowadays. To Shakespeare’s chagrin, if I should say so, our very own Palawan State University School of Law, now at 25 years of storied existence, has done its part in this swelling of the lawyers’ ranks.
I am immensely elated that this institution I helped nurture, as dean, during its years of infancy, has now grown into its distinguished membership in the country’s legal education community. Indeed, how the PSU School of Law had matured with distinction – not in terms of population increase, nor in physical infrastructure development but in its growth in quality legal education.
I was with the law school for close to 15 years, six of those as dean (from August 1995 to March 2001) and the rest as professorial lecturer for constitutional law until June 2010. I took over from the late Minister Teddy Peña, who founded the school in 1993 with the late university president Dr. Tess Salva. Until its 6th year, the law school was housed in a borrowed building at the PSU Tiniguiban campus and its distance alone was a perennial problem for our students and law professors coming from their respective offices downtown. Transferring the school to PSU’s Manalo campus downtown was an obsession for me as well as to then law school secretary, now Palawan Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, and the late PSU president Dr. Crispin Acosta. I was fortunate to have them on board in this plan, more fortunate when I was able to secure a financial allocation of 2 million pesos from then Congressman Alfredo Abueg Jr. With that amount and some more funds from the University itself came out the 3-story building, now its present site downtown.
As law dean, I could not forget the tense moments and almost sleepless nights awaiting the release of the 1997 Bar results, the first for the school, until that early morning call from Judge Joy Dilig conveying the good news that of our first 7 examinees, 5 made it, led by Rohima Sara now a judge of the city court and Adelina Villena now the PCSD deputy director. Unforgettable too, was that day in 1999 when our senior students won, thru a habeas corpus petition they themselves filed, the freedom of 7 overstaying prisoners at the Iwahig Prison & Penal Farm. They were also the ones who argued the petition before the late RTC Judge Eustaquio Gacott Jr. who, by the close of that day’s working hours had ordered the release of the prisoners. These senior students, all members of the school’s legal aid class, supervised by Atty. Sara and myself were led by Arlene Guillen later the head of Palawan’s Public Attorney’s Office and now an RTC judge herself. Worth mentioning in this regard is the fact that PSU law’s legal aid program was cited in 1999 by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines as one of its proud achievements.
When I concluded my tenure as dean upon my election as vice governor of Palawan in 2001, the school already ranked 7thout of 73 much older law schools in the country. Now, the school stands 3rd nationwide, a distinguished feat indeed.
PSU Bar passers are now with the Palawan judiciary, prosecution service, private practice, and even in corporate enterprise. I recall when I was in the House of Representatives, one of my pet bills in 1993 was the creation of additional RTC branches in Palawan in the municipalities of Brookes Point in the south and in Roxas and Coron in the north for less difficult access to judicial processes by litigants in those areas. This was later enacted into law but not without a caveat from the Supreme Court regarding the need for more practicing lawyers in Palawan. Thus, it can be said now that PSU law’s birth about that time was not only appropriate but timely as well. Without the least doubt, PSU law had answered a critically-felt need in Palawan with and thru its numerous alumni who, as law students were and are some of the best of Palawan’s youth.
Much of the credit for PSU law’s stellar performance over the years go to its highly-qualified faculty line-up from the ranks of judicial, prosecutorial and practicing legal minds in the province. Ably leading the law school were Dean Roy Rafols (who succeeded me) and current Dean Perry Pe, both recognized legal luminaries hereabouts, assisted by Associate Deans Rohima Sarra and Gisela Josol-Trampe.
That’s why although I am from the UP College of Law, I had no hesitation when my daughter Mary Catherine, a UP mass communication graduate, decided in 2013 to study law at PSU law school, forthwith passing the Bar in 2017.
Now people are asking me when we can have somebody from PSU Law in the Bar’s top ten. With justified confidence, my answer has always been the same – that day will come.