Monday, February 14, 2011

Ateneo scores in moot court competition

By: Ricardo Romulo

MANILA, Philippines—Any law student expecting to engage in the practice of law in today’s world should be able to reach out beyond the boundaries of the classroom and the country. Every opportunity should be taken to learn from the experiences of fellow law students and lawyers from around the world.

With this in mind, I was very pleased to hear that the Philippines performed very well in the recent World Human Rights Moot Court Competition (WHRMCC) held in Pretoria, South Africa. As a result, I have yielded this space to the first hand account of Fay Irene Gurrea, captain of the victorious team from Ateneo de Manila University School of Law:

Manny Pacquiao is easily remembered as one who ended 2010 with a championship. However, Pacquiao is not the only champion the Filipinos can be proud of.

The oralists before a match
The Ateneo de Manila University School of Law, through the Ateneo Society of International Law, by placing within the Top 3 in the Asian Regional Rounds concluded last October 2010, was bestowed the honor of sending its very first delegation to the WHRMCC held in Pretoria, South Africa. The Philippine-Ateneo Team, composed of Allan Carlo Soller and myself, and coached by lawyers Timothy John Batan and Patrick Simon Perillo, did the country proud by being granted the Overall Best Memorial Award, aside from being the Asian Regional Champion.

Just as Pacquiao jogs, spars and lifts weights to train, in the world of moot court, a team writes pleadings and conducts speech drills to prepare for a tough competition. In this year’s WHRMCC, each team represented both the “Applicant” and “Respondent” parties to a case by presenting written and oral submissions to a panel of judges. This year’s problem was a hypothetical dispute between fictional states relating to issues on the right to liberty, the right against discrimination, and the right to health.

with Judge Ušacka of the ICC
Sponsored by the University of Pretoria Faculty of Law’s Center for Human Rights, with the assistance of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the WHRMCC is a week-long competition wherein students are tested on their knowledge of Human Rights Law. Currently on its second year, the competition provides an opportunity for law students around the world to explore issues of international human rights law in the context of a dispute before the international human rights tribunals.

with Judge Villiger of ECHR
It was a very rewarding experience. We brushed shoulders with leading experts in the field of Human Rights from around the world. Among them were most distinguished Judge Villiger of the European Court of Human Rights, Judge Anita Ušacka of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Judge Florence Ndepele Mumba, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Ms Yanine Poc, the regional representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Southern Africa.

With the Australian oralists,
Naomi and Adrianna, during cocktails
Remarkably, the World Human Rights Competition has grown to include regional competitions in the African, Asian, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Latin American and Caribbean regions. During the awarding ceremony held in the University of Pretoria’s sprawling and beautiful campus, the Philippine-Ateneo team obtained the Asian Regional Championship Award and the Overall Best Memorial Award, with the University of West Indies of Jamaica taking home the Overall Championship Award. The other semi-finalists were Midlands State University of Zimbabwe, University of Mauritius, University of KwaZulu Natal of South Africa, Hidayatullah National Law University of India, University of the Philippines, University of Lucerne of Switzerland, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales of Australia, Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj Napoca of Romania, Vlinius University of Lithuania, Debrecen University of Hungary, Hugh Wooding Law School of Trinidad and Tobago, and the University of Puerto Rico.

At the Aparetheid Museum
A visit to the Philippine Embassy
Aside from the competition, the trip to the Apartheid Museum and the Constitutional Court of South Africa, which the organizing committee arranged for the participants, opened our eyes to the human rights struggle in South Africa. It was an uplifting and empowering experience. At the same time, it was a venue for participants to forge stronger friendships. The exposure to South African culture and dance also paved the way for some fun and laughter.

It was overall a very enriching experience that gave us the opportunity to meet future lawyers from around the world and to engage in discussions on human rights law such as apartheid, among other things. Most of all, we were proud to be able to say that a seemingly small country like the Philippines was able to send two teams to the competition with both placing in the semi-finals. The other team was a composed of a delegation from the University of the Philippines.

The Philippine-Ateneo Team (L-R: Perillo, Gurrea, Soller and Batan)
Indeed, in the world of moot court, Filipinos, taking their cue from the nation’s pride, Manny Pacquiao, will surely be able to do battle with the rest of the world.

Ricardo J. Romulo is a senior partner of Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles.

Published on 21 January 2011 at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, at

Warning:  All photos in this post/article were taken by and/or are the intellectual property of the author.  Unauthorized reproduction and/or distribution is prohibited. All rights reserved.

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