Saturday, May 13, 2017


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
May 14, 2017 issue

Social media went abuzz. Newspapers made headlines. The nation was in disbelief when the result of the 2016 Bar Exam was bared to the public on May 3, 2017. 

What gives? Not one from blue chip universities made it to the Top 10 list. Law graduates from schools in the provinces lorded it over. Imperial Manila’s bubble was shattered. The ‘promdis’ got their revenge, one newspaper said. And the biggest shocker of all, a university far, far way, in a place many call a university in a forest, registered 100% passing.

The punters never placed a bet on Palawan State University. But alas, they should have known better. The province has a rich heritage of academicians, past and present.

PSU in a nutshell

The university was first known as Palawan Teacher’s College, created to train additional teachers (most available educators then came from Luzon and only a few wanted to be assigned to far away towns). 

Briefly, it opened night classes using four borrowed classrooms from nearby Palawan National High School, and eventually became Palawan State College in 1984.

A school of Law was established when Dr. Teresita Salva became president in 1991, and Teodoro Peña, sponsor of transitioning the school to state college was appointed its first dean. The latter was an economist, lawyer, banker, parliamentarian, corporate director and has a Master of Laws from Yale University, an Associate in Arts and law degree, with honors, from the University of the Philippines.

Atty. Teodoro Pena
By virtue of a republic act sponsored by Congressmen Alfredo Abueg, Jr and David Ponce de Leon, the school became a university three years after. 

Today, the first university in Palawan is arguably, the best in the Mimaropa region and among the top 20 in the whole country. Through the years, it has performed well in the Bar exam, thanks to its OIC President Marissa Pontillas and Assistant Dean of School of Law, Maria Gisela Josol-Trampe, herself alumna of the school.

It is but important to interview its dynamic and current Dean, Perry Pe, 2016 president of Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). A Master of Laws graduate of Columbia University in New York, Bachelor of Laws degree holder from the Ateneo de Manila University, Pe also holds a Bachelor of Arts, major in History and Political Science from the De La Salle University. He is also a Trustee of the De La Salle University in Manila and the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City.

Many international legal publications, among them Legal 500, Chambers Global, Asia Legal Business, AsiaLaw, have named Pe as a leading lawyer in his field from 2003 to the present.

He also sits as Trustee of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (PEF) and the Honorary Consul General of the Kingdom of Denmark in Manila. He previously served as Chair and President of the Philippine Association of Law Schools.

Pe acted as a legal consultant to the Asian Development Bank, advising the bank and its foreign expatriates on various local regulatory matters from 1987 to1990. 

Among his achievements was acting as a legal consultant to the World Bank team that drafted the policies, guidelines, rules and regulations, including the tax and tariff customs manual, and for the conversion and commercialization of the former US Naval Base in Subic Bay in 1991. 

Here are Pe’s insights on provincial law schools, why he thinks it is beneficial for undergraduates and his confidence on the Filipino lawyer as far as ASEAN is concerned:

School of Law Dean Perry Pe

ROGER PE: What makes an outstanding law school?

PERRY PE: Three things: 1. You need an excellent, goal-driven and subject-focused law faculty 2. You need the school administration's support for your projects and endeavors 3. You need a strong alumni base, which will give back to their law school alma mater. From here, you can then have programs, like offering scholarships to outstanding college undergraduates who want to go to law school.

RP: There are a number of provincial law schools in the Philippines, how many are up to the standards and keep up with those in the big cities?

PP: We have a law school association composed of law deans known as the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS). I used to be its President and then later on, Chairman (from 2007 to 2012). This is our advocacy group. We try as much as possible to keep everyone abreast with the latest in law school administration trends and standards, for example, in faculty development. 
We also have a Legal Education Board (LEB) that accredits law schools. Lately, our LEB has instituted nationwide law school entrance examinations, known as PhilSAT. Most law schools in the country are members of PALS. I think we have perhaps, a total of around 125 law schools all over the country, 90 of which are members of our association. From this number, around 55% are from Metro Manila, and the rest are from the provinces.

RP: What’s the average cost of studying Law in the Philippines (let’s make the Top 5 schools, as example: UP, Ateneo, San Beda, UST, USC).

PP: UP Law is a state institution and therefore, its tuition is heavily subsidized, just like my school Palawan State University Law School. Private schools like Ateneo, San Beda, UST, FEU and the new one on the block, DLSU Law, perhaps average anywhere from P60 to P90 per semester. Compared to provincial law schools, it is around P40 to P60 per semester.
RP: What do you think are the biggest and daunting challenges being faced by provincial law students today? Would they be disadvantaged if they opt to stay in provincial universities?

PP: Primarily on research, but with the advent of Internet facilities, the gap has considerably decreased. In fact, University of San Carlos Law School won the international moot court competition last year and represented our country in the prestigious Philip Jessup competition in Washington DC.
Certainly, no one will be disadvantaged if students stay put in the provinces. In fact, the cost of living will be more beneficial, plus family support can play a crucial factor in their studies.
RP: Currently, is the number of law students nationwide rising?

PP: Perhaps not in the next 4 to 5 years. The reason for this is the K to 12 Program, where there might be a dip in law school enrollment. Also, as I have mentioned, our LEB has implemented a PhilSAT law school entrance examinations this year, which could potentially affect enrollment as well.
RP: How do you help improve standards in Palawan State University?

PP: By continuing my faculty development and support programs. And by ensuring more law school scholarships, I have to recruit the best undergrads to enroll in law school and help give them the means to do it.
RP: What is annual percentage of enrolment increase of students taking up Law in PSU?

PP: Before the K to 12 and PhilSAT, I think I was doing around 8 to 10% increase yearly since the time I took over the deanship in 2003.
RP: To what do you attribute PSU’s remarkable performance in this year’s bar exam?

PP: Plain and simple, hardwork. Diligence. The candidates were very focused, and really wanted to pass the bar exams.  Plus, they were looking out for each other's welfare, both in their respective studies and in their health. As a dean, I can never ask for more. They were just an amazing batch. In PSU Law, over the past years, we were already averaging anywhere from 40% to 55% bar passing. In fact, at one point, we got a 67% bar passing rate. I knew it was just a matter of time for us to get a 100% over-all passing rate. This takes into account both the first-time takers and repeaters.  
RP: How did you rise to become the dean of PSU’s School of Law?

PP: This is quite interesting. In 2003, PSU School of Law was looking for a dean (his predecessor was Atty. Roy Rafols), who should be, as much as possible, from Palawan, and who has a Law Master's degree. Being a state university, PSU is headed by the Chairman of Commission On Higher Education thus, this requirement). 

Supposedly, during that year, 
I was the last one from Palawan with a LLM degree, who has not served the PSU community. I said yes, with the condition that I serve it from Manila because I work and based in Manila. My other condition was that I will only serve for one term of 3 years but this did not happen. I am now on my 14th year. I hope they already replace me.  
RP: What do you want to see happen to PSU’s School of Law in the next 5 years? 

PP: I want PSU Law to maintain its high bar passing rate.  100% of course is always the goal, but I will be happy with 80% to 90% general passing. This is foremost for me.  Another is to make PSU Law a research institution with concentration on environmental and mining laws, but I need major funding for this. 

RP: Can a Philippine law graduate practice law in the US and other first world countries?

PP: Of course. We already have a lot of Philippine law school graduates who are working with several major white-shoe international law firms. Our law graduates are no longer parochial. In fact in ASEAN, our graduates can easily dominate legal practice, especially in the fields of international law, commercial law and arbitration.  However, we have to open up our legal profession. I see this opening up in the next 5 years.

RP: What made you choose Law as your course early on in college?

PP: It's the nobility of the profession.  

RP: Tell us where you were born, raised and spent your childhood, tell us about your family, your growing up years.

PP: I was born in Pasay City, and spent my childhood summer years in Puerto Princesa City, Cuyo and Roxas. I started schooling in Holy Trinity College in Puerto Princesa but transferred to Manila after 3 years. My family is from Cuyo, Palawan and I am a member of the Lim clan (of the RBL Fishing) from Cuyo.

RP: How was it like studying Law in Ateneo, what kind of a student were you?

PP: Tough but I really loved it. I like to believe that I am a diligent student. I finished my law in Ateneo in 1985, studying the 1973 constitution. The following year, 1986, there was the EDSA revolution, and in one sweep, the things I learned got diminished. Hahaha! Good thing I passed the bar exams.
RP: Your favorite subjects, specialization until you became a full-pledged lawyer?

PP: My favorite subjects in law school were Constitutional law and the commercial laws (Corporate and Mercantile). Now I am a corporate lawyer.
RP: Please share us your experiences, anecdotes, hardships when you were preparing for the Bar exam.

PP: Just don't lose focus. Concentrate on the basic elements of a particular legal issue or topic or of a particular legal theory. Apply first what is the general rule before you take on the exception. The reverse will be a disaster.
RP: Describe the feeling when you passed the Bar exam?

PP: I will not trade it for anything else.
RP: Outside of PSU, what makes you busy?

PP: I have my practice in Manila. I am a partner in Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles.
RP: What makes a good or bad lawyer?

PP: In handling a case, there is no such thing as handling a big case or a small case, there is only a small-time lawyer.  You have to treat all cases with the same passion, diligence and dedication, as if your client will go to jail if you fail. This is true, be it for litigation work or corporate work.

RP: Do you have regrets in taking up Law?

PP: None at all.  
RP: What characteristics should a student have for to become a successful practicing lawyer? Does a strong personality contribute?

PP: You must have the right attitude for it. You can never go wrong in being humble in the things you do. If you can settle, by all means settle. A bad settlement is always better than a good case.
RP: Do Bar topnotchers automatically get a job and become successful?
PP: No. I will rather have an average bar passer with the right attitude than a bar topnotcher with an air of arrogance or superiority complex.

RP: What are the challenges many lawyers face today?

PP: To be ethical.
RP: Would you recommend Law as a course to high school graduates? What are the most important advice would you give?

PP: Yes, I would. For high school graduates, please spend your time and energy in things that can help your family and your community.