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Do women make better lawyers?

MANILA, Philippines - Some of the most important people


manning the oars at the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco
law office (CVCLAW) are women. In fact, the highest ranking
of them, Sylvette Tankiang, is a single mother with six
children! She is also the firms co-managing partner, chief
finance officer and the only woman who sits in the sevenmember executive committee of CVCLAW.
I was lucky that I had my parents, Sylvette shares the
secret to her almost perfect balancing act. I had to live with
my parents. They acted as pseudo-parents whenever I was
not around. It also helped that Im a lawyer working in an
environment that allows you to manage yourself and your
own time. You dont work here 8 to 5. So I can still attend
parent-teacher conferences. I made sure I was active in the
parents council because somebody told me, Your children
would love you more if youre involved in their school
activities.
I must admit that here in the Philippines, we have a support
system, we have assistants. Theres what you call delegation
of work and thats how you manage as a single mother at
home and maybe thats also how I manage lawyers in a
team. You cant do everything yourself, you delegate to the
best person who can do it, she reveals.
F. Arthur Pancho Villaraza, CVCLAWs managing partner and
one of the firms founders, firmly believes that women make
good lawyers because of their eye for detail.
They attend to so many details that men dont do, says
Villaraza, who graduated third in the UP College of Law in
1975. The men concentrate on seeing the forest. They
forget the leaves and the branches and the twigs. And those
are what women see.
Sylvette is well known for her eye for detail in providing
creative solutions to complex legal problems. She graduated

summa cum laude from the De La Salle University Manila


with a degree in A.B. Honors, Major in Economics. After
college, she enrolled in the University of the Philippines
College of Law, where she graduated valedictorian and cum
laude.
A few years after receiving her masters of law from the
Harvard Law School, Sylvette joined Carpio Villaraza and
Cruz, now known as Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco
(CVCLAW). She has been with CVCLAW for more than 20
years now.
Despite the legal profession being a male-dominated world
perhaps not in numbers but in clout Sylvette is recognized
as one of the best tax and commercial law practitioners in
the country.
I never made gender an issue in my life because when I
work, I only think Im competing with myself, my target. I
dont see the sexes, says Sylvette.
Aside from Sylvette, CVCLAW or The Firm boasts several
other women topnotch lawyers, including senior partners
Patricia Bunye and Thea Daep and partners Franchete Acosta
and Divina Gracia Pedron. Most of them use their maiden
names in their business cards. Divine is single.
Trish & Thea
Patricia Trish Bunye heads CVCLAWs Mining and Natural
Resources and Power and Energy practice groups, and is a
partner in its Intellectual Property Department. She is
currently a vice president of the Licensing Executives Society
International (LESI), an international organization of
professionals involved in the business of Intellectual Property,
an endeavour outside the office that the firm supports.
In her mining and natural resources practice, she is
recognized as among the foremost mining lawyers in the
Philippines. In the 2012 edition of the Chambers directory,

Trish is cited as an excellent strategist with a solid


understanding of the industry.
An expert on licensing, she has spoken in many countries,
including Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, on IP
licensing matters in the Philippines. She is also frequently
consulted by the Philippine Intellectual Property Office and
the Department of Science and Technology on these matters.
Asked how she has reached the top of the totempole in the
firm, Trish says: Within the firm, I think we have succeeded
because theres meritocracy. Were all judged on what were
able to do and contribute to the firm. And secondly, within
society in general, Ive never felt that there was a glass
ceiling for women. Never felt it. My feeling is that you really
need to do your best, give it your all and things naturally
follow from that. Its not a matter of gender, its what you
contribute.
Nothing takes the place of hard work and earning your
stripes, Trish stresses.
Her job is filled with challenges, especially with the current
raging, sometimes emotional, debate on mining.
And I see it as part of my job to contribute to that discussion
because personally, I do feel that mining is essential to a
progressive country. But it always has to be within
parameters of environmental protection. You make sure that
all the stakeholders are given their due. Every day, I learn
something new, Trish, wife of PCSO general manager Jose
Ferdinand Joy Rojas II, says.

A woman is generally more meticulous and pays attention to


even small details.
Women also are generally more
empathetic and have better EQ, which allows them to read
situations more keenly even if there is no verbal
communication, she points out.
Thea, another senior partner, is the lone female partner in
the firms Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department and
specializes in civil and criminal litigation, intra-corporate
controversies and corporate restructuring, reorganization and
insolvency.
Thea has extensive experience in family law, torts and
damages and contracts enforcement. Her accomplishments
in family law litigation includes her win before the Supreme
Court in a landmark case on the novel issue of whether a
dual citizen may re-litigate issues on property settlement
here in the Philippines by means of a petition for dissolution
of marriage after having previously secured a divorce in the
United States. Denying the petition and ruling in favor of her
client, the Supreme Court upheld the foreign divorce and
property settlement.
On how she made it in a mans world, Thea says, I suppose
you can never argue against competence. You develop your
competence through hardwork. And you will definitely
succeed.
In my case, when youre in trial arguing against male
lawyers who are older than you and you have this machismo,
you just do your best. And when I go to litigation, I am never
timid, she adds

I must give credit to my husband who is 100 percent


supportive and who gives me the freedom and space to do
what I need to do, she adds.

Thea is once again at the forefront of a controversial family


dispute involving as it does the scions of landed families,
where she represents Susana Madrigal-Bayot Ortigas.

Like Villaraza and the other women lawyers in the firm, Trish
says women have built-in strengths.

On top of her high-profile and multimillion-peso cases, Thea


handles pro bono cases with much zeal. She also handled
cases referred by the Department of Social Welfare and

Development involving abused women and children. As


loving wife to Cenon Laurena IV and mother to toddler Maia
Isabelle, Thea sure knows how to have it all. For one, she
would bring her baby to work, and just close the door of her
office at feeding time.
Franchete & Divine
Franchete is one of the youngest partners in the firm. After
completing her masters degree in Law in NYU, she joined
CVCLAW and set out to become partner in one of the biggest
law firms in the country.
Franchete specializes in corporate law, with focus on mergers
and acquisitions, capital markets and finance.
After graduating in Maryknoll High School, she obtained a
degree in Business Economics, magna cum laude, from the
University of the Philippines. She obtained her law degree,
valedictorian and cum laude, also from UP. In 1999, she
passed the Bar and ranked third. Her last academic sojourn
was in the New York University School of Law, where she
completed her masters of law degree on full merit
scholarship.
Franchete is married and has a son.
Its not like I cant do my work well because I have a child. I
never made it an issue or an excuse to get away with
something. Thats also a reason why we dont feel
discriminated against or theres no bias against women in the
firm.
In terms of numbers, you notice when were recruiting from
the graduating classes, there are more women who are in the
top 10 or 20 than men, consistently over the past few years.
So that mirrors how women really perform, that there is a
significant number of women, Franchete points out.

Franchetes business economics and finance background has


served her well. One of the lessons Franchete quickly learned
in CVCLAW is that a lawyer cannot be an effective problem
solver unless she brings to the table more than just
knowledge of the law. A keen understanding of business,
finance and politics is vital to the process.
It was in law school that Divine Pedron, a partner in CVCLAW,
discovered who she really was and what she could do. I had
no idea that people saw in me something that I didnt even
know existed. One day, at the close of classes in our
freshman year, our class president who was already active in
school politics announced that it was time to elect a new
class president for our second year. Then the next minute, he
was nominating me and within the next few moments, I had
been elected. It came as a big surprise to Divine but being
class president made her gain confidence. Because I was
class president, I had to deal with professors and students
from the other classes for schedules, exams and issues
affecting the College of Law.
Confidence is what Divine has now. One of her more highprofile cases involved the case between ABS-CBN and Willie
Revillame (She was the lawyer for ABS-CBN).
When she goes to court, she does not ask if she will be facing
off with a male or a female lawyer. You just find out from
what firm he or she comes from. But I dont worry that my
opponent will be a man. It has never entered my mind. Its
not a consideration.
But she believes that in many instances, women make better
lawyers because, Women are more in tune with their
emotions. So when you deal with clients, youre more patient,
more understanding. Theres extra care. If hes a guy,
sometimes he goes directly to business, its all black and
white.

Now a partner at CVCLAW, Divine finds herself in a good


place. When I hit 35, I was already that person that I wanted
to be.
What kind of person? The courageous, independent me.
Throw at me anything and Id take it and convert it into
something more exciting, more useful.
Sylvette, Trish, Thea, Franchete and Divine theyve made it
not just because theyre women, but because theyre the
best in their field. Their femininity is just a bonus.
CONSTANCIA C. TOLENTINO, petitioner, vs.
COURT
OF
APPEALS
and
CONSUELO
respondents.

DAVID,

NOW, THEREFORE, it is hereby ordered by the undersigned


Judge of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch XVI,
Quezon City, that, until further orders, you CONSUELO DAVID,
your agents and/or representatives and/or persons acting
under your control, direction, instruction and/or supervision,
ARE ENJOINED from using, employing and/or applying, in any
manner, form or means whatsoever, the surname
TOLENTINO. (p. 17, Original Record On Appeal)
On February 2, 1972, respondent Consuelo filed a motion for
leave to file a third party complaint against her former
husband. The motion was granted on March 18,1972.
Thereafter, third party defendant Arturo Tolentino filed his
answer on April 19,1972.

The issue in this petition for review on certiorari is whether or


not a woman who has been legally divorced from her
husband may be enjoined by the latter's present wife from
using the surname of her former husband.

After the hearings, the trial court rendered a decision in favor


of the petitioner. The dispositive portion of the decision
reads:

A complaint was filed by petitioner Constancia C. Tolentino


with the then Court of First Instance of Quezon City against
Consuelo David for the purpose of stopping and enjoining her
by injunction from using the surname Tolentino. The
complaint also contained a claim for damages which the
petitioner, however, waived. An application for a writ of
preliminary injunction was filed as well.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby


rendered confirming the preliminary injunction and making
the same permanent and perpetual-restraining and enjoining
defendant, her agents and/or representatives and/or persons
acting under her control, direction, instruction and/or
supervision, from using, employing and/or applying, in any
manner, form or means whatsoever, the surname"
TOLENTINO."

On January 13, 1972 respondent Consuelo David filed her


answer admitting she has been using and continues to use
the surname Tolentino.

No pronouncement as to costs, the same having been waived


by the plaintiff.

The application for the writ was heard with both parties
presenting evidence in support of their respective claims.

The third-party complaint is hereby dismissed, without


pronouncement as to costs. (p. 93, Original Record on
Appeal)

On January 18, 1972, the trial court issued an order granting


the petitioner's action for a writ of preliminary injunction with
the actual writ being issued on January 20, 1972. The order
granting said writ reads:

The private respondent appealed the decision to the Court of


Appeals raising several issues, among them, the prescription
of the plaintiff's cause of action and the absence of a

monopolistic proprietary right of the plaintiff over the use of


the surname Tolentino.
On June 25, 1975, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision
of the trial court.
The dispositive portion of the decision reads as follows:

Consuelo David, on the other hand, continued using the


surname Tolentino after the divorce and up to the time of the
filing of this complaint.
The third party defendant, in his answer, admitted that the
use of the surname Tolentino by the private respondent was
with his and his family's (brothers and sisters) consent.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, sustaining Error 1, this Court is


constrained to reverse, as it now reverses, judgment
appealed from, complaint is dismissed, with costs. (p. 76,
Petitioner's Brief)

The petition mainly revolves around two issues:

The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the same


was denied in a resolution dated August 29,1975.

2.
Whether or not the petitioner can exclude by
injunction Consuelo David from using the surname of her
former husband from whom she was divorced.

Hence, this appeal by the petitioner.


The uncontroverted facts of the case are:
The petitioner is the present legal wife of Arturo Tolentino,
their marriage having been celebrated on April 21, 1945 in
Manila. The union produced three children.
Respondent Consuelo David was legally married to Arturo
Tolentino on February 8, 1931. Their marriage likewise
produced children. The marriage was dissolved and
terminated pursuant to the law during the Japanese
occupation on September 15, 1943 by a decree of absolute
divorce granted by the Court of First Instance of Manila in
Divorce Case No. R-619 entitled "Arturo Tolentino v. Consuelo
David" on the ground of desertion and abandonment by the
wife. The trial court granted the divorce on its finding that
Arturo Tolentino was abandoned by Consuelo David for at
least three (3) continuous years.
Thereafter, Arturo Tolentino married a certain Pilar Adorable,
who however, died soon after their marriage. Tolentino
subsequently married Constancia on April 21, 1945.

1.
Whether or not the petitioner's cause of action has
already prescribed, and

The petitioner's contention that her cause of action is


imprescriptible is without merit. In fact, it is contradictory to
her own claim. The petitioner insists that the use by
respondent Consuelo David of the surname Tolentino is a
continuing actionable wrong and states that every use of the
surname constitutes a new crime. The contention cannot be
countenanced because the use of a surname by a divorced
wife for a purpose not criminal in nature is certainly not a
crime. The rule on prescription in civil cases such as the case
at bar is different. Art. 1150 of the Civil Code provides: "The
time for prescription for all kinds of actions, when there is no
special provision which ordains otherwise, shall be counted
from the day they may be brought."
All actions, unless an exception is provided, have a
prescriptive period. Unless the law makes an action
imprescriptible, it is subject to bar by prescription and the
period of prescription is five (5) years from the time the right
of action accrues when no other period is prescribed by law
(Civil Code, Art. 1149). The Civil Code provides for some
rights which are not extinguished by prescription but an
action as in the case before us is not among them. Neither is
there a special law providing for imprescriptibility.

Moreover, the mere fact that the supposed violation of the


petitioner's right may be a continuous one does not change
the principle that the moment the breach of right or duty
occurs, the right of action accrues and the action from that
moment can be legally instituted (Soriano v. Sternberg, 41
Phil. 210).
The respondent Court of Appeals, on the other hand, is of the
opinion that the period of prescription should be four (4)
years, since it appears to be an action based on quasi-delict.
hatever the period, it cannot be denied that the action has
long prescribed whether the cause accrued on April 21, 1945
when the petitioner and Arturo Tolentino got married, or on
August 30, 1950, when the present Civil Code took effect, or
in 1951 when Constancia Tolentino came to know of the fact
that Consuelo David was still using the surname Tolentino. It
is the legal possibility of bringing the action which detemines
the starting point for the computation of the period of
prescription (Espanol v. Phil. Veterans Administration, 137
SCRA 314).
The petitioner should have brought legal action immediately
against the private respondent after she gained knowledge of
the use by the private respondent of the surname of her
former husband. As it is, action was brought only on
November 23, 1971 with only verbal demands in between
and an action to reconstitute the divorce case. The petitioner
should have filed her complaint at once when it became
evident that the private respondent would not accede to her
demands instead of waiting for twenty (20) years.
As aptly stated by the Court of Appeals, "where the plaintiff
fails to go to the Court within the prescriptive period, he loses
his cause, but not because the defendant had acquired
ownership by adverse possession over his name but because
the plaintiffs cause of action had lapsed thru the statute of
limitations." (p. 37, Rollo)

On the principal issue of whether or not a divorced woman


may continue using the surname of her former husband,
Philippine law is understandably silent. We have no
provisions for divorce in our laws and consequently, the use
of surnames by a divorced wife is not provided for.
There is no merit in the petitioner's claim that to sustain the
private respondent's stand is to contradict Articles 370 and
371 of the Civil Code.
It is significant to note that Senator Tolentino himself in his
commentary on Art. 370 of the Civil Code states that "the
wife cannot claim an exclusive right to use the husband's
surname. She cannot be prevented from using it; but neither
can she restrain others from using it." (Tolentino, Civil Code,
1974 ed., P. 681).
Art. 371 is not applicable to the case at bar because Art. 371
speaks of annulment while the case before us refers to
absolute divorce where there is a severance of valid marriage
ties. The effect of divorce is more akin to the death of the
spouse where the deceased woman continues to be referred
to as the Mrs. of her husband even if the latter has remarried
rather than to annulment since in the latter case, it is as if
there had been no marriage at all.
The private respondent has established that to grant the
injunction to the petitioner would be an act of serious
dislocation to her. She has given proof that she entered into
contracts with third persons, acquired properties and entered
into other legal relations using the surname Tolentino. The
petitioner, on the other hand, has failed to show that she
would suffer any legal injury or deprivation of legal rights
inasmuch as she can use her husband's surname and be fully
protected in case the respondent uses the surname Tolentino
for illegal purposes.
There is no usurpation of the petitioner's name and surname
in this case so that the mere use of the surname Tolentino by

the Private respondent cannot be said to have injured the


petitioner's rights. "The usurpation of name implies some
injury to the interests of the owner of the name. It consists in
the possibility of confusion of Identity ... between the owner
and the usurper. It exists when a person designates himself
by another name ... The following are the elements of
usurpation of a name: 1) there is an actual use of another's
name by the defendant; 2) the use is unauthorized; and 3)
the use of another's name is to designate personality or
Identify a person" (Tolentino, supra, p. 685). None of these
elements exists in the case at bar and neither is there a
claim by the petitioner that the private respondent
impersonated her. In fact, it is of public knowledge that
Constancia Tolentino is the legal wife of Arturo Tolentino so
that all invitations for Senator and Mrs. Tolentino are sent to
Constancia. Consuelo never represented herself after the
divorce as Mrs. Arturo Tolentino but simply as Mrs. Consuelo
David-Tolentino. The private respondent has legitimate
children who have every right to use the surname Tolentino.
She could not possibly be compelled to use the prefix "Miss"
or use the name Mrs. David, different from the surnames of
her children. The records do not show that she has legally
remarried.
In Silva, et al. v. Peralta (110 Phil. 57) cited by the petitioner,
it was not the mere use of the surname that was enjoined but

the defendant's representation that she was the wife of


Saturnino Silva. There was, therefore, a usurpation of the
wife's status which is absent in the case at bar.
We rule that the use of the surname Tolentino does not
impinge on the rights of the petitioner.
Considering the circumstances of this petition, the age of the
respondent who may be seriously prejudiced at this stage of
her life, having to resort to further legal procedures in
reconstituting documents and altering legal transactions
where she used the surname Tolentino, and the effects on the
private respondent who, while still not remarried, will have to
use a surname different from the surnames of her own
children, we find it just and equitable to leave things as they
are, there being no actual legal injury to the petitioner save a
deep hurt to her feelings which is not a basis for injunctive
relief.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of
merit. The decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. The
writs of preliminary and mandatory injunction issued by the
trial court are SET ASIDE.
SO ORDERED.