Sie sind auf Seite 1von 4


Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno suggests a closer look into the gaps of the local legal
profession before moving towards liberalization. Photo by Buena Bernal/Rappler

BORACAY, Philippines Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno suggests a closer look into the gaps of the local
legal profession before moving towards liberalization, which allows foreign lawyers to practice in the country.

She said it is a "matter that must be discussed more thoroughly by the Supreme Court," as the Philippines itself
is "still grappling with the question of our own jurisdiction."

The free flow of skilled labor is among the key elements in the economic integration of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but this presently excludes the legal profession.

"Why don't we first define what the Filipino public really needs, what our Philippine businesses really need and,
from there, move forward," she said Monday, March 2, on the sidelines of the 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices

She added that legal traditions across ASEAN are largely different, and "even explaining how processes work
takes time."

Before the high-level meeting, Sereno explained to the ASEAN guests the judicial structure of the Philippines
and introduced its court officials.

Liberalization proposal

Proposals to allow the entry of legal professionals from countries the Philippines has close diplomatic relations
with are already before the SC, said Sereno, without naming the proponents.

Senate President Franklin Drilon recently supported the move, underscoring the "duty" to "create the kind of
legal environment where integration and cross border transactions are possible and successful."

But Sereno said a "threshold" question still looms on the extent of jurisdiction of the SC.

"When the Constitution says that it (legal professions) shall be regulated by the Supreme Court, does it mean
only the practice of Philippine law in the Philippines?" she asked, suggesting that such issues be settled first.

The Chief Justice fell short of providing a definitive timeline or whether she thinks that liberalization could be
achieved during her term as chief justice.

Appointed relatively young to her present post, the 54-year-old Sereno has 16 more years as chief justice until
the mandatory retirement of 70 a rare and golden opportunity to institute long-lasting judicial reforms.

She is now on her third year as the first female leader of the Philippines' 15-member High Court.


Among the challenges the SC would face in implementing the proposal is ensuring the public will not fall
victim to fly-by-night lawyers, said Sereno.
Even within its present jurisdiction, the SC is already working on a list of all lawyers in good standing pending
verification of their identities, she added.

"Gusto namin lahat ng nagprapractice lisensyado para hindi naman kayo maserbisyuhan ng peke (What we
want is that all those who practice [law] are licenses, so that you will not be provided with fake services)," she

"I hope by this time the message has been strongly felt: Seryoso itong Court na ito sa pag-di-discipline (This
Court is serious with disciplining lawyers)," she said.

Drilon: Liberalized PHL legal profession needed for ASEAN integration

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today underscored the need to liberalize the Philippine legal profession to
permit foreign lawyers to practice in the country, and help Filipino law practitioners to keep pace with the
market and policy shifts as a result of the ASEAN integration.

At the ASEAN Law Association Assembly last February 27, Drilon told justices, judges, and other leading law
practitioners in the ASEAN region that the ASEAN integration poses a challenge to members of the legal

"As the integration calls for a free exchange of resources, we must ask ourselves: what does integration mean to
the legal profession? What is its impact to the practice of law? In this era of integration, the ASEAN lawyer
must learn to navigate multiple legal jurisdictions," Drilon said.

"At current growth rates, it is predicted that the ASEAN would become the fourth-largest market, after the EU,
U.S. and China, by 2030. However, full ASEAN integration poses a challenge to every ASEAN member
country. The existing legal framework may not be sufficient for the region to achieve a completely free
exchange of goods and services," Drilon said.

He underscored that a stronger and more efficient legal apparatus will help the Philippines capitalize on all the
economic and development opportunities provided by the ASEAN integration.

"Currently, in the Philippines the practice of law is currently restricted only to Filipino lawyers. This proposal
for liberalization allows for collaborative work between Filipino and foreign lawyers where the matter or
transaction involves both domestic and foreign law," he explained.

He said it is time to establish a procedure in which foreign lawyers and firms may be able to assist their clients
in cross border transactions where the Philippines is involved.

"The liberalization of law practice will help strengthen the country's legal profession, and will help the country
face the many challenges in the political and business sector being created due to the ASEAN Integration
starting this year," stressed Drilon.

He however, said that the proposed liberalization of law practice must ensure that foreign lawyers will live up to
the standards and principles of lawyering in the Philippines, a practice that requires loyalty to the rule of law,
and fidelity to the cause of the client.

The Senate leader then said that he hopes that the country's legal sector and policy makers will realize early the
importance of adapting and liberalizing the country's legal profession, and hoped that it will be a leader among
ASEAN members in reforming and improving its practice of law.
"While the practice of law in the ASEAN region may be a challenge, the liberalization of the legal profession
will ultimately benefit the region as a whole. The long-term effect of a legal profession that recognizes no
territorial boundaries goes into the success of the ASEAN integration itself." Drilon said.

The increasing need for lawyers without borders

Jo Blanca P.B. Labay
March 20, 2015
Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on printShare on email
THE PRACTICE OF LAW in the Philippines is strictly exclusive to Filipinos. Article XII, Section 14 of
the Constitution provides that the practice of any profession is limited to Filipino citizens and, in the
implementation of this restriction, the Supreme Court requires that any applicant to the Bar must possess
Filipino citizenship. This restriction applies to a wide array of activities, and is not only limited to
appearance in court and preparation of pleadings, as the practice of law has been defined to include any
activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training
and experience.

Recently, however, there have been calls for the liberalization of legal services by allowing foreign lawyers to
render certain legal services in the Philippines, subject to regulation by the Supreme Court and the Integrated
Bar. Proponents espouse both practical benefits of allowing foreign lawyers and our countrys commitment to
the international community as main reasons for liberalization to render legal services.

The proposal to allow foreign lawyers to render certain legal services under a limited license is pending before
the Supreme Court. In the proposal, registered foreign lawyers (referred to as foreign legal consultants) and
foreign legal consultant firms, which possess the necessary qualifications, will not be admitted to the Philippine
Bar but may render certain legal services in the Philippines. Such legal services would be limited to the
application of their home country law, third-country law, public international law and international components
of cross-border transactions. Practice of domestic law will remain limited to Filipino lawyers.

It is undeniable that lawyers have become central to the way business is done. Addressing issues, which require
the application of the law and prevailing regulations, is part of making any business decision, from the simplest
transaction to the more sophisticated and complex ones. In this age of globalization where markets are
converging and integrating, there is a demand from the business sector for lawyers who can give legal advice
not only in domestic law, but also in foreign law. For instance, preliminary to engaging in business and
investing in the Philippines, it is imperative for foreign investors to seek legal advice to ensure compliance not
only with Philippine law but, in cross-border transactions, also with their home country law, and sometimes
compliance with a third-country law. Thus, readily, a single transaction can require legal advice on domestic and
foreign law.

Considering the restrictions on the practice of law in the Philippines, foreign investors are required to consult
separately with a Filipino lawyer and a foreign lawyer. It would be ideal if all of these legal services were
readily available to the client in one local law firm. However, this would only be possible if the restriction on
Filipino citizenship is relaxed. Proponents also submit, as another practical benefit, that allowing foreign
lawyers (who are experts in their home country law) to render legal consultancy services in the Philippines will
necessarily produce transfer of knowledge and experience that will better equip local lawyers to address similar
issues which they may be confronted with in future transactions.

It may also be said that allowing foreign lawyers to render foreign legal consultancy service in the Philippines is
consistent with our obligations to the international community. In particular, the Philippines, as a member of the
ASEAN, committed to an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which envisions the ASEAN as a region
where there is free movement of goods, investments and capital, as well as free movement of services and
skilled labor. Based on the AEC, substantially all restrictions on trade in legal services should be removed by
2015 but, to the contrary, restrictions remain in the Philippines. While the Philippines is not the only member of
the ASEAN which has not yet fully opened up its legal services market, the Philippines has been cited as being
at the bottom of the liberalization spectrum (as opposed to Singapore which has fully liberalized).

Jo Blanca P.B. Labay is an Associate of ACCRALAW Office