Duterte to host and keynote Asean lawyers’ meet
President Duterte, current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), will host and keynote the special commemorative session of the Governing Council of the Asean Law Association (ALA) in Malacañang on Oct. 25. This meeting is a feature of the yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of Asean.
Officers and members. Right after the President’s speech, a commemorative concert of classical and contemporary music by the Manila Symphony Orchestra and selected music talents will follow. Expected to attend are about 300 ALA delegates from the 10 Asean countries plus the diplomatic corps.
Like Asean, ALA is headed by a Filipino — prominent law practitioner Avelino V. Cruz who was elected president by the ALA General Assembly in 2015 to serve until 2018. He is assisted by another Filipino practitioner, Regina P. Geraldez, who was chosen secretary general.
ALA member-countries are represented in the ALA Governing Council by their national chapters or committees composed of (1) magistrates, (2) government lawyers, (3) law professors, and (4) private practitioners, especially the leaders of bar societies.
Governing Council. Reflective of these sectoral groupings, five of the 10 ALA national committees are currently headed by their incumbent chief justices: Brunei (Dato Seri Paduka Haji Kifrawi bin Dato Paduka Haji Kifli), Indonesia (Hatta Ali), Malaysia (Tan Sri Dato Seri Md Raus bin Sharif), Singapore (Sundaresh Menon) and Thailand (Cheep Jullamon); one by a retired chief justice: Philippines (Artemio V. Panganiban); another by a Supreme Court justice: Lao PDR (Phomsouvanh Philachanh); one other by an attorney general: Myanmar (Tun Tun Oo); and two by law practitioners: Cambodia (Suon Visal) and Vietnam (Nguyen Van Quyen).
Notable ALA members in our country include (1) magistrates led by CJ Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno and Senior Justices Antonio T. Carpio and Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.; (2) government lawyers led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Solicitor General Jose Calida and Pagcor president Alfredo Lim; (3) law professors led by UP president and law dean Danilo Concepcion; and (4) several law practitioners.
Nature and projects. ALA is the only nongovernment law organization recognized by the Asean Charter (Annex 3-IV). Founded in 1979 in Jakarta, Indonesia, it mandates its member-lawyers to help in forming and implementing the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
ALA has several projects, the prime one being the harmonization of laws to bolster trade, investments, banking and arbitration. ALA’s ultimate aim is to help AEC propel a single Asean market where goods, investments, capital, labor and professional services freely flow. To attain this goal, ALA president Cruz conceptualized the Institute for Harmonization of Laws and is proposing its adoption by the ALA Governing Council.
The AEC was established in 2010. However, unlike the European Union, it has no parliament or lawmaking body through which harmonization could be legislated. Thus, harmonization must pass through each national legislature. Since Asean works by consensus, this prime project is truly daunting.
As a corollary, the various professions need to be harmonized, too—in the sense that professionals in one country could practice their craft in the other Asean countries on a reciprocal basis. Toward this end, the Philippines, under Republic Act No. 8981, entered into “mutual recognition agreements” for reciprocal Asean practice in engineering (on Dec. 9, 2005), nursing (Dec. 8, 2006), architecture and land surveying (both on Nov. 18, 2007), and medicine, dentistry and accounting (all on Feb. 26, 2009).
However, no similar pact has been concluded in regard to law practice. The Supreme Court, via the Rules of Court, limits admission to the bar to Filipino citizens. ALA is working for an amendment to allow foreign lawyers to practice here, not in relation to Philippine law but to foreign law, provided Filipino lawyers are given reciprocal privileges to practice in the foreigners’ home states.
Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@ hotmail.com
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