UP College of Law

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A Brief History of the Law School

The Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines formally approved the establishment of the College of Law on January 12, 1911.

The College, however, traces its beginnings to the law courses opened in 1910 by the Educational Department Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), through the efforts of George A. Malcolm who was later to become the first permanent dean of the College. In June 1911, the College was formally opened with first and second year classes. There was a total of 125 students comprising freshmen and sophomores, the latter numbering fifty when they started the YMCA school. Of this first law class, one became a President of the Philippines, another, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, while several others became legislators and legal luminaries.

UP College of Law

The faculty was at first predominantly American, but the faculty profile changed when the American teachers were supplanted by Filipinos. Sherman Moreland, Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, was Acting Dean from July 1 to October 11, 1911; George Malcolm was Secretary and subsequently Dean until 1917 when he was elevated to the Supreme Court. Jorge C. Bocobo, a member of the 1911 faculty, succeeded Dean Malcolm and became the first Filipino dean of the College. He held that position until 1934.

In the early years of the College, classes were held after five o’clock in the afternoon because most of the students held some employment during the day. The College offered a three-year course for students devoting full time to their studies in the College and a four-year course for students who were employed. Commencing with the school year 1917-1918, the four-year course was prescribed for all students.

By its twenty-fifth year, the enrollment in the College of Law totaled 547 students and the faculty was composed of eight full-time and nine part-time members. A graduate program leading to the Master of Laws degree had been established; two earned the degree in 1918. Classes were then held in Palma Hall on the Padre Faura Campus in Manila and the greater number of students attended day classes. Evening classes were maintained for students who were employed during the day.

Dean Jose A. Espiritu was appointed in 1934 to succeed Dean Bocobo. Upon the outbreak of the war in 1941, the College was closed and classes did not resume until August of 1945. Returning from a brief stint in the Supreme Court, Dean Espiritu commenced the difficult task of rehabilitating the College.

In December 1948, with the transfer of the main campus of the University of the Philippines to Diliman, Quezon City, the College was assigned first an army hut, and later, a three-storey building named Malcolm Hall after its founder and first permanent dean.

Dean Espiritu retired in 1953 and was succeeded by Dean Vicente G. Sinco. Dean Sinco was appointed President of the University in 1958 and Judge Vicente Abad Santos, a former member of the law faculty, became dean. Dean Abad Santos held the deanship until 1969. Prof. Perfecto V. Fernandez was appointed Officer-in-Charge of the College about a year until Dr. Irene R. Cortes was appointed in 1970. Thus, she became the first woman to hold the position. In April 1978, Dr. Froilan M. Bacungan, then the Director of the Law Center, succeeded to the deanship. In October 1983, Prof. Bartolome S. Carale was appointed Dean of the College and served until April 1989. The College of Law and the Law Complex subsequently underwent a process of reorganization, and a new dean was not appointed until after its completion. Dr. Pacifico A. Agabin was appointed dean in October 1989 and served until October 1995 when Prof. Merlin M. Magallona became the tenth dean of the College. In August 1999, Dr. Raul C. Pangalangan was appointed dean of the College until his second term ended in September 2005. Prof. Salvador T. Carlota is the twelfth and current Dean of the College. He was appointed to the position in October, 2005.

Nine decades since its founding, the College of Law can point to its alumni in the highest positions of the government. Four became President of the Philippines: Jose P. Laurel Sr., Manuel A. Roxas, Elpidio R. Quirino, and Ferdinand E. Marcos. Twelve served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Ricardo M. Paras, Jose Y. Yulo, Cesar C. Bengzon, Querube C. Makalintal, Fred Ruiz Castro, Enrique M. Fernando, Felix V. Makasiar, Ramon C. Aquino, Pedro L. Yap, Marcelo B. Fernan, Hilario G. Davide, Jr. and the incumbent, Reynato S. Puno. A sizeable percentage of the former and incumbent senators and members of the House of Representatives are also graduates of the College. Two College of Law alumni became President of the University of the Philippines: Vicente G. Sinco and Edgardo J. Angara. Many more of its graduates are prominent law practitioners, high officials in government service, political leaders, as well as pioneers in private enterprises.

Purpose and Functions of the Law School

The University of the Philippines College of Law is an institution acknowledged for its continuing commitment to academic excellence and service to the public. This recognition is the product of an ongoing effort to transform itself so that it can be a catalyst for change in our legal institutions.

The transformation of the College has been from a professional school to a law complex with a triad of functions: 1) instruction, 2) research, and 3) extension service. The change has its bases in that the College is an institution maintained by the people, and it must serve the people by being responsive to the growing legal and other law-related needs of all Filipinos.

Thus, the legal mandate for the Law Complex spells out its role as a resource for the legal development of the nation:

“The U.P. Law Complex as an integrated system of national legal institutions within the University of the Philippines shall be dedicated to teaching, research, training, information, and legal extension service to ensure a just society. It shall always be responsive to the challenges of social change, and shall be relevant to the growing legal and other law-related needs of the Filipino people.” (1021st Meeting of U.P. Board of Regents, May 29, 1989). The Law Center was integrated into the College in the reorganization approved by the Board of Regents in 1989.

The objectives of the College (including the Law Center) have been restated thus:

1. To discover and transmit knowledge of the law so as to achieve distributive justice for all.

2. To train students for the practice of law, instilling in them the ethical responsibilities of the legal profession and the social responsibility to work for the attainment of a just and humane society.

3. To contribute to the improvement of the legal system and the quality administration of the system of justice in our society for the full protection of human rights.

4. To train lawyers for leadership that is innovative and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the Filipino people.

5. To develop a new level of legal education with a view to enhancing knowledge of the law on the part of the citizenry, and as part of general education.

The purpose is to produce lawyers who are not only superior legal craftsmen but also socially conscious leaders who will promote the public interest above that of individual clients and pressure groups. This can be achieved only by viewing the law as part of the social process and by studying it in relation to related social services and disciplines.

The Law Center is composed of 4 institutes created in 1989, namely:

1. Institute of Government and Law Reform (IGLR)
2. Institute of Human Rights (IHR)
3. Institute of International Legal Studies (IILS)
4. Institute for Administration of Justice (IAJ)


Law Complex Trunkline: 9205514

Administrative Office: 4349528

College of Law

Dean's Office: 89296785 /89270518 or 89205514 local 102
College Sec: 89277180 or 89205514 local 103
Library: 89205514 local 500
General Services: 89205514 local 203 (Tito)/ 108 (PJ)
Office of Legal Aid: 89205514 local 106
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