Sunday, October 7, 2007

Legal education in the Philippines

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Legal education in the Philippines is developed and offered by Philippine law schools, supervised by the Legal Education Board, and regulated by the Commission on Higher Education and the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

Law degree programs are considered graduate programs in the Philippines. As such, admission to law schools requires the completion of a bachelor's degree, with a sufficient number of credits or units in certain subject areas.

Graduation from a Philippine law school constitutes the primary eligibility requirement for the Philippine Bar Examinations, the national licensure examination for practicing lawyers in the country. The bar examination is administered by the Supreme Court during the month of September every year.

Members of the bar in the Philippines are required to take mandatory continuing legal education in order to continue practicing their profession.

Legal education in the Philippines normally proceeds along the following route:

  • Undergraduate education (usually 4 years)
  • Law school (usually 4 years)
  • Admission to the bar (usually by taking a Philippine bar exam)
  • Legal practice and mandatory continuing legal education


The University of Santo Tomas established its faculties of canon law and civil law in in 1733 From 1734 to 1800, of only 3,360 students, only 29 graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law, 8 with the degree of Licentiate in Civil Law and 3 with the degree of Doctor of Civil Law in that university.[1]

In 1890, the Universidad Literia de Filipinas was established in Malolos, Bulacan. It offered Law as well as Medicine, Surgery and Notary Public. In 1899, Felipe Calderon founded the Escuela de Derecho de Manila and adopted the name Manila Law College in 1924. The University of the Philippines opened its College of Law in 1910. There were around 50 Filipino and American students.[2] Justice Sherman Moreland of the Supreme Court of the Philippines was named its first Dean, but after he ultimately declined the position, he was replaced by George A. Malcolm, who is recognized as the college's first permanent dean.

Legal Systems

The Philippine legal system is an amalgamation of the world's major systems which are the Roman Civil Law and the Canon Law of the Catholic Church inherited from the Spanish, EnglishCommon Law from the United States, and Islamic Law.

Law degree programs

Law degrees in the Philippines may be classified into three types--professional, graduate level, and honorary.

Professional law degrees

In order to be eligible to take the bar examinations, one must complete one of the two professional degrees: The Bachelor of Laws (Ll.B.) program or the Juris Doctor (J.D.) program. Advanced degrees are offered by some law schools, but are not requirements for admission to the practice of law in the Philippines.

  • Bachelor of Laws (Ll.B.) - The Ll.B. is the most common law degree offered and conferred by Philippine law schools. It is a standard four-year law program covering all bar exam subjects. Almost all law schools follow a standard LL.B. curriculum, wherein students are exposed to the required bar subjects. Other schools, like the University of the Philippines College of Law, allow students to substitute electives for bar review subjects offered in the fourth year of study. [3]

Graduate law degrees

Beyond the J.D. or Ll.B., members of the Philippine bar have the option of pursuing graduate degrees in law.

There are two kinds of doctoral programs in law offered in the Philippines:

Honorary law degrees

Some Philippine universities also confer the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree. It is given to famous individuals who, in the discretion of the awarding institution, were found to have made significant contributions to a certain field, or to the improvement of society or development of the conditions of mankind in general. Honorary law doctorates in the past include:


While advanced law degrees (LL.M., D.C.L., S.J.D., LL.D.) may elevate a lawyer's standing in academic settings, the basic law degree (LL.B., J.D.) remains the most important academic qualification to be admitted to the practice of law in the Philippines.[18]

Ecclesiastical law degrees

A few Roman Catholic seminaries and graduate schools offer degree programs in Canon Law, an ecclesiastical program that is not required in the Philippine Bar Examinations.The University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Canon Law runs the oldest academic programs of this kind. Its Licentiate of Canon Law (J.C.L.) and Doctor of Canon Law (J.C.D.) programs are open to priests, nuns, theologians, and even to lay people (i.e., trial court judges, law deans, family lawyers etc.). Judges of the Roman Catholic Marriage Tribunal typically hold academic degrees in the field.[19] Degrees in canon law, strictly speaking, are not considered law degrees in the Philippines.


There is a move among members of the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) to convert their Ll.B. programs into J.D. curricula.[4] There are currently two possible directions for the change: First, the conversion of Ll.B. programs through adopting a model substantially similar to the J.D. curriculum introduced by the Ateneo School of Law (the J.D. Programs of the FEU-La Salle consortium and the University of Batangas Law School are of this mold), and second, simply changing the name of the degree conferred from “Ll.B.” to “J.D.” while essentially retaining the same course offerings as those in the DECS Model Law Curriculum (DECS Order No. 27, series of 1989).[4]

Admission to the practice of law

The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines has given the Supreme Court the sole power to admit individuals to the practice of law in the Philippines.[20] This power is exercised through a Bar Examination Committee, an ad hoc academic group tasked to formulate questions, administer proceedings, grade examinations, rank candidates, and release the results of the Philippine Bar Examination.

To be eligible to take the national bar exam, a candidate must be a Filipino citizen, at least twenty-one years of age, and holder of a bachelor's degree and a law degree obtained from a government recognized law school in the Philippines. Graduates of law schools from other countries must obtain a law degree from the Philippines to qualify for the Philippine Bar.[21]

Philippine Bar Examinations

The Philippine Bar Examinations is the national licensure exam for admission to the practice of law. It is conducted during the four Sundays of September of every year. It is arguably the hardest and the most media-covered of all government licensure examinations in the country.[22] It is also reputedly one of the hardest bar examinations in the world.[23]

For candidates intending to practice Islamic law in the Philippines, the Special Bar Exams for Shari’a Court Lawyers is given every two years. The Supreme Court Bar Office conducts the exam while the Office of Muslim Affairs determines the qualification and eligibility of candidates to the exams.[24]


To be a full-fledged lawyer in the Philippines and be eligible to use the title Attorney, a candidate must graduate from a Philippine law school, take and pass the Philippine Bar Examinations, take the Attorney's Oath, and sign his name in the Rolls of Attorneys of the Supreme Court.[25]

The full names of lawyers are found in the Rolls of Attorneys of the Supreme Court, and in a similar list included in a Supreme Court publication entitled Law List.[26]

Legal Education Board

The Legal Education Board supervises all law schools and continuing legal education providers in the Philippines.[27] The Board is headed by a Chairman who is a retired justice of a collegiate court (i.e., Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, etc.). Regular members of the Board include a representative from each of the following:[28]

  • Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
  • Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS)
  • Philippine Association of Law Professors (PALP)
  • active law practitioners
  • bonafide law students

The Board has made legal reforms which include--the stricter selection of law students and law professors; improvements in quality of instruction and facilities of law schools; provisions for legal apprenticeship of law students; and the requirement of attendance to continuing legal education seminars for practicing attorneys.[29]

Mandatory Continuing Legal Education

Lawyers with names appearing in the Rolls of Attorneys of the Supreme Court, unless disbarred, are all members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). [30]

However, to be IBP members of good standing, lawyers are required to complete, every three years, at least thirty-six hours of continuing legal education seminars approved by the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Committee (MCLE). Members who fail to comply shall pay a non-compliance fee, and shall be listed as a delinquent member.[31]

The Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Office, established by the Supreme Court, is the official government agency tasked to implement compliance with the MCLE requirement.[32]

Philippine law schools

There are eighty-nine law schools[33] legitimately operating throughout the Philippines. They include independent law schools, resident colleges, and affiliated units of much larger private and public universities:[34]

Name Location
Adamson University College of Law 900 San Marcelino St., Manila

Andres Bonifacio College College Park, Dipolog City
Aquinas University College of Law 2-S King's Building, JAA Penaranda St., Legazpi City
Araullo University College of Law Bitas, Cabanatuan City
Arellano University Law Foundation Taft. Ave. cor. Menlo St., Pasay City
Ateneo de Davao University School of Law Jacinto St., Davao City
Ateneo de Manila University School of Law Ateneo Professional Schools Building, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City
Basilan State University College of Law Basilan City
Bicol University College of Law Daraga, Albay
Bukidnon State College Malabalay, Bukidnon
Cagayan Colleges-Tuguegarao Cagayan
Cagayan State University Tuguegarao, Cagayan
Camarines Norte School of Law Itomang, Talisay, Camarines Norte
Central Philippine University College of Law Jaro, Iloilo City
Christ the King College Calbayog City
Colegio dela Purisima Concepcion IBP Office, Hall of Justice, Roxas City
Cor Jesus College Digos, Davao del Sur
Cordillera College Bugayan, La Trinidad, Benguet
Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University College of Law San Fernando, La Union
Dr. Vicente Orestes Romualdez Education Foundation, Inc. Tacloban City, Leyte
East Central Colleges San Fernando City, Pampanga
Far Eastern University Institute of Law Nicanor Reyes Sr. St., Sampaloc, Manila
(The La Salle-FEU MBA-JD Program is offered at De La Salle Professional Schools, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Ave., Makati City. It is offered in consortium with the De La Salle Graduate School of Business.)
Fernandez College of Arts & Technology Gil Carlos St., Baliuag, Bulacan
Foundation University Dr. Miciano St., Dumaguete City
Harvardian Colleges San Fernando, Pampanga
Holy Name University College of Law Tagbilaran City, Bohol
Jose Rizal University College of Law 82 Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City
Leyte Colleges Zamora St., Tacloban City
Liceo de Cagayan University College of Law Rodolfo N. Pelaez Blvd., Carmen, Cagayan de Oro
Luna Goco Colleges Calapan, Oriental Mindoro
Luzon Colleges Quezon
Lyceum of the Philippines University College of Law L.P. Leviste St., Makati City
Lyceum-Northwestern University College of Law Dagupan City, Pangasinan
Manila Law College Foundation (formerly Escuela de Derecho de Manila) Sales St., Sta. Cruz, Manila
Manuel L. Quezon University College of Law R. Hidalgo St., Quiapo, Manila
Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation College of Law Foundation St., Lucena City
Masbate Colleges Masbate, Masbate
Medina Colleges Ozamiz City
Mindanao State University College of Law Marawi City
Misamis University College of Law Bonifacio St., Ozamiz City
New Era University College of Law St. Joseph St., Milton Hills Subd., Bgy. New Era, Quezon City
Northeastern College Santiago City, Isabela
Northwester University College of Law Laoag City
Notre Dame University College of Law Notre Dame Ave., Cotabato City
Pagadian College of Criminilogy & Sciences Pagadian City
Palawan State University College of Law Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Law Intramuros, Manila
Philippine Advent College Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte
Philippine Law School F.B. Harrison St., Pasay City
Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Law Mabini Campus, Santa Mesa, Manila
Samar Colleges Catbalogan, Samar
San Beda College of Law Mendiola St., San Miguel, Manila
San Beda College of Law-Alabang Don Manolo Boulevard, Alabang Hills Village, Muntinlupa City
San Pablo Colleges San Pablo City
San Sebastian College-Recoletos College of Law Claro M. Recto Ave., Manila
Saint Louis College San Fernando City, La Union
St. Louis University College of Law Bonifacio St., Baguio City
Silliman University College of Law Hubbard Ave., Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
Southwestern University College of Law Urgillo St., Sambag District, Cebu City
Tabaco Colleges Tabaco, Albay
University of Batangas College of Law Batangas City
University of Bohol College of Law Tagbilaran City
University of the Cordilleras (formerly the Baguio Colleges Foundation) College of Law Harrison Rd., Baguio City
University of the East College of Law Claro M. Recto Ave., Manila
University of Eastern Philippines College of Law Catarman, Northern Samar
University of Iloilo College of Law Iloilo City
University of Manila College of Law Mv. delos Santos, Manila
University of Mindanao College of Law Bolton St., Davao City
University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos College of Law Iriga City
University of Nueva Caceres College of Law Dagupan City, Pangasinan
Unversity of Perpetual Help-Rizal College of Law Las Piñas City
University of Perpetual Help System College of Law Biñan, Laguna
University of the Philippines College of Law Malcolm Hall, U.P. Diliman Campus, Quezon City
University of San Agustin College of Law Gen. Luna St., Iloilo City
University of San Carlos College of Law P. Del Rosario St., Cebu City
University of San Jose-Recoletos College of Law Cebu City
University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law Main Building, U.S.T. Campus, España St., Sampaloc, Manila
University of Southern Philippines Foundation College of Law Cebu City
University of Visayas College of Law Cebu City
Urios College San Francisco St. cor. J.C. Aquino Ave., Butuan City
Virgen de los Remedios College 10 Fontaine St., East Bajac-bajac, Olongapo City
Virgen Milagrosa University College of Law Zamboanga City
Western Mindanao State University College of Law Corales Ave., Cagayan de Oro City
Zamboanga A.E. College J.S. Alano St., Zamboanga City

Notable law schools

Oldest law schools

The eleven oldest law schools are as follows:[35]

  • University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law, established in 1734, is the oldest law school in the Philippines. In 1734, the University of Santo Tomas opened a Faculty of Civil Law and a Faculty of Canon Law. From 1734 to 1800 (66 years), out of 3,360 students, only 40 students graduated from various law programs: 29 in Bachelor of Civil Law, 8 in Licentiate in Civil Law, and 3 in Doctor of Law, reflecting the rigid training in these courses. The school has produced four Philippine Presidents, three Vice Presidents, and six Chief Justices of the Philippine Supreme Court.
  • Universidad Literia Filipinas, established in 1898, was the second oldest law school in the country. It is no longer operating. The university was established in Malolos, Bulacan and offered progams in law and notary public. The school later moved to Tarlac.
  • Escuela de Derecho de Manila (now Manila Law College Foundation) was established in 1899. Don Felipe Calderon, author of the 1899 Malolos Constitution, founded the school. In 1924, the school was renamed the Manila Law School. It was further renamed Manila Law College Foundation.
  • Southern College of Law was established in 1935. It is no longer operating.
  • Arellano Law College (now Arellano Law Foundation) was established in 1938. Former Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Manuel Gaviola, Former Congressman and Senator Francisco Sumulong and Former Congressman Jose Zafra] attended the school.
  • Francisco Law School was established in 1940. It is now defunct.
  • San Beda College of Law,was founded in 1948. Over the years, it has produced senators, justices of collegiate courts, judges of lower courts, active lawyers and law professors. It has also achieved one of the highest bar passing rates and largest number of law graduates among law schools in the country.[3] A famous alumnus, Florenz D. Regalado, is a Retired Justice of the Supreme Court, an established author, and the holder of the highest bar exam grade in the history of the bar exams in the Philippines.

Bar Performance

The performance of law schools in the annual bar exam can be measured using two criteria:

Bar passing rate

The bar passing rate is the proportion of successful bar exam passers in relation to the total number of bar exam takers coming from a particular law school. The national bar passing rate (proportion of all bar exam passers in relation to all bar exam takers) changes every year, and has gone from an all-time high of 75.17% in 1954 to an all-time low of 16.59% in 1999.[36]

Law schools with the highest average bar passing rates include:

In the 2006 bar examinations, Basilan State University's lone bar candidate passed, giving the school a 100% passing rate.[39]

Bar topnotchers

Bar topnotchers are bar examinees who garnered the highest bar exam grades in a particular year. Every year, the Supreme Court releases the bar top ten list. The list contains the names of bar examinees who obtained the ten highest grades. It is possible for more than ten examinees to place in the top ten because numerical ties in the computation of grades usually occur.[40]

Schools which have produced bar topnotchers (1st placers)[41] include:

Two bar examinees topped the bar exams without graduating from any Philippine law school:

In the past, non-law school graduates were allowed to take the bar. However, the Revised Rules of Court and Supreme Court Circulars allow only Philippine law graduates to take the bar, necessarily excluding non-law graduates and foreign law graduates from taking part in the exercise.

Law schools with prestigious alumni

The quality of law schools is often measured by the prestige, influence, or wealth of famous law alumni.[42]

Some of the law schools and their famous alumni include:

  • Far Eastern University Institute of Law alumni:[44]
    • Corazon Aquino - former President of the Philippines
    • Artemio Panganiban - former Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court
    • Court of Appeals Presiding Justice and Remedial Law expert Oscar Herrera
    • Jose Nolledo - Member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, Delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention
    • Salome Montoya - former Presiding Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Eliezer R. De los Santos - Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Juan Q. Enriquez Jr. - Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Edilberto Sandoval - Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan (Philippine Anti-Graft Court)
    • Manuel Collantes - former Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the United Nations
    • Sedfrey Ordonez - former Solicitor General, Secretary of Justice, Ambassador to the United Nations, and Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights
    • Edgar Ilarde - former Senator of the Philippines
    • Wenceslao Lagumbay - former Senator of the Philippines
    • Neptali Gonzales Jr. - former Mayor of Mandaluyong City and Majority Floor Leader of the Philippine House of Representatives
    • Manuel J. Laserna Jr. (3rd placer, 1984 bar exams, 90.95%; AB, Ll.B, Ll.M) and Myrna C. Mercader. CPA, DBA, Ph.D. - FEU law professors and bar reviewers (1985-2006), trial lawyers, bar leaders, and founders of the Las Pinas City Bar Association (2001).
    • Diosdado "Dado" Arroyo - youngest son of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
  • San Beda College of Law alumni:[45]
    • Florenz D. Regalado - former Associate Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court; holder of the highest bar exam grade
    • Raul Roco - former Senator, Secretary of Education, IBP President, and 1998 & 2004 Presidential candidate
    • Rene Saguisag - former Senator of the Philippines
    • Antonio Eduardo Nachura - Associate Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, former Solicitor General
    • Antonio Martinez - Associate Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court
    • Romeo Callejo - Associate Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court
    • Justo P. Torres, Jr. - former Associate Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court
    • Bienvenido L. Reyes - Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Noel G. Tijam - Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Jose C. Mendoza - Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Jose C. Reyes Jr. - Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Fernanda Lampas-Peralta - Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals
    • Eduardo Joson - former Governor of Nueva Ecija

External links

See also