The following is an excerpt from the speech of Hon. Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo on the occasion of the Legal Education Board Launch of the Revised Model Law Curriculum and the Clinical Legal Education Program Website held on October 14, 2021.


Today is historic.


For generations, we have been witness to the terrible attrition rates in the Philippine Bar Examinations. In an effort to address this, the legal education community has repeatedly reformulated the law curriculum, broadening perspectives, deepening knowledge, and enhancing skillsets, all in the hope that the studentry will be better equipped for and ultimately pass the bar examinations. Though many factors have contributed to this problem, and many solutions have been attempted, the root that entangles them all is bar-centricity. Practice-readiness became secondary following the plain logic that ‘unless a student passes the bar, he or she cannot practice.’


Today we break this cycle.


The Revised Model Curriculum that we are formally launching today is a decisive step away from bar-centricity. At this point, allow me to thank Retired Supreme Court Justice Arturo D. Brion, the first Chairperson of the committee, the members of the curriculum revision committee: Dean Fides Cordero Tan, Dean Joan S. Largo, and Dean Virgilio R. delos Reyes, together with Court of Appeals Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, the Expert Resource Person for the Curriculum Review Committee. Let me also acknowledge the Members of the Secretariat: Atty. Glenda B. Litong, Atty. Maria Tanya Katrina A. Lat and Atty. Jelorie F. Gallego. I hope that everyone in the legal education community understands the significance of the adoption of the Revised Model Curriculum: this is the Philippine legal education community taking a stand and sending an unequivocal message that, henceforth, legal education will be primarily student- and society-centered, as it should be. Passing the bar examination will be THE RESULT of implementing the Revised Model Curriculum, rather than THE OBJECT. Thus, we see the tremendous effort of the Curriculum Revision Committee to re-think the best possible formulation, combination and sequencing of courses and credits, as well as the introduction of new subjects to reflect the developments in society, locally and internationally. I am particularly elated to note that a course entitled “Judicial Mind” has been included in the list of suggested electives in the Model Curriculum, hopefully as a first step to the introduction of a full Judiciary Track in law schools.


Because I sincerely believe in the great good that the adoption of the Revised Model Curriculum will bring, as early as May of this year, shortly after my assumption as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, during the Public Consultation on the then Draft Revised Model Curriculum, I have already committed to push for the revision of Rule 138, particularly Section 5, which prescribes the completion of certain mandatory courses for applicants to the bar examination. These courses need to be revisited in view of the ever changing needs and the evolving definition of law practice, for which the law curriculum is the vehicle for preparedness. For instance, we must finally address the question of whether Taxation should be a mandatory course and a stand-alone bar subject.


I am fully aware that the issue of bar-centricity is largely driven by Rule 138, as well as the wide discretion of the designated Bar Chairperson as to the coverage of the bar examination, on the basis of which the bar questions are formulated. I will continue to actively work with the Supreme Court Technical Working Group on Bar Reform, chaired by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, and with all of you, our legal education partners, until we are able to finally reverse the present cycle: from the law curriculum adapting to the court-issued rules, to the bar examination being administered based on the law curriculum developed by the legal educators, the experts on the matter. There can be no more resounding endorsement of academic freedom than this.


The other reason why we are gathered today is to launch the Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP) Website. Please allow me to acknowledge the efforts of members of the committee in charge of this project: Atty. Aaron Dimaano, Atty. Carolyn Mercado, Atty. Fatima Garcia, Mr. Toff Lamug and Ms. Veronica Cruz. You will remember that on June 25, 2019, the Supreme Court adopted A.M. No. 19-03-24-SC, the new Law Student Practice Rule, revising Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court. The LEB correlatively issued Memo Order No. 23, Series of 2020, the Guidelines for the Integration of Clinical Legal Education in the Basic Curriculum. The new Rule 138-A institutionalized what we now officially call the “Clinical Legal Education Program” or CLEP as a mandatory requirement for all law schools across the country. Through the CLEP, we endeavor to expose our law students early to hands on and experiential learning in an effort not only to develop their skills, but purposively to stimulate and enhance their social consciousness. Let me acknowledge the present and past members of the SC Oversight Committee that drafted the Revised Rule 138-A and now oversee the smooth implementation of the revised rule: Judge Karla A. Funtila-Abugan, Commissioner Josefe Sorrera-Ty, Judge Rigor R. Pascual, Dean Joan S. Largo. Dean Alizedney Ditucalan, Dean Domnina Rances, Atty. Charisma Nolasco, Judge Ellen Abesamis-Quinto, Atty. Dorothy Peralta, Dean Eduardo Sanson and Atty. Mikhaela Ross Fernandez. Our duty is not only to graduate law students, not just to ensure they pass the bar examination, certainly not just to populate the courts with more lawyers. Our duty is to foster an environment during law studies which will spawn the next generation of lawyers who are not only practice-ready, but who are equally prepared to assume the role of servant leaders in our country.


Since the adoption of CLEP, 49 Legal Clinics have been established nationwide. Moreover, a total of 25 law schools have received their respective Certifications, while a total of 10 law schools have pending applications for certification. With the launching of the CLEP Website today, we see these numbers growing even further as information related to CLEP and the process of certification for law student practitioners is mainstreamed. More importantly, the Website will now provide a platform to showcase model law clinics and CLEP best practices that will assuredly provide guidance and inspiration to those of us who are still in the infancy of our clinical legal education journey.


Legal education is a pillar that, together with judicial education, holds up the very firmament of the Philippine legal system.


Legal education is a pillar that, together with judicial education, holds up the very firmament of the Philippine legal system. Needless to say, the Supreme Court is highly invested in elevating the standards of legal education in our country. Through the SC Committee on Legal Education, I assure you that the Supreme Court will continuously stay attuned and responsive to the issues and needs of all the stakeholders in the field of legal education. The Revised Model Curriculum and the Clinical Legal Education Program are just the beginning. I look forward with great anticipation to more trailblazing changes in the coming days.


My hearty congratulations to the Legal Education Board, the Chairperson and the Commissioners, and to the Curriculum Revision Committee for leading the way. Lastly, allow me to thank our development partners who are supporting our endeavors to improve legal education in the country: Ms. Kelia Cummins and Atty. Chudney Ngo, Director and Legal Specialist, respectively, of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US Department of State, Mr. Sam Chittick, Country Representative of the Asia Foundation.


Thank you and good day to all.