“CO-WORKERS in the vineyard of legal education,” said Dean Sedfrey Candelaria pointing to the designation of the 36 Ateneo Law School (ALS) student leaders—comprised of outgoing and incoming Student Council officers, heads of different organizations and class beadles—who attended the annual Jesuit Legal Education Seminar (JLE) held last March 7 to 9, 2014 at the St. Paul Renewal Center in Alfonso, Cavite.
The JLE, as its proponent Dean Candelaria envisions, aims to provide a venue where student leaders, each representing a distinct group of the ALS community, can have a productive discourse with the school administration on fundamental plans, pressing issues, grievances, potential improvements and other matters which directly affect the students. More importantly, the seminar aims to instill formation of the students in producing Atenean lawyers with a sense of unique identity, grounded on Ignatian Spirituality.
The seminar was facilitated by Atty. Tanya Lat, together with Fr. Ismael Jose Chan-Gonzaga III, S.J., Ms. Iya Santiago and Ms. Mhir delos Santos. Dean Candelaria and Associate Dean for Student Affairs Giovanni Vallente were both present to represent the administration.
The first day focused on fortifying the thrust of the Law School’s formation—that is, the “Ignatian Way of Proceeding and Core Values.” In his presentation, Fr. Chan-Gonzaga expressed the ideal embodiment of an Atenean lawyer—one who has “the sharpest of minds but gentlest of hearts.” He also reiterated the Ignatian core value of Magis, which for him is not necessarily excellence, but a value that actually invites people to do better. He recounted how St. Ignatius lived his life, which likewise, Atenean lawyers should try to emulate. That way of living, according to him, is the key distinction separating the Ateneo-educated lawyer from the rest of the legal community.
To serve as witnesses to this way of life, Atty. Filomena Legaspi-Rosales, wife of slain Judge Butch Rosales, as well as faculty members Atty. Joey Hofileña and Atty. Marlon Manuel shared their personal experiences. Atty. Legaspi-Rosales, shared how hard it was for her to accept that her husband was killed for being upright. Nevertheless, she used the tragic event to instill in her kids the passion to do justice for another. “One does not have to become a judge to render justice,” she said. According to her, each of the students can be his or her own judge who should influence others into upholding justice in the society.
Afterwards, Atty. Hofileña opened the young leaders’ minds into recognizing that the world outside of law school is not ideal, because of the presence of corruption. He challenged the students in letting their Atenean identity set them apart from the others, by doing something about that reality and upholding basic honesty and integrity. Atty. Manuel then shared his experiences as a young lawyer and his realizations in making a clear choice—and living that choice. Stressing that the power is in the hands of the participants, he shared that each should decide early on about what they think would work best for them. Remarking on one’s tendency to constantly postpone decisions, Atty. Manuel asserted that, “you will wake up one day and regret that you didn’t make a choice, you didn’t take a step forward.”
The second and third days of the JLE focused on the operations aspect of the Law School. Dean Candelaria, in his State of the Law School Address, laid down his administration’s plans for the incoming school year, as well the changes the students can expect in the months to come. He challenged the student leaders into finding themselves amidst the challenging world of law school and later, in the legal profession. He assured the students that topping the bar is an art mastered by the law school. “What is truly needed is for the students to be proactive in the most pressing of issues, embodying the true Atenean lawyer, the Ignatian Way,” he related.
This was followed with a dialogue among the JLE participants where the various groups identified the points they want to raise with the administration, which likewise, directly concern the student body. Some of the issues raised were the proper publication of rules and policies, concerns on facilities, standardization of subjects per block, and other micro matters concerning operations.
In a sit-down dialogue with Dean Candelaria and Associate Dean Vallente, the concerns and grievances were answered point-by-point, putting priority on the fundamental issues as well as the urgent ones which can be directly addressed. In his closing presentation, the Dean provided a systematic response to the concerns, as well as his suggested solutions to these problems. A productive exchange of ideas ensued between the administration and the student leaders.
To wrap up the event, Fr. Chan-Gonzaga asked the students, “pag dumating ba ang panahon na may kailangang lumaban sa inyo para sa bayan, kaya niyo bang sagutin at manindigan dito?” In conclusion, he proclaimed that an Atenean lawyer is one who can continue to give hope, not for himself, but for the generations to come. “A true Atenean lawyer is a beacon of hope, who are prophets of a future not his own.”
The JLE was capped off by a formal turnover ceremony, wherein outgoing Student Council President Rose Angelique P. Dizon (4D) officially passed on the leadership to newly-elected President Armand Louis T. Dulay (3A). In her farewell address, Dizon expressed her appreciation to the people who helped the student body during the past year.
She thanked the beadles for always taking care of their blocks; the different school organizations for creating avenues for the students to be active; the professors, who continue to inspire their students to excel academically and to be better individuals; Dean Candelaria and Associate Dean for Student Affairs Giovanni Vallente for always being there for the Council; and her fellow SC officers for exceeding her expectations.
In his acceptance speech, Dulay rallied his fellow student leaders to do their best in the coming year and imbibe their realizations from the seminar. “As leaders, we are the ones to build the society (of ALS) next year,” he said.
The participants brought home with them inspiration, as well as motivation, together with a challenge to communicate with their peers, everything they learned from the seminar—with a hope of keeping up with the ideals of the Ateneo system throughout the years.