Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Atenean Mooters: Experiencing the Extraordinary!

Article by Dean Cesar L. Villanueva

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Part I

The 2008 Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition
After winning the 2008 Philippine Regionals held in February 2008 in Cebu City under the auspices of the University of San Carlos Law School, beating the teams from the UP College of Law and the FEU-Dela Salle JD/MBA Program, the 2008 Ateneo Jessup Team, composed of:

Oliver P. Baclay, Jr (4A) – Team Captain
Timothy John R. Batan (3B)
Clarissa Bettina F. Faylona (1C)
Jose VictoniƱo L. Salud (3A)
Joyce Melcar T. Tan (3A)
Roland Glenn T. Tuazon (1A)

Coaches: Attys. Belinda Atienza and Rosalie Ramirez

went on to Washington D.C. in March 2008, reached the Quarter Final Rounds were they went up against University College of London and missed being in the Final Rounds by a hairline. (Parenthetically, except in 2006 when UP Team won the regionals, the Ateneo Jessup Team has represented the Philippines in the World Championship Rounds in the years 2003 to 2008)

In any event, to prove that it had the mettle, the Ateneo Jessup Team won the Alona Evans Award for the Best Memorial submitted during the Washington D.C. competitions. This August, it was confirmed beyond any the international superior norm of the Ateneans in the drafting of memorials and pleadings, when it was awarded the Richard R. Baxter Award World Champion Memorial Applicant, being adjudged to have submitted the best memorial during all the round-offs all over the world. The delegates, competitors and judges during the proceedings were truly awed by the memorials of the Ateneo Jessup Team, that the downloading thereof in the internet was a frenzy.

In recognition of his achievement as the highest ranking oralist of the Ateneo Jessup Team, Mr. Jose Victornino Salud was awared by the International Law Institutes with the 2008 Philip C. Jessup Scholarship Award, which includes a scholarship to a summer program at Georgetown University, which he attended during the last three weeks of July, 2008.

Team Captain Oliver P. Baclay, Jr., graduated last April, and is now taking the 2008 Bar Examinations, and I have every expectations that he will do well, and may spring another surprise in late March of next year.

For the past decade now, there has been a grudging acknowledgment by our competitors that the Ateneo Jessup Teams have consistently submitted the best memorials. And it has even been intimated that Ateneo memorials were very good because it was not the student competitors, but their professors who did the memorials. If that were true, I doubt if the memorials would have been as good as they were. In any event, Ateneo professors, who are very busy practitioners, do not have time to “waste” with memorials; they having pleadings, briefs and memoranda that they have to file with the courts over matters that affect the lives, liberty and property of their clients. No, something more—something greater—is happening with our mooting tradition in the Ateneo Law School, and it is a story worth sharing.

First and foremost, our mooting activities in the Law School are almost entirely “student organization” -led, -funded and -participated activities. The Law School’s budget for mooting activities is so miserly, that it is truly too embarrassing even to quote. Yet the whole affair from round-offs, regionals, to world championship participation run in more than a million pesos yearly (plane fare and accommodations alone are phenomenal). It is the student organizations and the winning team that actually has to go around begging for funds to cover their expenses. Yearly, the Ateneo Jessup Team is always faced with the prospect of being meeting every winning round with both ecstasy and with foreboding, knowing that after going through the grueling work of preparing for and winning the competition, they must now raise the funds necessary to get into the next critical stage. Every year brings a story of schemes, tricks and trade-offs that were done by the team members to get over the obstacle of financing their competition. Where do the students get the funding for all their mooting activities? Apart from the generous amounts given by Fr. Ben Nebres and Fr. Bernas over the years, and donations given by faculty members and former mooters who now practicing in established law firms, a great bulk of the funds is given by the parents of the student members of the competing theme. Parents are proud to have their sons and daughters compete in national and international events, representing Ateneo and the country; and often that pride gets to open and empty the parental wallets.

There are two main student organizations in the Law School that participate in the mooting activities, the Ateneo Society for International Law (ASIL), and the St. Thomas More Debating Society (STM), and the competition between the two have at times become emotional and personal. Sometime in September each year, the Office of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs oversees the run-offs every year to determine which team would represent the Law School in the Philippine Regionals, but the whole gamut of preparing for the round-offs is handled almost entirely by the student organizations. And when the team to represent the Law School is confirmed, the student organization from which the team came from provides the support preparing for the Philippine Regionals, which are held annually sometime in February of the following year. There is no Law School Unit that thereafter handles preparing the team for the Regionals, it is essentially a student-organization led and manned affair, and interest or sympathetic faculty members are sometimes asked to advise or witness practice rounds.

The Law Administration “tries” as “much” as it can to help the cause, by allowing them to use certain facilities, and exempting the members of the team from their classes, but only during the actual period of competition. Otherwise, every member of the team, and the supporting research group, are expected to carry the same academic load as every other J.D. student. After all, mooting is still classified as an “extra-curricular” activity, that cannot detract from the main responsibility of mastering the assigned lessons in the courses of the J.D. curricula. The next time the Administration and Law Faculty ever hear from the team is when it is announced that it has won the Regionals (except for Asso. Dean Sedfrey M. Candelaria who makes it a point to be there at the competition to give moral support to the Ateneo team, and praying for a win to justify the Law School reimbursing him the cost of his plane ticket and accommodations!).

On the main, it would be past mooters, who are already in the practice of law and sometimes in the Law Faculty, who are asked by the student organization and the team to coach them. I believe this is an integral part of the winning formula of every Ateneo Jessup Team; and why almost on a consistent basis the Ateneans prepare well, and submit excellent memorial, for the competition: Law student competitions are best won by teams that are trained by and led by, student leaders and their veterans, through a system of apprenticeship, or better still, a system of mentorship.

I have said in a number of Law School fora that over the last nearly two decades, under the stewardship (as opposed to “control”) of the Associate Dean Candelaria, there has evolved a system of apprenticeship or mentorship among student organizations. Whether it be the Ateneo Law Student Council, the OrSem, the Student Appeals Committee, the Registration Commission, Central BarOps, the Ateneo Law Journal, The Palladium, The Law School Choir, and certainly within both ASIL and STM, the norm is the same: that the current student leaders ensure that they have the next generation of students who would succeed the following year, and who assist and are trained by the current leaders on the policies, systems and processes that cover their areas of responsibilities, with every expectation that when the apprentice take the reins, they would train the next set of leaders.

The results over the years have been quite stunning, so to speak. The system has not only evolved a manner of instilling a sort-of “institutional memory” within each student organization, with the apprentices earning within such time an actual experiential know-how of what their future responsibilities would entail. But more importantly, seeing on a daily basis the effectiveness and sometimes the ineffectiveness of their tutors-leaders, the apprentices develop a “next-stage” ability to avoid the mistakes of the past, but to actually be able to do things better. The results is that on an annual basis, there has been an incremental “raising of the bar”; what used to be done on a difficult basis, the following year is executed with a sense of expertise; what seemed to have been done the previous year with an amateurish after-taste, now has a sense of flair and elegance.

That has been the key formula I believe for our mooting success the past years: That of volunteer students, apart from carrying on the daily load of their J.D. Program, giving extra time to prepare themselves or held their team-mates for competition, to research on very difficult and complex areas of international law, to draft and redraft their memorials, exchange ideas, ask all-imaginable questions and raise all-unthinkable issues—to go where no men and women have gone before. That of volunteer alumni, mostly immediately-past mooters, apart from carrying on the daily chores of their legal practice (and the gods-forbid, from their bar review!), giving extra time to share with the team the winning ways learned through the years, the misadventures that must be avoid, focusing on the essentials of the actual competition. And of course, sharing with the teams the fundamentals of what makes a good memorial, and the secrets and perceptions learned through the years and handed down to them by their mentors, of what makes a memorial truly excellent from an international standard. As the Ateneo J.D. Program is of international grade (that of course is another story), there can be no doubt that our mooting standards are now recognized internationally as are truly world-standards of the best magnitude.

The Ateneo Law Team, in regional and international competitions, has earned the respect that it has worked hard for many years to perfect; and it has been truly the handiwork of Law students who sacrificed much of their time and resources to build a tradition of mooting. Some of them are members of the Law Faculty now, but the acceptance of the challenge and the giving of personal sacrifice, happened at the time when they were yet Law students—we thank you for remaining passionate mooters at heart. We give kudos to the parents who have quietly in the background given their support to their sons and daughters—and thank them for having faith in the Ateneo mission of training their sons and daughters to be great lawyers.

And to each Ateneo Law student who has been, is, and shall become, a mooter, for your time here at, or for, the Ateneo Law School, is truly an extraordinary time! For no sacrifice is ever lost, no personal endeavor is ever wasted, no dream is ever unrealized, in involving yourself in Ateneo’s mooting traditions, for each of you has become an integral part is showing that the Filipino can excel in the world stage.

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