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 The Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development (Salonga Center) was formally launched by the Silliman University College of Law on August 26, 2006. The Silliman University president and the Board of Trustees attended the event.

The Salonga Center is headed by its Director, Atty. Mikhail L. Maxino, a faculty member of the Silliman University College of Law. He also coordinates the functions and programs of the Environmental Law Desk which is one of the three areas under the Salonga Center. The other two areas are the Social Justice and Human Rights Desk and the Labor Law Desk.

The Salonga Center is administratively under a body composed of the Dean and Faculty of the College of Law, with the Dean acting as the convenor. The Director of the Salonga Center is an ex-officio member of the said body. This body is directly under the Office of the President of the university.

091606_3_tThe Salonga Center has already made significant contributions on legal development. On September 16, 2006, the Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Honorable Artemio V. Panganiban delivered the Salonga Center’s Inaugural Lecture entitled “Access to Justice” at the Luce Auditorium. In his lecture, the Chief Justice discussed the overall directions of the Philippine Supreme Court in the years to come.

The law student volunteers and the faculty director of the Salonga Center offers free lectures and training sessions in barangays and municipalities in Negros Oriental. The Salonga Center labeled this community service project “PAHINUNGOD”, a profound Cebuano all-encompassing term which refers to and embraces the Filipino values and concepts of respect, reverence, courtesy, permission, gift, offering, etc.

The Silliman University College of Law aims to teach law with a conscience. This is the kind of law that will eventually transform our society into a just, compassionate, and prosperous society.

To achieve this goal, the College of Law has embarked on strengthening and expanding its current programs, namely the Free Legal Counseling program, the Legal Environmental Advocacy Program (LEAP), and its field exposure programs, through the Salonga Center. Three (3) core elements guide the Salonga Center in its programs and operations:

  1. Legal Education & Training
  2. Legal Advocacy
  3. Research

The Salonga Center uses an interdisciplinary approach to make these elements operational — combining

the faculty, staff, and students from different fields of the academe to study and apply the law in pursuit of a better society. This approach supplements and enriches the teaching of law with an interdisciplinary study and research of law, and legal service to the people through free legal representation and assistance, paralegal training to law enforcers and local community leaders and volunteers.

The Salonga Center pioneered in what it calls “Transformative Law” – the study and application of law to transform society, shape policies through advocacy, legal education, research, training, and service learning. Transformative law will bring the law beyond the courts and the classrooms to the barrios, barangays, the local government units, the policy makers, and national and local legislators.

Each program category of the Salonga Center is designed to be flexible, incorporating different themes and advocacies. The programs, themes, and advocacies are widely disseminated through assertive development-oriented information campaigns, with the objective of increasing awareness and participation of rural communities in national issues. Interdisciplinary teams visit local communities to conduct lectures, trainings, and seminars, as well as gather information on the community’s feedback to the information being disseminated.

As part of an effort to affect the immediate university community, as well as the university town of Dumaguete City, the Salonga Center organizes events geared towards stimulating discourse and participation in different issues affecting today’s society. The programs serve as an outreach to both the students and the general public.

The Salonga Center deals with a range of issues affecting today’s society, such as environmental degradation, crime, poverty, the violation of human rights, labor and agrarian issues, and the effect of globalization on local development. The Salonga Center believes that pursuing and promoting equitable solutions to the challenges posed by these issues is the key to directing the social, political, and economic forces that influence Philippine development in the new millennium.

Below is a list of some of the specific research interests of the Salonga Center:

  1. The creation of special courts to handle violations of traffic rules, ordinances and other small claims. Compare this concept with the concept of People’s Courts in the United States. Should these special courts be under the local government units instead of the judiciary so they need not be bound by the rigid rules of evidence? Penalties may include fines and in serious cases, confiscation of the instruments.
  2. Revisit the developmental programs of the government, such as agrarian reform, Filipinization program, etc. to determine if these have promoted economic and social development. Utilize comparative research to study similar issues and programs in other countries, and using this information to enhance Philippine development.
  3. “Shepardize” Philippine law and jurisprudence. Considering the magnitude of the undertaking, this remains just a dream project.

What does “shepardize” mean? Try to imagine the impact of the hundreds of thousands, even millions of cases (do we know exactly how many Supreme Court and appellate decisions have been made?) decided in this country. Because the principle of stare decisis (to adhere to or abide by past decisions) forms the basis for our legal system, every legal decision has potential precedential value. For example, some cases are followed as precedent; i.e., they are “good law, “while others can no longer be used to support future decisions and are considered “bad law.” Those in the legal system (judges, lawyers, legal scholars and researchers, students, etc.) must be aware of both types of decisions. Yet how could we possibly remember — or even find out — what happened to each and every case?

Thanks to Frank Shepard, that is not necessary. In the early 1870’s, he devised a method for tracking the discussion of principles of law in court opinions, and also tracking the history of these opinions, and compiled this legal information in what is now known as Shepard’s Citations. Shepard’s Citations allows a legal practitioner or researcher to:

  1. Determine whether her case has continued precedential value through the history letters assigned by the company’s legal editors;
  2. Evaluate and analyze significant decisions by reference to treatment letters, which indicate what other judges have written about her case; and
  3. Trace the discussion of specific points of law or fact through the use of headnote numbers.

It is unfortunate that unlike U.S. jurisprudence and laws, Philippine cases and laws have not been “shepardized”. Hence, it is difficult for judges, lawyers, legal practitioners, scholars, and researchers to know the status and precedential value of a case or statute. We have to rely on memory or a tedious and time-consuming procedure of checking out the case or law. “Shepardizing’ Philippine law and jurisprudence would certainly speed up the entire legal and judicial system and processes.

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