Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The 2008 Asia Cup International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition

Part II

The 2008 Asia Cup International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition

The Ateneo Law Team, officially representing the Philippines, won the CHAMPIONSHIP AWARD in the 2008 Asia Cup International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition held in Tokyo, Japan, from 26 August to 02 September, 2008, as well as garnering the OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT MEMORIAL AWARD. It is now the third time that the Ateneo Law Team has won the Asia Cup. The members of 2008 ALS Asia Cup Team are as follows:

Mr. Dranyl Jared Amoroso (3A) - Team Captain
Ms. Esther Claudine Lim (3C)
Ms. Maria Tara Mercado (3B)
Mr. Alpheus Villaluz (3A)
Ms. Carmeline Viniegra (3A)

Coach: Atty. Cecille Mejia

When the members of the team formally turned-over to me the trophy and the certificates last 03 September (Wednesday), some of them had just arrived the night before from Tokyo, and had to get out from classes, just to make the occasion. I distinctly remember remarking to them that they have by their successful Tokyo competition, undergone a truly extraordinary experience that will shape them in their legal careers, and by-the-way congratulations, but now back to their J.D. courses and hope they don’t get called for recitation! No cigars, no champagne? Fine way to treat a Champion Team! I did have a photo taken with the group for posterity. I distinctly recall that when the Ateneo Law Team won the World Championship in the Jessup Cup in 2004, a testimonial dinner was held in their honor, hosted by Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J. Why do we seem treat as ordinary in Law School that which is truly extraordinary? Perhaps, it is because we are awed at the achievements of the Ateneo Law students, that we try hard to re-direct their focus back to the harsh reality of the J.D. curriculum.

The Ateneo Law Team came to the Tokyo competitions with all eyes on them, for in the previous year, it was the UP College of Law Team that won the championship award (I understand that UP College of Law has also won the Asia Cup three times). The competition was tough, and the representatives from all over Asia were of the highest caliber. Contrary to my generation’s perception that many Asian speak poor English, I was told that the Vietnamese and the Thai teams spoke excellent English, and of course also the ever-competitive Singapore team. Whatever edge we Filipinos thought we had in English proficiency in Asia, has nearly vanished among the younger generations of Asians. And yet there is something special about the Filipino competitor; and yes, there is something special going on when it comes to Ateneo Law mooters.

Firstly, it is that we come-up almost like clockwork with the most excellent memorials, not only in the Asian region, but now confirmed in the world competitions that include teams from the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Singapore. The secret to why we are able to prepare and submit the best memorials is covered in Part I of this article, which recently has been proven beyond doubt by the Evans and Baxter Awards the Ateneo Law Team garnered in the 2008 Jessup Tournament.

Secondly, when our mooters argue, they do so from depths of their souls—they carry no notes or materials when they argue before their panels—a feat much admired by their competitors. This is NOT the norm, even for teams whose first language is English; and not even for foreign teams who are given special time off (several weeks if not a whole month) to prepare exclusively for the competitions. My own observation on the matter is that the Ateneo eloquence and style of mooting is borne out a sense to achieve a norm of excellence—to be extraordinary in a world setting—in spite of starting off from a position of privation.

To illustrate, when the Ateneo Law Team is constituted after the round-offs in September, they prepare for the Philippine Regionals held in February of the following year on the sole basis that they would win that stage and represent the Philippines in Washington D.C. by the following March. In other words, no Ateneo Law Team ever thinks of participating in the national elimination rounds except with the resolve that they would compete for the championship in the World Competition in D.C. This is not just a dream, a hope or a desire; it is the central component of the team’s commitment and strategy, simply because there is no time from February to March to then prepare for the world competitions. Consequently, in whatever international mooting competition that is to be participated in, the Ateneo Law Team prepares and drafts of its memorial for the national eliminations only at standards the compete on international level—as though they were already competing in the world championship finals. Why such a fanatical commitment?

The Ateneo Law Team has no choice, because it works under such dire privation (e.g., lack of all-out support or “subsidy” from Law School Administration) that they have to operate under extraordinarily demanding circumstances. Unlike most other international teams who are given special time-off from classes and other curricular activities when they prepare for a world competition, we in the Ateneo Law School, always stress that the primary obligation of every Ateneo Law student, and for which their parents spent for their matriculation, is to devote their time and resources towards mastering their lessons in their J.D. courses. The Law School Faculty and Administration believe in the absolute good and advantage that the J.D. curriculum does in the training and transformation of the Ateneo Law students into becoming great lawyers and legal advocates. Nothing in the academic life of an Ateneo Law student should come ahead of his or her individual responsibility to the J.D. curriculum.

In essence, therefore, we have not taken the description “extra-curricular” from mooting activities. Participating in extra-curricular activities, including mooting activities, should only be pursued by Law students who feel that they can cope well with their J.D. studies; and they do extra-curricular work because they genuinely believe in the innate goodness and personal well-being that it would bring them.

Every Ateneo mooter therefore must personally believe in the “mooting cause,” for he or she is asked to pay a high individual price for being part of the team. But since every Ateneo Law student believes in the primary value of the J.D. program (no choice, for the mortality rate of those who cannot cope with the work is high and merciless), he or she as an individual, and the team collectively, must use every spare moment devoted for mooting to be of the “highest profitable return;” otherwise, they bring ignominy not only to themselves, but also to the Law School which they love. Every Ateneo mooter knows that he goes into a world stage, representing not only the Law School, but also the Filipino nation; and therefore it is nothing short of national pride—an act of patriotism—by which he or she must excel in that international stage.

Every team that is constituted for a particular competition always goes through well thought-out and experience-tested routine to ensure that nothing is left to chance, which includes doing a preliminary team evaluation of the problem and the materials given; evaluation and re-evaluation of the issues and questions that could be raised during the competition, excellent research, and the drafting and redrafting of the memorials. The 2008 ALS Asia Cup Team told me that there was not a single issue or question that was raised during the Tokyo competitions that they had not anticipated, considered and researched upon during their preparations in the Law School. It is the thoroughness of their preparation that allows the Ateneo Law Team to argue without notes, to argue from the core of his or her being. They also informed me (hopefully not tongue in cheek) that they have experienced tougher questions in their J.D. classes that before any of their panels. The Ateneo Law Faculty are just intractable!

The Ateneo mooter has an extraordinary dream, not just to compete and gain the goodwill of fellow competitors from all over the world, but something more magnificent and obsessive than that—to win the gold in an Olympic-like event. Yet he or she must work under such extraordinarily difficult circumstances: preparing for a world-class event while coping well with the almost maddening demands of the J.D. curriculum, itself a world class program (but that’s another story). And because every Ateneo mooter is made to reach into his or her self beyond the ordinary, to be stretched beyond everything that he or she is, eventually he or she is able to reach into his or her extraordinary being. The results over the years have been nothing short of phenomenal—the Ateneo mooter has achieved world recognition as one the best international mooter today.

So I say, “Hail to the Ateneo mooters!” You not only bring accolade to your Law School and your people, but you actually have become living testaments to the indomitable human spirit that is able to raise above the privations of this world and reach into God’s extraordinary gift for greatness. Your passion has reaped for you a personal burden—an irresistible yearning to do the extraordinary!

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