Saturday, March 24, 2007

An Open Letter to Chief Justice Puno

I'm publishing here an open letter I found in the online version of a national newspaper, I hope this somewhat helps a little in trying to circulate this.


The Philippine STAR 03/17/2007

Hon. REYNATO PUNO
Chief Justice
Supreme Court
Manila

Subject: SOME PROPOSED REFORMS IN THE IBP
(National and Local Levels)

M a b u h a y:

Peace!

As part of your efforts to reform the Bar, may I humbly submit some suggestions based on my past 12-year pro bono service and experience as a director and officer of the IBP PPLM Chapter from 1995 to 2007 and as the Founder in 2001 of the Las Pinas City Bar Association (LPBA), Inc.:

Sec. 5, Art. I (pro bono/honorary service) of the IBP By-Laws should be religiously observed by all IBP chapter officers and directors and by the IBP national-level officers and governors.

Some local chapters were reportedly using a part of their local chapter funds to finance the IBP-related traveling, hotel, meals and representation expenses of their officers and directors, e.g. national conventions, regional conventions, and the like.

The above issue is worth serious study and research by your planning staff and/or by the proper working committee/s of the Supreme Court with jurisdiction over Bar to preserve the letter and spirit of the IBP By-Laws on the matter and to avoid the unnecessary dissipation of IBP national and chapter funds, which funds should be judiciously used to implement truly meaningful IBP national and local programs and projects for the good of the Filipino lawyers and the Philippine Justice System.

The Commission on Audit (COA) should annually audit not only the IBP national office but also all the local IBP chapters nationwide.

If I am not mistaken, at present, the audit focus of COA seems to be limited to the national legal aid fund remittances of the Supreme Court to the IBP national office.

If to audit the local chapters would be an impossible task due to the lack of COA field auditors, it may conduct selective sample audits of local chapters, per province and region, whose assets amount to at least P100,000.00.

(Note: The COA should examine the unliquidated cash advances at the IBP national and local levels).

The local chapter treasurers and auditors should submit to the local chapter boards, the IBP national board, the Office of the Chief Justice, and the COA regional offices copies of their internally audited annual financial statements to insure the judicious utilization of chapter assets and to detect early signs of financial abuse, anomalies, and corruption.

The audited annual financial statements of the IBP national board should be published not only in the IBP Newsletter, whose internal circulation is very limited, but also in at least two (2) national newspapers.

In my 12-year pro bono service in the IBP, I recall that the IBP audited annual financial statements were published in the IBP Newsletter only twice, and that was many years ago yet.

The Supreme Court should create a special and permanent office within its structure to supervise, monitor and guide the operations, funds, reports, activities, and plans of the IBP national board and the IBP local chapters, pursuant to the express constitutional duty of the Supreme Court to control, supervise, regulate, and discipline the Philippine Bar.

Further, the audited annual financial statements of the IBP national board and the IBP local chapters should be posted on the IBP website (www.ibp.org.ph).

The Supreme Court website should contain a link to the IBP website for the said purpose and in relation to other Bar-related matters.

The powers, capacities, and significance of the IBP House of Delegates should be developed, strengthened, and respected by the IBP national board.

I reiterate my past letter, dated December 4, 2006, to the IBP national president, Atty. Jose Victor Salazar, on the above topic, a copy of which I had previously furnished your good office. Nonetheless, I quote the same extensively hereinbelow, for reference: x x x
May I suggest the following in re: the holding and management of future annual sessions of the august IBP House of Delegates:

After the evening opening ceremonies on the 1st day, the entirety of the next day (2nd day) and of the 3rd day of the House of Delegates should be focused on pure DELIBERATIONS, not lectures and speeches.

The 17th House spent only 2 hours on deliberations (10 AM to 12 PM on the 3rd day). By then, many had gone home early to their respective chapters, trying to beat their plane schedules in Manila.

Only one keynote speech should be allowed during the opening ceremonies.

The entire event should be devoted to pure and focused deliberations of the resolutions, motions and ideas of the delegates from the chapters throughout the country.

The House is not an MCLE venue or a class seminar but a full-blown DELIBERATIVE BODY of the IBP as enunciated in its By-Laws.

We should grasp the rare opportunity of full and open deliberations by the House of all issues raised by the delegates that affect the IBP, the legal profession, the rule of law, the justice system, the legal education, and the state of the nation and of the world.

The House is the Congress of the 40,000-strong IBP lawyer population.

Let its DELIBERATIVE NATURE be optimized to the fullest for the good of the IBP and the legal profession.

It is best to conduct a professional pre-House SURVEY among the chapters and regions to identify the vital issues the chapters might wish to raise in the next House and to measure the degree of their knowledge and attitudes towards such vital issues.

From among the many vital issues, the Board should focus on the top five (5) vital issues for plenary workshop and deliberation purposes.

Let us professionalize the preparation, planning and management of the House, especially in re: its substantive, qualitative and deliberative content.

The report of the House should be published in two (2) national dailies and circulated among the mass media nationwide.

The Board should budget funds for the purpose.

Let the general public know our vital resolutions and ideas.

It is not enough to publish the abstract of the House in the IBP Newsletter, whose internal circulation is very limited.

The IBP should sponsor the law deans in the country, the presidents of the law student councils in the country, the heads of selected top law NGOs in the country, and the presidents of the judges associations, court personnel associations, a representative each from the National Press Club, the JUCRA and the JUROR (judicial mass media), a JBC representative, a CA and a SC representative, a representative from the law and justice committees of both houses of Congress, a representative from the DOJ, a representative from the Ombudsman, and a representative from Malacanang Palace to attend the House as non-delegates and observers, free of charge, with the power to participate in the deliberations but without the power to vote.

We need their academic and objective feedback and ideas to protect the House from the genetic danger of intellectual inbreeding, so to speak.

The delegates should be asked to evaluate (using a professionally prepared form) the House proceedings before each adjournment.

The goal is to improve future House sessions.

Let us avoid unwholesome official nocturnal activities, which border on sexual misconduct and alcoholism, just as what had happened on the 2nd night of the 17th House, as reported to me by some delegates who were present during the Viewsite nocturnal activities on the 2nd night. (I left after dinner to rest early and avoid such things).

Let us behave, as members of the noblest profession, with dignity, maturity, seriousness, deep and analytical thoughts, and wisdom.

The aforementioned actions of the delegates of the 17th House in the said restaurant in Tagaytay City I am sure have and would spread among the people of Cavite, thru the waiters and personnel of the restaurant and other non-IBP guests then present at the site who had observed the behavior and sex and booze-oriented nocturnal activities the 17th House during the 2nd night thereof.

I suggest you refer this letter to the IBP Board and national secretariat officers for their consideration.

I hope you and the IBP Board will not mind if I fax a copy hereof to the SC Chief Justice, for his information.

All of the foregoing suggestions are being made in good faith for the good of the IBP and all its chapters nationwide, as well to truly serve the general good of the legal profession and of the justice system in the country. I have no intention of offending the feelings and dignity of the IBP Board and Secretariat.

May your day be blessed, enlightened and liberated. Thank you. x x x
The Supreme Court should task its existing working committee with jurisdiction over Bar matters or create an ad hoc committee to study and propose amendments and revisions to the current circa-1970s IBP By-Laws and to Rule 139-A (IBP).

The local chapters, interested law NGOs and prominent law schools nationwide should be consulted thereon.

You will recall that in a letter, dated February 28, 2007, I informed you that my office was initiating a mass petition (signature campaign) to amend the IBP By-Laws and Rule 139. May I quote my said letter to you in full: x x x
RE: PETITION TO AMEND RULE 139-A OF THE RULES OF COURT

("INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES") AND THE BY-LAWS OF THE INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES (IBP)

IN RE: THE PROPER RESTRUCTURING AND REDISTRIBUTION OF LOCAL IBP CHAPTERS IN THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION (NCR) AND OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY SIMILARLY SITUATED. x x x
The undersigned members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) respectfully petition your good offices to effect certain proposed amendments to the Rule 139-A of the Rules of Court ("Integrated Bar of the Philippines") and the By-Laws of the IBP as enumerated hereinbelow and to create the appropriate working Committee on Amendments of Rule 139-A and the IBP By-Laws to study the amendments proposed hereinbelow and such other additional amendments that the said Committee may deem proper and necessary to recommend to your good offices, for the good of the Philippine legal profession, to wit:

To constitute all cities within the National Capital Region (NCR) as separate local IBP chapters, regardless of the number of lawyers residing and/or working therein.

For cities with huge lawyer population (such as Quezon City, with a membership of approximately 20,000 lawyers), to constitute each congressional district in such cities as separate local IBP chapters, regardless of the number of lawyers residing and/or working therein.

To transfer the following local IBP Chapters from Southern

Luzon to the NCR:

IBP-Pasay Paranaque Las Pinas Muntinlupa (PPLM) Chapter;

IBP Makati Chapter;

IBP – Caloocan Malabon Navotas (CALMANA) Chapter;

IBP Pasig City Chapter;

Such other local chapters located in the NCR but included in the Southern Luzon Region; and

Such other local chapters (component cities and/or highly urbanized cities) located in other provinces/regions similarly situated above, e.g. Valenzuela City (a component city of the NCR but presently categorized under IBP Central Luzon Region).

To institutionalize at the local chapter level the "automatic assumption rule" provided in the existing IBP By-Laws at the national level, whereby the National IBP Executive Vice-President assumes the National IBP Presidency in the next term.

To adopt the amendments to Rule 139-A and the IBP By-Laws proposed by Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco in his Keynote Speech delivered before the 17th House of Delegates of the IBP on November 30, 2006, a copy of which is already on record at the IBP National Office and the Supreme Court.

It is respectfully suggested that chapter representatives from the different IBP Regions and external consultants from active law NGO’s and prominent law schools in the country be invited to participate in the deliberations of the proposed Committee on Amendments of Rule 139-A and IBP By-Laws.

We respectfully request a feedback from your good offices within a reasonable time from date of receipt hereof for our information and follow-up action. x x x
Knowing your open mind and sincere heart, In the future, I shall regularly communicate with your office to submit further proposals for the good of the Bar and the Justice System, for your study and/or referral to the proper SC working committee/s and the concerned SC research and planning staff.

I shall appreciate it if your good office would refer this letter to the Supreme Court En Banc, for its study and appropriate collegial action.

In closing, if we do not continuously reform and improve the IBP, which is a pillar in the national justice system, the quality and professionalism of the administration of justice in the country would ultimately suffer.

May your day be blessed, happy, and liberated. Thank you.

Sincerely.
Atty. MANUEL J. LASERNA JR., AB, LLB, LLM.
Founder, Las Pinas City Bar Association, 2001
Director, Las Pinas City Bar Association, 2001-07
Vice Pres., IBP PPLM Chapter, 2005-07
Member, Board of Directors, IBP PPLM Chapter, 1995-2007
Professor of Law, FEU, 1985-2006 (ret.)
3rd Place, 1984 Bar Exams, 90.95%
Meralco Scholar, AB Journalism, UP Diliman, 1979
Cocofed Law Scholar, LLB, FEU, cum laude, 1980-84
FEU Law Scholar, LLM, UST GS, 1998-2000

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