Wednesday, October 10, 2001

UN declares US attacks on Afghanistan as acts of self-defense

A day after the US attacked Afghanistan, the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution recognizing the US right to "individual or collective self-defense." US Ambassador John Negroponte said the attacks on Afghanistan were "actions designed to prevent and deter further (terrorist) attacks on the United States." The US claimed that it only bombed Taliban stations and the Al Qaeda terrorists installations and not civilians. The US also claimed that simultaneous with the bombings, US jets dropped food, medicine and other supplies to populated places in Afghanistan. The explanation came even as thousands of Muslims all over the world protested the attacks.

Under Article 51 the UN Charter, the determination of the validity of the exercise of the right of self-defense is placed upon the UN Security Council. Thus, in view of the UN Security Council resolution, as far as compliance with international law formalities is concerned, the legality of the attacks on Afghanistan is beyond inquiry.

Yet, international law issues do not appear to have been resolved by the UN Security Council resolution. To begin with, the Taliban is not a direct aggressor of the US. While it is charged with harboring bin Laden, it is not bound to give him up to the US since no formal extradition treaty exists between the US and Taliban. Bin Laden himself is not considered a criminal in Afghanistan. Worse, bin Laden has only been charged in a US Court and has not been convicted. Political rhetoric from Pres. Bush and Prime Minister Blair also shows that another reason why the Taliban is being attacked is because of its rigid interpretation of the Islamic faith. Clearly, this is beyond the realm of self-defense. Thus, the Muslim protests against the attacks all over the world may not be easily dismissed as simply fanatical.

Monday, October 08, 2001

Did attack on Afghanistan violate international law?

While the world reacts in various ways to the US-led attack on Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, international law observers ponder an issue that threatens the very existence of international law as a discipline: Did the attack violate the international law prohibition on the use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state?

In the case Nicaragua v. U.S., the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared that the non-use of force principle as embodied in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter is a customary international law that is binding upon all the nations of the world independently of any treaty that may embody it. Only two noted exceptions are allowed under the rule: self-defense and UN-approved enforcement actions. None of these exceptions have so far been invoked as a legal ground under international law to justify the attack. None of them also appear to be existing.

While questions of this kind seem academic in the face of an almost overwhelming support for the attack in reaction to the World Trade Center bombings on September 11, 2001, not to mention that the chief proponents of the attack are the superpowers of the world, the question is relevant if only to confirm that there is such a field of law as public international law that states are bound to obey. Indeed, if international law was violated by the attack, who will impose the sanctions on the errant nations?

Sunday, October 07, 2001


Yahoo Messenger Installed

We have installed Yahoo Messenger in order to provide greater interactivity to our site visitors. If we are online, we will be available to answer simple legal querries on Philippine law. Our expertise lies in labor, media, contracts and general business law. However, as this is a public site, please be aware that we cannot ensure confidentiality. To protect your identities, please do not give details. Just click the icon, login to Yahoo Messenger and type your message. This service is free.

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

US Will Not Consider National ID System

According to, US president George W Bush will not pursue a national identification card system despite calls from parts of government and industry following the 11 September terrorist attacks.According to the White House Spokesperson, they are not even condering the idea.

The White House's declaration came as a reaction to a recent surge of interest in national ID cards, which included an offer from Oracle chief executive, Larry Ellison, to have his company bear the software costs for such a system. Furthermore, research by the US-based Pew Research Centre found that most Americans are in favor a national ID card, although most balked at government surveillance of phone calls and e-mails.

In the Philippines, Pres. Gloria Arroyo has already expressed her support for a national ID system which drew immediate opposition from human rights advocates. During his term as president, former President Fidel V. Ramos passed an administrative order establishing a national ID system. Senators challenged the constitutionality of the order before the Supreme Court which declared its unconstitutionality.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Pres. GMA declares support to revive National ID System. Bayan Muna objects.

As we predicted earlier, the plan to install the National ID System has been revived in reaction to the World Trade Center attacks. The Inquirer reported today that Pres. Arroyo is supporting the revival of the National ID System. The full story is found here. Party list congressmen from Bayan Muna immediately raised their objections. The Inquirer also reported the story. Click here.

Sunday, September 23, 2001

God Bless Big Brother Indeed has posted an article expressing concern over the apparent receptiveness of the US Congress to pass more stringent anti-terrorist legislation. As a result, civil liberties of individuals, especially immigrants, will be considerably curtailed. The lead of the article states as follows:

"Northwest Airlines kicked three Arab-American men off a flight from Minneapolis to Philadelphia Friday, simply because other passengers refused to fly on the same plane with them. The airline defended removing the men from the plane, saying that security rules gave it permission to "reaccommodate" passengers. The Council on American-Islamic Relations reacted immediately: "This is racial and religious profiling of the worst kind. Both the passengers and the airplane personnel should be ashamed of their actions." Even as Arab-Americans face daily affronts to their civil liberties, Congress is crafting new legislation to further limit their freedoms -- and everyone else's. And while there is some dissent being expressed behind closed doors in Congress, an "anti-terrorism" bill is expected to be formally introduced next week. Given the current climate of fear and anger, most observers expect easy passage."
The full text is found here.

In the Philippines, anti-terrorist legislation has been consistently defeated in the Philippine Congress since the time that former President Fidel V. Ramos was still Pres. Cory Aquino's defense secretary. Foremost among this anti-terroris legislation is the proposal for the national ID system that creates a presumption that those without national ID's are rebels. We may expect the revival of this proposal soon, especially that Mr. Ranos's supporters are also supporters of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In the event that anti-terrorist legislation is passed by Congress, the same may be challenged only in the Supreme Court which will then test its validity as against the Philippine Constitution.

Saturday, September 22, 2001

Insurers of World Trade Center won’t use war exclusion

The website reported recently that insurers of the World Trade Center and other parties affected by the attack against key landmarks of the United States will not use the war exclusions in the insurance contracts covering the towers and other affected entities and individuals. The National Assn. of Independent Insurers said in a written statement that “NAII wishes to confirm that insurers have strongly indicated that they do not intend to invoke the ‘act of war’ exclusion. This is a non-issue, and all insurers we have heard from are treating the losses as covered claims.” It may be recalled that on September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists hijacked two commercial planes and rammed them against the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The towers eventually collapsed. More than 6,000 are believed to have perished from the incident.

The complete text of the story is found here.

Friday, September 21, 2001

This Day in 1972

This day in history Pres. Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation 1081 placing the entire Philippine archipelago on a state of Martial Law. Within twenty-four hours from the declaration, thousands of persons perceived as enemies of Marcos were rounded up and jailed, including incumbent senators, big businessmen, politicians, journalists, clerics, union leaders and students. To pave the way for a dictatorial regime, Ms. Marcos then called for the organization of people's assemblies to ratify the 1973 Constitution by mere show of hands. Martial rule then became a way of life among Filipinos until it was lifted in 1981 as a concession to Pope John Paul II who visited the Philippines that same year. With mounting pressure from local and foreign political forces, Mr. Marcos convened the Batasang Pambansa, the legislative branch of government as provided in the 1973 Constitution. The opposition gained more momentum when Ninoy Aquino got assassinated on August 21, 1983. From then on, anti-Marcos political assemblies and rallies became more frequent until Mr. Marcos was forced to call a presidential election on February 7, 1986. On February 25 1986, a civilian-backed military uprising overthrew Marcos thus ending the dictatorial regime that began on September 21, 1972.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001


What To Expect When You’re Suing or Being Sued

Continuation of Chapter One
Choosing a Lawyer

Cases that You Should Refer Only to the Experts

In the previous portions of this on going article (please check our archives the first portion appeared on July 27, 2001), we discussed the seven basic traits that you should look for in a lawyer, the dilemma of choosing among the big or small law firm and the solo practitioner, and the issue on legal fees. In this last installment, we will discuss cases falling on fields of law that should be referred only to the experts. This is necessary in order to ensure that very little mistake will be committed in the handling of your case.

No lawyer can say that she can handle every case referred to her. Law touches upon almost every aspect of human life that it is impossible for any lawyer to exhaust it. While most lawyers can handle mainstream litigation, such as land disputes, collection cases, fraud, murder and corporate disputes, certain fields of law are easily beyond the grasp of most lawyers. We believe that at least three fields of law should be left to the experts. By “expert”, we mean that the lawyer has spent a major part of her professional life on the field. She should be so immersed in the field that she has ready answers to problems that non-experts can take days to even understand. These fields are as follows:

Tax and Customs Litigation

Tax and Customs litigation deal with disputes relating to tax assessments, tax refunds, tax protests, as well as tariff and customs disputes, including forfeiture proceedings. This field should be left to the experts because it is a universe in itself. Even the simplest of issues in tax and customs litigation will require thorough study from any practitioner. In addition, the field is highly technical. Legal maxims are mixed with percentages and mathematical formulas that ordinary lawyers will not easily comprehend. One nuance that we learned the hard way, for example, is that all pleadings filed with the customs collector have to bear a documentary science stamps tax. Otherwise, it would be disregarded. Who would know that but only an expert?

Election Law

Election law requires a lawyer who has a thorough knowledge of election laws and procedures and usually a strong disposition. Court jurisdiction and time periods for filing of pleadings appeals and other documents are often confusing and tough. Many election protests have been lost on technicalities because counsels are not familiar with the basic election laws. In addition, the election lawyer often has to deal with a roomful of people and confused election registrars. Your election lawyer should have a loud but not annoying voice to be convincing in this situation. In addition, deadlines in election disputes are really tight. Sometimes your counsel will only have the following day to file her protest. Only lawyers who are used to this environment can deliver the goods to their clients.

Admiralty Law

Admiralty deals with the law of sea transportation. It has been around for centuries. Yet, demurrage, salvage, collisions and other disputes relating to admiralty are not easy to understand and have been mastered by only a handful of practitioners. This should be left to the experts.

The common element in the above fields of law is that they not only have a different set of laws, they also have different sets of procedures in resolving disputes. We find that their procedures as complex and uncommon that only experts in the field may fill at ease in litigating those cases. While you can take a chance on a neophyte to handle any case falling under the three on your behalf, the risk of failure is going to be great that you might as well not have lawyer at all. You don’t want your lawyer coming to you with a decision that says you lost because your lawyer missed one rule in the book, and not because of lack of merit. It is one of the most agonizing losses you will experience in your life.

Next Chapter: Preparing to Go to Court
Lawyer Statesman Neptali Gonzales Dies

Former Senate President Neptali Gonzales died of heart failure at the Makati Medical Center last September 16, 2001. He was 78. Mr. Gonzales was a law professor and dean of a law school for many years until he entered politics in 1967. He rose to national prominence as an opposition leader in the Batasang Pambansa during the latter part of the Marcos era. After the downfall of Marcos, he became the first justice secretary of then President Cory Aquino. Mr. Gonzales is the principal architect of the legal and constitutional framework of the post-Marcos era.

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Court dismisses Text Messaging Case

The Regional Trial Court of Quezon City issued recently an order dismissing the case filed by consumers against the cellular phone companies Globe, Smart, Islacom and Piltel on the ground of lack of jurisidcition. Earlier, the same court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the same companies from implementing their plan to reduce the number of allocated free text messages to their subscribers. The temporary restraining order was supposed to have been effective for twenty (20) days. Yet, before the period could lapse, the Court resolved to dismiss the case citing that it is the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that has power to resolve the issue and not the trial court.

Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, the consumer groups have fifteen days to file a Motion for Reconsideration or appeal to the Court of Appeals. If no motion or appeal is filed, the decision will become final and executory.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Avoid taking minority ownership in a company.

In the Philippines, two-thirds of the outstanding capital stock is the magic number. If you have two-thirds, you can do almost anything you want in a company -- change the Articles of Incorporation, change the business, sell all the assets, even dissolve the company. If you have less than that, you can not do anything profitable with your shares, except perhaps sell them to the majority. Everytime an issue pops up, you are out voted. Sometimes you cannot even raise an issue on the floor. Majority owners even earn on the side as voting control gives them the right to vote themselves as officers of the company and charge exhorbitant salaries and per diems. Thus, if you have to enter into a business with somebody, make sure you have two-thirds; otherwise, be prepared to be the whipping boy or girl for that matter.

Saturday, September 08, 2001

NVM Gonzalez, would be lawyer turned writer National Artist

Today, September 8 is the birthday of NVM Gonzalez, one of the greatest Filipino writers of all time. NVM attended two years of law school at the University of the Philippines. He had many reasons for leaving law school, one of them was that he found it unacceptable that their professor would sell them copies of the Philippine Reports to fend for the professor's mistress. NVM wrote mainly about the life of Mindoro folk, their life and rituals in a feudalistic society. In the story, "On the Eve," (see the collections Grammer of Dreams and Mindoro and Beyond both published by the UP Press) he writes, quite exceptionally, about a young man on the eve of his decision to leave law school for a life as a writer, perhaps mirroring his own monumental decision to leave the legal world for what would turn out to be a well-lived life of Philippine letters. NVM died in November 1999 at the age of 84. Stanford University, where NVM's granddaughter now studies, has a webpage in his honor.

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

Nightmare on the Eve of the Bar Exams

I was in a rickety condo unit in Makati with only coackroaches keeping me company. I called for pizza delivery for dinner from Shakey's-- Manager's Choice with extra cheese, Coke and Chick n' Chips. There was enough food even for breakfast the following day. I found it too pricey for my budget at five hundred bucks, but I figured, the bar exams was my day of judgment. If I flunk it, it would be my last pizza forever. So who cares?

A classmate called to tell me that they would pick me up as early as 5:00 am. It was neessary to come early, according to her, to avoid the traffic build up brought about by the annual Alay Lakad (Walk for A Cause) Project that would pass at La Salle Taft Avenue where the exams will be. No problem. I had no choice. Either I went to the bar with obsessive compulsive classmates or I risked missing it altogether with Manila's unreliable public transport. I had no time for those little dilemmas. I figured I needed at least six hours of sleep to have an optimum performance for the eight hour exam. There was no better preparation than that. Besides, what I did not know on the eve of the bar exams, I would never know in time for the actual exams. To be ready by 5:00 am, I needed to wake up at 4:00 am. That meant I had to be snoring by 10:00 pm.

After dinner, I finished memorizing a chapter on Atty Nachura's reviewer on Political Law about diplomatic immunity. I scanned the other pages that I haven't touched and decided It was time to sleep.Yet. my gut was crying for more. It was telling me that my knowledge of political law was vanishing slowly and the only way to stop it was for me to keep on reading until I fell asleep. So I hit the books again. But, very little was sinking in. I ran my mnemonics devices to see if I can rattle off principles that I had memorized. No good. I turned on the air-conditioner to cool off. The motor was too loud. I turned it off. What do I do now? It's 11:00 pm. So much for the six hours of solid sleep. My professor gave us one tip that afternoon. "If all else fails, try beer!" But, who was gonna get that beer for me? The cockroaches? I remembered as a kid that I would make myself dizzy and fall asleep by spinning around like crazy. So I spun around the room for five minutes until I fell and threw up. But I was still wide awake. I tried music -- Mozart, Bach. But I had been listening to those guys the entire bar review period that I had been numbed. They had very little effect on me. No use.

Thereafter, it dawned upon me -- I was gonna flunk the bar. With very little sleep, if at all, there was no way I could construct a decent sentence. The exams for the day consisted of two sets of one hundred (100) essay questions to be hurdled in four hours each set. No way was anybody gonna pass that with less than six hours of sleep. I saw all my four years of hard work studying the law flashing on my mind. The episodes when I had flunked an exam were even in slo-mo. I knew I would forever be labeled a bar flunker. What job would I get? Court sheriff? It was done. The clock struck at 1:00 am as I decided I had lost it and dozed off. Good night bar flunker.

That was exactly six years today. Of course, I flunked the exams on that day. But I made enough points in the succeeding exams to give me a decent passing mark. I knew better the following week. I downed a bottle of wine.

Sunday, September 02, 2001


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Friday, August 31, 2001

Court Issues Restraining Order against Mobile phone Companies

The Regional Trial Court of Quezon City issued today a temporary restraining order barring mobile phone operators Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms and Pilipino Telephone Corporation from cutting free text message allocations to their subscribers. The court issued the order in connection with the petition filed by consumer group Philippine League of Democratic Telecommunications (PLDTi) which claims that the decision of the mobile phone operators constitutes a breach of contract with their millions of mobile phone subscribers.

The mobile phone companies anchored their opposition on the technical ground that the Court did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter. According to them, the government agency tasked to regulate telephone companies is the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). To rebut the opposition, PLDTI presented a letter by a Globe Executive to a congressman which letter stated that text messaging is a "deregulated" service, and is therefore not under the jurisdiction of the National Telecommunications Commission.

The temporary restraining order is effective only for twenty (20) days during which the mobile phone operators will be given the chance to present new arguments on why the restraining order should not be extended.

Thursday, August 30, 2001

Supreme Court Issues New Rules On Extra-Judicial Foreclosure Of Mortgage

The Philippine Supreme Court recently issued the Rules of Procedure on Extra-Judicial Foreclosure of Mortgage (A.M. 99-10-05-0 dated August 7, 2001) amending and modifying Adm. Order No. 3 (19 October 1984) and Adm. Circular No. 3-98 (5 February 1998).

The new rules clarified that the period for corporations to redeem their foreclosed properties shall lapse upon the registration of the certificate of foreclosure sale or after three (3) months after the foreclosure whichever occurs earlier. This provision has serious implications on various Philippine corporations that have defaulted on their loans and whose assets have been foreclosed. The limited period will very likely prevent corporations from redeeming their foreclosed assets from bank-creditors, especially considering the poor economic climate. Note, however, that for individuals, the period of redemption is still one year after the registration of the foreclosure sale.
Fil Telco Watchdog Files Class Action Against Cellcos, NTC to Stop SMS Text Reduction

The Philippine League for Democratic Telecommunications, Inc. (PLDTI), a local telecommunications consumer watchdog organization, along with some individual complainants yesterday filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court a class action suit against cellular service companies Globe Telecoms GMCR (Globe), Smart Communications (Smart), Pilipino Telephone Company (Piltel), and Islacom as well as the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), asking for a temporary restraining order (TRO), and preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent the implementation of the above-mentioned cellular companies' plans to reduce their allocation of bundled SMS text messages per month to subscribers.

In its complaint, PLDTI alleges that the cellcos committed a breach of contract in unilaterally reducing their allocated number of text messages to subscribers per month after advertising a specific and certain amount of text message allocation much higher than they now intend to impose. Citing a number of legal provisions, the League showed how and why the cellcos involved have reneged on their own contracts to the detriment of millions of cellphone subscribers and users. It also argued that contrary to the term used by cellcos, such allocated text messages are not "free" at all, but bundled with the cost of monthly subscription or with each prepaid card.

Under Philippine law, the Court may grant a temporary restraining order for three days after a summary hearing on the controversy. The period may be extended for twenty days upon reception of evidence of the complainants and the respondents. Thereafter, after a continuous hearing and upon the posting of bond by the complainants in the amount that the Court may require, the Court may grant a preliminary injunction to last until the case is decided on the merits.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

WEB ADMIN provides int'l law news to MBAceron

We have signed up for's syndicated news from other content providers on the web recently. This service will help local readers looking for international law news obtain a regular source of legal information aside from what we provide here. This is consistent with our objective to help non-lawyers understand the law and the lawyers. In exchange, we have also signed up with isyndicate for the provision of Philippine legal news to its subscribers.

Monday, August 27, 2001

Landmark E-Libel Suit dismissed

The Pasig City Prosecutor’s office dismissed recently the landmark libel case filed by Emmanuel Disini, Chief Executive Officer of Dotph, Inc., against Joel Contreras, a fellow IT executive.

The case stemmed from alleged libelous statements made by Mr. Contreras in a Powerpoint presentation, email, and online newspaper that allegedly portrayed Mr. Disini as an unethical businessman who was also engaged in extortion by demanding unreasonable consideration for services. The Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the complaint on the ground that malice is not present in any of Mr. Contreras's statements, and that the statements "do not indicate anything that would portray the complainant as an unethical businessman or extortionist."

Many observers consider the case a landmark case because it was supposed to test the admissibility of email and internet publications as evidence to support a criminal charge for libel. In addition, the case involved the Philippines's leading internet personalities. The Pasig City Prosecutor said, however, that it would not pretend to have extensive knowledge of matters concerning the internet because it does not, take special knowledge, skill or know-how to assess the import of the subject statements. It added further that Mr. Contreras’s statements do not portray Disini as an "unethical businessman or extortionist."

Dotph, Inc., a company headed by Mr. Disini, is the ph domain name administrator. Mr. Contreras is the head of Phildac a multi-sectoral organization which is seeking the re-delegation of the ph domain administration from Dotph to Phildac. The alleged libelous statements were made in the course of Phildac’s media campaign to generate support for its cause to gain control of the ph registry. According to Mr. Contreras’s presentation, Mr. Disini would only agree to the re-delegation of the ph domain registry if he would be paid PHp 50,000 and other perks like a free leased line service and access to ph bandwidth. Mr. Disini felt that the statements made him look like he was unethical or an extortionist.

Under Philippine law, the order of dismissal may be appealed to the Department of Justice within fifteen days from notice to the parties of the decision. Thereafter, any party may appeal further to the Office of the President or to the Court of Appeals through a special remedy called petition for certiorari. The final say can be obtained from the Supreme Court should the parties still fail to obtain what they want from the Court of Appeals.


"People in the Philippines may find this to be a very useful site, as it contains a lot of pertinent information for anyone needing to know about their rights, the law, and legal council."

--The Weblog Review

Our hearts are tickled pink by the comments of approval from the people behind the Web Blog Review. We are happy to find out that we are working towards the right direction. We took note of the useful comments and we will endeavor to improve our site as we go on.

Friday, August 24, 2001

On the Adequacy of the New Philippine Rules on Electronic Evidence

Jim Ayson, a noted web developer in the field of Philippine music, reported that in a forum regarding the New Rules on Electronic Evidence, the lawyers criticized the Rules for being incomplete. He writes,

"For example-- among the criticisms on the promulgation of the Rules on Electronic Evidence (REE) are on its substance, how it affects the Best Evidence Rule and the rules on Admissibility under the Rules of Evidence.. The REE practically does away
with the concept of "best evidence." With the REE almost any electronic document/data message can become admissible...but what about traditional transactions where no internet or any electronic transaction were ever involved?"

There is indeed an "anomaly" under the Best Evidence Rule if read together with the REE. We believe, however, that lawyers have to live with this "anomaly" as the legal world takes a paradigm shift with the onset of electronic evidence. The crux of the issue is how the word "original" is defined. With paper transactions, the original is the document actually signed by the parties. But with electronic evidence, the original can be the file on the hard disk or the email or the diskette file or the print-out or the faxed copy. The lawyers (and most especially the judges) should accept the need to broaden the meaning of the term "original " in the light of new technology.

Yet, we can hardly understand why this provision can be considered a defect in the Rules. For years, we agonized over how to present a faxed message where the only original we have is the faxed copy itself. Every time we presented the faxed copy, we got objections left and right and the poor judge was only too happy to tow the hard-line because the law says the original cannot be the faxed copy. Sometime in 1999, we received a referral on the filing of a criminal case against a group of people who hacked the important files of a company. The evidence consisted of print-outs which clearly indicated who and where the hacker was. We declined the case because the Rules of Evidence in 1999 showed that evidence in the form of print-outs is out of the question. Now. with the new REE, we are more confident that our faxed messages and electronic print-outs can withstand vigorous objections from the best lawyers.

We imagine the first Filipino e-commerce case to be tough. Our lawyers and judges will have to look to the US (which by the way is also struggling with this new field) for various questions on electronic evidence. But adequate or not, the new Rules will surely help the lawyers and the judges get started. That should be good enough. Besides, if the rules were complete and clear, what are lawyers for?

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

The Lawyers Thank the PC

This month the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the personal computer (PC). Many stories have been spun about how the PC has changed the world, but the impact of the PC to the legal profession cannot be ignored. Even lawyers owe a lot to the PC and have a lot to thank for.

When the PC arrived, contracts that once took hours to type and hours to re-type could suddenly be revised in a moment. They could even be recycled for other clients. Our lawyer Uncle Edgardo Aceron who has been practising law in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro Philippines since the late 1960's told us that he used to have six secretaries who typed his pleadings that he wrote on yellow pad page by page. Each one of them had her own Olympia typewriter to tinker with.Twenty-five years hence, he bought an IBM compatible PC/XT that run Wordstar 4.0 and cut down his secretarial work pool to just one.

Nowadays, the PC is even more useful not just as a word processor but also as a box full of legal information. We can now access the entire 100 years of Philippine jurisprudence in CD ROM through the popular Lex Libris Series. Leather bound law books that used to adorn and eat half the space of law offices have become absolete. We can also read the latest Philippine Supreme Court decision and circulars through the internet at There is no need to wait for the release of the third party Supreme Court reporters that are often bulky and expensive. Likewise, laws are published by law firm libraries online like This made research as quick and simple as clicking a mouse.

The PC has also introduced us to the lawyer softwares. We have programs that can help draft simple deeds of sale, wills and quitclaims. We just type in the details at the prompt of the cursor, and we have exactly the contract that we need. No more bothering a lawyer for the ordinary contracts that non-lawyers throught were esoteric.

The PC has also evolved its own set of laws and rules ranging the expanse of intellectual property, privacy, and crime -- thus, creating a field of law in itself. Some lawyers have fashioned themselves as e-lawyers and have made the field of comptuer technology law as an expertise. With present technology, we can see that in the near future, litigation will be conducted through the internet with the aid of the PC and lawyers need not come to court. People will also negotiate big contracts, not just the consumer goods purchases, on the net through the aid of the PC. Lawyers will occupy a window on people's PC, accessed and paid only when clicked.

Indeed, the PC has brought efficiency in many aspects of the legal profession. The PC is now the lawyers best friend. It is the lawyer's means to process, source and send legal information. As the world celebrates the PC's birth, the lawyers heave a sigh. Thank God for the PC lawyering in the new millenium is easy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Board Meetings by Video Conference Now Allowed

Teleconferencing and video-conferencing can now be used for board meetings according to the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week. Thus, company directors are no longer required to be physically present in board meetings. With teleconferencing and video-conferencing, the SEC said it will now be easier for companies to have a quorum for meetings since directors' physical presence is no longer be required.

The SEC, however, emphasized that the participation of directors in meeting through teleconferencing and video-conferencing may be deemed acceptable only when adequate safeguards have been accordingly set in place. SEC said that meetings should be recorded, and the appropriate videotapes and video discs properly stored for safekeeping.

The SEC ruling reversed an earlier one requiring physical presence of members of the board of directors for a valid meeting.The old ruling was maintained even as former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos once demonstrated the reliability of video conferenceing by holding a cabinet meeting while on a foreign trip abroad. With the new ruling, expats and their principals need not come to the Philippines to attend board meetings of their companies.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

On Regulating the Internet

For internet junkies, freedom in the internet is the "in" thing to say. The internet is the haven for freedom-loving individuals. That's why internet regulation is out of the question. We used to subscribe to this position until something happened to us recently.

We installed a new set of speakers from Polkaudio courtesy of our doctor cousin. She managed to survive the dotcom crash in New York. Now, she's so liquid that she can afford to send each one of her cousins their dream gadgets. For this reason, we were privileged to install one of Polkaudio's famous AMR Series. We tested it immediately by pointing our browsers to We clicked on one of the big band links and voila -- just a few bars of digital music streaming to our speakers and we know our music experience will never be the same. We have a full component in our hands, crisp sound, full bass, power enough to rock the house. You can hear every snap, every syllable. every note. In addition, our cable connection has opened us to the vast resource of music available for downloading. We can now listen to a world of music.

We decided to find out what other mp3 sites are offering by going to google. We typed mp3 and hit the search button. The first link is of course But we know that so we went further. We found mp3 portals linking us to other mp3 sites. We checked the links whenever they said they offered free downloads. A window popped-out once in a while with a flashing banner. We closed the unnecessary window and continued searching. No problem. Then, the windows started popping more often than we can close them. Three. Four. Five. Six. SEVEN. All at the same time. Then a message popped out asking if we want to install this gadget to our hard disk. 'Goodness, if we didn't have presence of mind, we would have clicked the default button which said yes. We clicked cancel. Then the thing popped out again asking the same question. We hit cancel. Then we noticed that instead of mp3 sites we were now navigating porn sites. The windows came popping again with more porn sites. Three. Four. Five. Sic. Sevem. Eight. NINE. Naked girls in all sorts of positions. What's happening? Then, the explorer crashed. We took a deep breathe, shook our heads and attempted to reboot. After rebooting, we decided to continue the search and voila -- our homepage is now a porn site! It's like a death sentence -- what if our wife saw this? We quickly changed the default and asked how the sites managed to do this to our browser.

The experience is like getting into no man's land and finding oneself being shot by snipers left and right. We manage to ignore and parry the volleys but sooner or later a dead shot hit us. There are many other unfair practices being done in the net but this one really irked us. Popping windows are tolerable but altering browser settings is where we draw the line. We are all for freedom on the internet but we cannot accept this intrusion into our privacy. The browser is like our eyes. It's alright if sites did everything to grab our attention. They can pop all they want but they should not touch our settings. It's like a worm. It's icky. Now we understand why people want to regulate the internet. We have shifted allegiance. We believe that there ought to be a law...

Friday, August 10, 2001

Law degree now recognized as equivalent to a Master’s degree

Recently, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) informed the Honorable Chief Justice that the CHED has accredited the degree of Bachelor of Laws with corresponding Bar eligibility as equivalent to a relevant Master's Degree per its en banc Resolution No. 038-2001. The said Resolution includes the degree of Doctor of Medicine with corresponding board eligibility as equivalent to a relevant Master's degree.

According to the CHED, the rationale behind this is that Bachelor of Laws is a higher degree requiring completion of a first bachelor's degree before proceeding to the professional degree program. The ruling apparently cleared the confusion concerning government positions where a master’s degree is a requirement. An applicant who had a Bachelor’s degree in law could not apply because the degree appears to be insufficient. In the Philippines, however, before an individual can enter law school, she has to complete a bachelor of arts or science degree. Thus, acquiring a law degree is clearly equivalent to master’s degree and should have long been treated as such.

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

This Made Me Laugh

A lawyer and his wife were watching an Alfred Hitchcock film. There
were at least a dozen suspects as to who killed the victim.

Suddenly, the husband blurted, "I've got it all figured it out. I believe Paul Newman is the killer."

The wife was surprised, "But Paul Newman is not even in the film" she said.

"I know", the lawyer replied, "Isn't that a perfect alibi?"

From Ferdinand S. Topacio's Jokes by Legal Fiction
On Buying Software Online

We recently bought the software Photojam from Yahoo Sales at the considerable price of US29.95. That's equivalent to three-fourths of our maid's monthly salary (considering that we are in a third world country). After the download, we checked the terms and conditions of the license and we saw the provision that we are allowed only one back up copy to be stored somewhere. In view of the fact that our PC is due for an upgrade, we stored ours at mydocsonline. where we can put this pricey software away from the vulnerability of a computer crash. It's hard earned dollars so we cannot take a chance.

We realized, however, that before we did the prudent thing, several things popped in our heads being the scheming lawyer that we are. To begin with, enforcement of intellectual property laws in the Philippines will probably take time (probably in the next century) before it catches us with an extra unlicensed copy of Photojam. So what's the fuss? In addition to that, the fragility of the product that we bought (it did not come in a CD and is available only for download) made us think of the hundred ways that this thing could be bugged, lost, erased, and burned along with the dollars that we bought them with. Surely one back up copy is not enough. Furthermore, the wonders of this product (it allows us to make pro looking MTV's out of the pictures in our hard disk)have surely attracted more than a million photojunkies like us. Thus, the Macromedia Group have made more than enough money on this one and will probably not feel the pinch of a single unlicensed back up copy of Photojam. It is likewise downright oppression for third world lawyers to be charged first world prices for software.

Yet, we prevailed upon the Mephistopheles within us. We realized that the legal recognition of intellectual property rights was a tough battle that artists and artisans had fought for centuries. It is only in this century that intellectual property rights have finally been recognized and rewarded with economic value. Imagine if Mozart only had Bill Gates's shrewdness. Mozart would have been richer than any king in his time! As for us, we have to follow the contract with Macromedia and have kept only a single back up copy. Then, we tested the product. It was really worth it. Look it up, our son Hans is on MTV. Click here.

Monday, August 06, 2001

Noted Supreme Court Decision on Bouncing Checks

If you are contemplating on suing someone for issuing you a bad check, take a tip. Notify the issuer in writing that her check bounced and that she has five (5) banking days to replace the same with cash. This is the lesson that the Supreme Court teaches in the recent case (Danao v. Court of Appeals G.R. No, 122353 June 6, 2001). In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the failure of a party to give a notice of dishonor to an issuer of a bounced check relieves the issuer from liability under the Bouncing Checks Law or Batas Pambansa Blg. 22.

This is common misconception among non-lawyers. Liability under the Bouncing Checks Law does not arise simply upon the return of the check for lack of funds. It is equally important that the issuer is notified of the return of the check and is given five (5) banking days from receipt of notice to pay the amount of the check.

For this purpose, there must be a clear evidence of receipt of the notice. If sent by personal service, the evidence may be in the form of a written acknowledgement. If sent by registered mail, the evidence is the return card that should state when the notice was received. Without the foregoing evidence of receipt, the issuer of a bounced check may be able to escape liability as held in the case of Danao.

Thus, before you ask your lawyer to file the case for violation of the Bouncing Checks Law, be sure to comply with the foregoing requirement. If your lawyer misses out on it too, you may end up not only with a bouncing check but also with an order for the dismissal of your case.

Sunday, August 05, 2001

The Chat Room Is Now Open

We are now fully interactive with the addition and opening of the Chat Room courtesy of We will announce topics to be discussed and time slots on the Chat Room one of these days. The first topic is "Corruption in the Philippine Judiciary". We will schedule it with chatters who have the inside knowledge on the topic and announce it on the Homepage. Please stay tuned. In the meantime, you may chance upon MBAceron on the chatroom every night at around 10:00 pm to 10:30 pm Manila time.
Message Board Goes Live Today

We know things can get controversial one of these days and you may want to react immediately to what we write here. Thus, we have put up our Reactions to MBAceron Message Board courtesy of Just click the link on the link box at the top right corner, type your message and post. We will, however, not entertain any request for legal advice on the message board.

Saturday, August 04, 2001

Work in Progress


Continuation of Chapter One


In the previous installments (see previous posts or Archives), we discussed the Seven Traits you need to find in looking for lawyer who will defend you in your case. Thereafter, we discussed the issue of the size of the law firm you are getting. We reiterated that the Seven Traits are still the primary consideration. Law firm sizes, however, have their own inherent advantages that may be considered in finding the right lawyer. We are now ready to discuss one of the two other special considerations in choosing a lawyer: the professional fees.

No Standard Fee Structure
Did you ever wonder why lawyers do not have common fee structures? Some charge by the hour, some request for acceptance fees and bill per court appearance, others bill by contingency in terms of percentage of the award. The worst kind bills all. The reason is there is no such thing as a standard fee structure. Everything is relative to the lawyer. So a lawyer can charge you a million bucks for the same work for which another will charge you only Php 10,000. This is so because the lawyer's primary inventory (if you, for example, treat his business as a store) is her time.

Time: The lawyer's most valuable resource
Time is the most valuable resource that a lawyer needs for your case. If she has a lot of it, then the cost for you to acquire her services may be cheaper than another who has less. In addition, how a lawyer values her time is relative to her own personal values and economic targets. If you are coming to her with a work that will require her to leave her family for a month, she might turn you down even if you offer her millions. If you have a single lawyer, however, then you might be able to get her to do the job at half the price. This is also the reason why we said earlier that small law firms do not necessarily charge low rates. Small law firms may have chosen to stay small because the big clients have already bought all of their time. So if you come to them for work, they might charge you a lot higher as they have to make time for you and bump off another high paying client. In Manila, big law firms have priced their services based on the man-hours spent on the job. Yet, the man-hours rates are not the same. Some law firms charge rates of partners equivalent to the rates of associates in other law firms (how these law firms do it is a wonder of law firm management). Moreover, standard man-hour rates, do not prevent the big law firms from discounting or putting a premium on their fees. If, for instance, you come to them during the off peak season (which is usually December to February), you might be able to request for a discount on the fees as the demand for the lawyer's time are not strong. In the same manner, however, if you come to them during peak season (sometime in July and August), it will be difficult to get that discount.

Haggling strategy
Given the understanding that lawyers charge on how much they value their time, you can be assured that a strategy to acquire an optimum price for the services of your lawyer should be built around your assessment on the availability of your lawyer's time and the amount of time your case will consume. Difficult cases cost a lot because they take a lot of time to solve. Simple cases cost less as they don't eat too much time. Yet, bear in mind, that that's just one side of the equation. If there is a high demand for your lawyer's time, then you can be assured there will be a premium on the fees that she will charge you. Then, again if your lawyer's time is not in demand, should you be considering her in the first place?

Other considerations: More Business
There are other factors that affect the costs of legal services. The cost of overhead of your lawyer's office, for example, is one of these factors. The impact of this factor, however, is not as great as compared to the impact of time. Yet, one other factor that can have a potential impact in the lawyer's fees is the potential of the case to open more business for the lawyers. If the lawyers can see that your suit will, for instance, project her in the public eye as an expert in a field of law and trigger a bee line to her office, then you can expect that she can be more forgiving in her fees. In the same manner, if your lawyer knows that you will have more legal problems and will need her services regularly, you can surely request for a discount. In the office, I have often remarked that the ideal client can best be described in two P's: Paying and Perpetually in trouble. Paying -- because, of course, this is a profession. Perpetually in trouble -- because that means the business will not end in one case. (Ah! My kids' education is assured who needs pre-need plans?)

To be continued
Next Edition: Cases that You Should Offer Only to the Experts
Copyright 2001 All rights reserved.

Friday, August 03, 2001

The Search Button is Now On

For our new visitors, you may check out what we have been discussing lately by typing a query on the search button at the bottom of this page. The search is powered by The scope of our site is Philippine law and lawyers. Looking at the future, we see posts on Philippine labor, telecommunications, commercial and family law as frequent topics. Come back once in a while to see if we have something on your field of interest.
Noted Bulletin Board Post

We were wandering around the National Power Corporation (NPC) Building in Roxas Blvd., Manila waiting for our case to be called (the NPC Bldg. houses some branches of the Manila Regional Trial Court), when we chanced upon this management maxim from the Secretary of Energy (now Secretary of Finance) Lito Camacho posted on the bulletin board.

Five S's of Management from the Secretary

The needed from the not needed
A place for everything and everything in its place
Always ready for inspection
Common methods for common tasks
Constant improvement and maintenance

It's so amusing to find that the five S's are perfectly in sync with the management tasks of a lawyer. When we started practicing law in 1996, everything appeared to be simple: not that much paper to manage, tasks are always novel, and our legal knowledge was state of the art. Yet, after five years of practice, a lot of administrative issues have come up --i.e., what do we do with the tons of files? Is there a faster way to draft a deed of sale?To help us deal with them, we studied the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The book gave us some insights -- i.e., first things first, deal with the important and not urgent so they won't become urgent and important. Our problem of paper management, however, remains unsolved. But Sec. Camacho's Five S's appear to offer us some help. I know I've read that stuff somewhere in bits and pieces. But bundled together they make a good battle cry for the weary lawyers and their weary staff.
Noted Rules on Evidence for Electronic Transactions

The Supreme Court released recently the Rules on Evidence for Electronic Transactions. We took time to study the subject, not that we already have our first internet transaction case, but for academic purposes since we don't expect the cases to come in until after the next wave of internet commerce.

We find the most helpful provision in this rule is the one that says that print outs have the same weight and admissibility as soft copies. Prior to the promulgation of the rules, there was no definite rule regarding the admissibility of print outs. There was even one Supreme Court labor case that held that the print out of an email is not admissible as evidence. Considering that soft copies appeared to us, the non-techies, as the primary evidence and the print outs, or so we thought, appeared not much different from the photocopy, lawyers really needed some guidance from the techies in coming up with the guidelines on these matters. Now, the Supreme Court says the print outs and the soft copies are the same, so long as they have the same contents, etc.

We noted, however, that the Rules also provided for notarization online. This looks queer to us because in the offline world when a document is notarized, the notary public is really saying the person appeared before him and acknowledged that the instrument was signed by him in front of the notary etc. If the notarization is online, then the person did not appear before the notary but simply logged on the web. Sometimes, I think we may be taking the internet too far.

But never mind that. The Rules in its entirety is a happy development for Philippine law.

Thursday, August 02, 2001

Legal Dictonary Online Debuts Today

Consistent with our purpose to help non-lawyers understand the law (and the lawyers), we have placed an online legal dictionary from Just click the icon and a window will pop up. Type your query, click the button and you have the answer in seconds. Bear in mind, however, that this is a an American Law dictionary. (Sadly, there is no Filipino equivalent for the moment.) Nevertheless, Philppine legalese is not far out from the its American roots. Thus, the dictionary may come in handy every time your lawyer gives you that legal gobbledygook. Try it. Find out the meaning of "res judicata".

Tuesday, July 31, 2001

This Made Me Laugh

Judge: What are you accused of?
Accused: Your Honor, I am accused of making big money.
Judge (to Prosecutor): Mr. Prosecutor is that a crime?
Prosecutor: Your Honor, he made money half an inch bigger than the real thing!

(From Jokes by Legal Fiction by Ferdinand S. Topacio)
What To Expect When You Are Suing or Being Sued
(Work in Progress)

Continuation of Chapter One


Big Law Firms vs. Small Law Firms vs. Solo Practitioners

In the last discussion (see earlier post), we enumerated seven basic tips in choosing a lawyer when you are suing or being sued. These are as follows: 1. Choose a litigation lawyer; 2. Choose a lawyer who knows how to communicate; 3. Choose a lawyer who has handled a similar case in the past. 4. Choose a lawyer who is accessible; 5. Choose a lawyer who has time for your case; 6. Choose a lawyer you can trust; and, 7. Choose a lawyer you can afford. These qualities are not idealistic. Believe me, they exist. You just have to find the right person.

In choosing lawyers, one of the most common decision points is whether to get a big law firm, a small firm or a solo practitioner. The following will help you navigate through the maze and hopefully get you the right lawyer for the job.

Where you can find them.
In the Philippine legal circle, the lawyers are either practicing with big law firms (about 30 to 100 lawyers), small law firms (more than two but less than 30 lawyers), or alone. In the cities, you can find the law firms. The big ones are mostly in Makati and Ortigas. The small ones are in other parts of Metro Manila. Cebu and Davao have satellite offices of the big firms in Makati. The single practitioners are often found in the provinces. The Lawyer's Review has a listing of law firms and solo practitioners. It includes email, telephone and office addresses. Ask for an appointment and ask them how they categorize their law firms in terms of the above.

It's still the Seven Traits
In shopping for legal service, the ultimate standards are still those seven traits mentioned above. You may have hired a big law firm, but if the lawyer assigned to you happens to miss out on the above traits -- like for example, she's got too much work and is not easy to access, then your illusions of having a top gun law firm is nothing. Thus, in the primary consideration is still the above seven traits, big firm or small firm.

The Edge of the Big Law Firms
The distinction between big and small firms is, however, relevant when you consider the expanse of your legal requirements. Big law firms normally have an expert on every legal aspect of litigation. If your case involves an intricate web of estate, corporate, criminal and civil issues that also involves appearing before different courts, the big law firms may have better resources to help you. They have more lawyers who can be pulled into the team even just for advice when litigation begins to thread on unfamiliar grounds. However, if your case involves a simple violation of bouncing checks law, hiring a big law firm may be inappropriate.

The Edge of the Small Law Firms

If you are the type who likes to work with people they can be friends with, the small law firms are likely for you. Small law firms have more time to be personable with their clients. The premise is small law firms have a smaller client base, though not necessarily smaller revenues. Thus, they have more time for customer relations. You call them after office hours for a drink, they'd be there for you. Moreover, they would not mind you calling late since their schedules are not as structured as the lawyers in the big firms. However, the impression that they will charge less as against big law firms is not a generalization that can be made easily. We will discuss this later on this chapter. But for the moment, disengage your minds from the idea that a small law firm will charge you less than big law firm for the same work. It is not the case.

Outside the Metropolis
If you have to litigate outside Metro Manila, you may wish to consider the local lawyers instead of bringing in your lawyers from the firms. To begin with, city lawyers will charge you for the travel expenses that can amount to a lot. You save on that with local lawyers. Second, local lawyers are more familiar with how things work in their courts. They know what makes the judge and his staff tick. This will come in handy in situations when distance is a disadvantage -- e.g. a TRO on its way to your doorstep and you don't even know it. But be sure to ask around for the local superstars. There are a lot of good practitioners in the provinces. You will be surprised. However, if you cannot find the seven traits in any of the local lawyers, go for your trusted big law firm lawyers. Your savings will amount to nothing, if you lose your case anyway.

Appellate Proceedings
In appellate proceedings, I believe the law firms have the edge as against the sole practitioner. The big law firms usually assign three lawyers to work on the case. The junior associate does most of the legwork. The senior associate is the operator -- the lawyer who can work on your case from the research to the proofreading of the final pleadings. The partner is the strategist, the man with the sage advice and the person who polishes the final product. Thus, the chances of error are minimized as more lawyers get a chance to review the pleading before it is filed. Thus, the bigger the law firm, the bigger the expectation for the firm to come up with good and well-researched pleadings. This will then enhance your chance of making it on appeal.

(To be continued)
Next edition: Haggling on the fees

Monday, July 30, 2001


by Marvin B. Aceron and Ces L. Aceron

Some accomplish it haphazardly, while others fill out the blanks with careful attention to detail. Either way, filling out a birth certificate form for a newborn is an experience most parents don't really recall much about or even bother to mention over coffee breaks. Let's face it, it's routine, and downright uneventful. But here's a question for you, if it isn't something somebody would bother getting a souvenir photograph about, why do some people spend thousands of pesos rectifying some infinitesimal discrepancies in their own birth records today? (And they're not even the thugs we'd think them to be, but quite ordinary folks.) It's because the birth certificate remains to be one of the most important legal documents of a person. In this regard, we here are some tips in accomplishing your child's birth certificate. We sincerely hope this information will prove handy in avoiding future legal problems.

1. Avoid long and complicated names. If you decide to give your child more than two names --say, Jose Amado Francisco -- chances are he will drop one or two of them in the future. Once this happens, the discrepancies in his records will arise. It may then be difficult and expensive to straighten the discrepancies by that time. Thus, long names are not advisable. As for complicated names, your child might be able to spell them correctly, but others will not be as careful. Take Marvin for example. When he applied to take the bar exams, his first name "Eldrige" was mis-spelled as "Eldridge" by the bar confidante. It was just a few weeks before the bar, and he had to take the trouble of explaining the discrepancy to the authority or face the prospects of not being able to take the bar at all. (Take note that while Eldrige is not even that complicated, people have already been having trouble spelling it ever since he was a kid.)

2. Accomplish the birth certificate form as soon as possible. Have it in your mental list of things to do after delivery (somewhere between announcing the news to friends and settling hospital bills). You see, the danger in not securing the birth certificate as early as possible is that it might be forgotten altogether. Take the case of former presidential candidate Mayor Fred Lim. He was already a law graduate when his birth certificate was secured, not to mention he also had to do it himself. Worse, he was accused of falsifying his birth certificate to hide his ancestry. This could have been avoided if the birth certificate forms were accomplished earlier on by his guardians.In some hospitals, accomplishing the birth certificate form is part of the routine services they provide. However, if the mother gives birth out of the hospital or in a hospital that does not provide this service, the responsibility of accomplishing the birth certificate forms rests solely on the parents. It should be done immediately.

3. Make sure all the details in the birth certificate are accurate. Keep in mind that the birth certificate should state true facts. Any false statement in the document is likely to lead to trouble for the kid, not to mention criminal responsibility for the parent who filled out the form --you can be charged with perjury. Asi Taulava, the basketball player, was deported because his Filipina mother's birthplace (which is Samar) was indicated as Tonga in his birth certificate. Thanks to his lawyers (which happens to be the law firm where Marvin works for) he is back playing in the Philippine Basketball Association, but not after so much trouble and expense. The same kind of problem will be faced by all the illegitimate children who were registered as legitimate by their unwed mothers. The birth certificate is only a record of the details about your child. It is not meant to correct deficiencies in life, so be true.

4. Proofread the birth certificate at least five times before it is signed. This is the key to most of the problems in the birth certificate. Unfortunately, when it is realized, it is too late. The birth certificate should be read over and over until the document is perfect. Check if the inputs are correctly spelled. Look for the missing letters, the wayward commas, the excess periods, etc. A missing letter or an extra one can cause you thousands of pesos in legal expenses in the future. If your find errors before the form is signed, demand that the form be re-typed. Never mind if the typist is nasty. There is no compromise to perfection in these kinds of documents.

5. Stick to what is written on the birth certificate. The only way to change the details in the birth certificate is through a legal proceeding: administrative or judicail -- either way it is cumbersome) . If there are mistakes to be corrected, if should be done as early as possible before more complications arise. Otherwise, the details in the birth certificate should be used consistently in all of your child's legal papers. The same details should appear in his school records, passport, visa applications, medical records, applications to take board exams, insurance and the like. Any discrepancy can be the source of legal trouble.

6. Keep extra certified true copies of the birth certificate. The original copy of the birth certificate will be kept by the Register of Deeds. You should however keep your own copy. But not just any photocopy. You should ask for copies which the Civil Register will certify as true copies. As long as they are certified, they will be treated like the original by all institutions which will require them from your child. Keep at least ten copies in your files to avoid going back to the Civil Registry more often than you like. An immediate need for you would be in claiming the SSS/GSIS maternity benefit. As for your kid, for starters, he will be needing them when you begin applying him in schools, or in signing him up for sports competitions where there are age requirements.

So the moment that seemingly inconsequential piece of paper is shoved into your hand, don't fill it out in haste. Sit down. Think carefully. Remember, it shouldn't have to take the pressure of some board exam or election requirement to shake you into realizing that the birth certificate is indeed a serious document.

Originally published in Ginsgersnaps Magazine

Sunday, July 29, 2001

Noted Decision of the Philippine Supreme Court

The Philippine Supreme Court recently released a ruling (OFW v. Comelec et al. and Bayan Muna v. Comelec et. al. June 26, 2001) that the Philippine style party list system is open only for the marginalized sectors of society such as labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals. The decision clarified the concept created under the 1987 Constitution where people could vote for parties and not personalities. The system was supposed to make 20% of the Philippine Congress to be composed by these underrepresented sectors of Philippine society. The Philippine elite messed it all up when it succeeded in lobbying the Congress and Comelec to allow any organization or party to run for elections regardless of the status of the lives of their members. Thus, in the last Congress even a bloc of rich coconut landowners managed to get a seat. My goodness! At least, the decision has settled the matter and has put back in place one of the notable legacies of the 1986 Philippine EDSA Revolution. An excerpt of the decision goes like this,

"The import of the open party-list system may be more vividly understood when compared to a student dormitory “open house,” which by its nature allows outsiders to enter the facilities. Obviously, the “open house” is for the benefit of outsiders only, not the dormers themselves who can enter the dormitory even without such special privilege. In the same vein, the open party-list system is only for the “outsiders” who cannot get elected through regular elections otherwise; it is not for the non-marginalized or overrepresented who already fill the ranks of Congress."

The complete text is found at the Supreme Court website.

Prof. Doug Linder's Famous Trials
This site packs solid famous trials material fit for an encyclodedia. It discusses at least 24 famous trials including the Amistad trials, the OJ Simpson Trial, the three trials of Oscar Wilde and the Scopes "Monkey" Trial among others. The Amistad trial discussion alone is a great companion to the 1997 Steven Spielberg film. Prof. Doug Linder, a law professor from the University of Misouri Kansis City Law School, packs the site with pictures, stenographic notes, decisions, short biographies of the personalities involved, and the really engaging opening and closing arguments. I found myself going back to this site over and over again and until now I haven't finished it because Prof. Doug LInder continues to update with new famous trials write ups. A must read for any legal eagle.

Friday, July 27, 2001

(Work in Progress)


Chapter One


Somebody once said that choosing a lawyer is like choosing a gun. You get the big long AK-47s for big battles where the stakes are high and the caliber .38 for those of lesser scale where small is efficient. The comparison is quite accurate. I say "quite" because there are notable exceptions. Sometimes you may need a bazooka for the small case that has the potential of escalating to a big case. Besides, not everyone can have the luxury of having a collection of lawyers in her arsenal. Yet, the comparison emphasizes the most important consideration in choosing a lawyer: you must have the right lawyer for the job. But how do you know if you have the lawyer for the job? Here are seven basic traits that I think are important in choosing a lawyer when you're suing or being sued.

1. To begin with, you need a litigation lawyer. A litigation lawyer is one whose work is at least 80% devoted to courtroom cases. I say 80% because that means the lawyer is almost, if not totally, immersed in the litigation environment. These are the lawyers with contacts with stenographers, sheriffs, legal researchers, clerks of court, and even policemen -- the small guys who do the real work and make the case progress. It can make a lot of difference if your lawyer knows these small people.

In addition, you have to realize that litigation work is not taught in law schools. Law schools teach only laws and procedures but not technique. Technique is the key to making a case progress to victory. It involves getting the right manner of drafting pleadings, asking questions, arguing in court, in order that the judge will rule in your favor. A lawyer, even the bar topnotcher or law school valedictorian, will never learn technique unless he is immersed in litigation.

More importantly, litigation lawyers can deal with judges. A lot of judges have idiosyncrasies that need to be tolerated. Litigation lawyers who are used to that can handle situations with these judges better than non-litigation lawyers. They are less jittery, if at all, even in the face of the most obnoxious judge. So don't take chances on a corporate lawyer, get a litigation lawyer.

2. Your lawyer should know how to communicate. Litigation is all about persuasion. Persuasion rests on the skill of communication. If your lawyer can't speak or write well, he is no good. Watch her English. If her P's and F's are misplaced, get another. Ask her opinion, if you do not understand what she said. Get another. If she is able to convince you, chances are she can convince the judge. Get her.

3. Get a litigation lawyer who has handled a similar case in the past. It only takes one case to make a field of law an area of competence. Five cases of the same nature can make a master. If your lawyer has handled a similar case in the past your lawyer is familiar with the horizon surrounding your legal conflict and will be less likely to commit technical errors. She is a prized possession.

4. Your lawyer should be accessible. You should be able to see her when you need to. She should be able to respond to your phone calls and emails. The best is someone who works next door. The nearer her office is to your office, the better. Sometimes, cases can be as terrifying as a policeman knocking at your door with a warrant of arrest. Your lawyer should be reachable during such critical times.

5. Your lawyer should have time for you and your case. Your lawyer should not be too busy with other work. Otherwise, she is bound to neglect your case. Ensure that your lawyer is not taking more work than she can handle. Beware of the overworked lawyer. Their type get burned out and lose their passion for their work. They are more prone to commit mistakes because they do things in a rush. Your lawyer should only have enough in her hands a given time. If you think that se has more work than she can handle, go find another.

6. Your lawyer should be someone you can trust. Beware of lawyers who volunteer connections to broker deals with judges before they can even discuss the merits of the case. They will hit you big time and you will end up with a losing the case. Remember, even if you succeed in bribing judges, the justice system is bound to get you somewhere along the judicial hierarchy. If you have an awfully bad case, you are bound to lose no matter what. So don't trust lawyers whose primary practice is influence peddling.

7. Your lawyer should be someone you can afford. Do not get indebted to a lawyer. Your lawyer will not hesitate to drop you if you get into a situation that you are not able to pay her and she knows when to do it There are expensive lawyers and there are free lawyers. The quality of service is not necessarily linked with the price. Get someone you can afford so you will not get indebted.

(To be continued) Copyright 2001. MBAceron. All rights reserved.
Next edition: Big law firms vs. Small law firms v. Solo Practitioners

Monday, July 23, 2001


We found the idea whose time has come. We want a website that will help non-lawyers understand the law and the lawyers. .We will post articles on the law and the lawyers. We will include jokes, links, comments and pictures from our unique perspective as a member of the much maligned profession of law. Visit us once in a while. It will be informative and fun.