Leaps and bounds


Last Saturday, I conducted a six-hour lecture on Special Commercial Laws at the Legal Edge Bar Review Center attended by aspiring future lawyers. It was my first time to speak on substantial legal topics for hours before curious minds of all ages, including those older than me, yet courageous enough to take the grueling Bar exams this November.

While the subject of my lecture covered a minuscule number of points in the Bar exams, as it traditionally comes out in only two to three questions in the Mercantile Law Exam, the examinees attended in droves and listened attentively or at least until they got bored of my voice. But as what we emphasize to Bar-takers, every single point counts in the Bar exams since this may spell either passing or flunking what is arguably the most difficult exam in our country.

As a lawyer, I can say that the laws that I discussed were quite old, antiquated and outdated, despite being commercial laws, relating to business and profit which the international business chamber may expect to be the most updated among all Philippines laws.

These include the Negotiable Instruments Law and the Warehouse Receipts Law, both of which are over 100 years old, yet still frequently asked in the Bar exams. Also, questions on Trust Receipts, Transportation Law, among other old laws, are expected to come out. I tell the examinees that reading these laws is a chore since these were handwritten by the legislators at that time; hence, the run-on and repetitive sentences made without the ease of copy-paste, delete and other typing functions we have today.

It is my prayer that these commercial laws be revised and updated along with other archaic laws in the Philippines (special mention to our criminal laws). Upon checking the House of Representatives website, I saw that there are pending laws on the amendment of commercial laws, such as House Bill (HB) 4067 for the Amendment of the Foreign Investments Act, HB 6310 for the Modernizing of the Warehouse Receipts Law, and HB 6691 for the Amendment of the Securities Regulation Code, all authored by Rep. Arthur Yap, HB 5537 for the Imposition of Stiffer Penalties under the E-Commerce Act, authored by Rep. Mikee Romero and Rep. Enrico Pineda of 1-Pacman Party-list, and HB 7653 for the Amendment of the Negotiable Instruments Law, authored by Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. However, these have been pending in their respective committees for months now.

Compare these to the legislative priorities of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Just this week, crucial and important laws progressed by leaps and bounds, particularly the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the draft Federal Constitution prepared by the Consultative Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

The BBL underwent the Bicameral Conference Committee hearings starting on Monday, July 9, attended by members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ortigas Center. The members of Congress deliberated daily, and talks ended past midnight. Debates were intense yet necessary. Subcommittees were made, consisting of senators and House members, to ensure that each provision will be discussed.

In the end, Malacañang chose to adopt the House version of the BBL, amid all the contentions regarding the territory to be included in the Bangsamoro Government. This gave us a preview of the arduous process ahead – the holding of several plebiscites in concerned municipalities, cities and provinces pursuant to Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution. Yet it appears that we are even ahead of schedule as it was mentioned by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque that the President will sign the bill into law before the State of the Nation Address on July 23.

The Consultative Committee on Constitutional Amendments formally handed its draft Federal Constitution to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday, June 11. Chief Justice Reynato Puno met with Speaker Alvarez and several scenarios were discussed to ensure the transition to the federal form of government. One of these would be the controversial no-election scenario that would require the immediate amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

In so saying, the Speaker was being practical considering the scarcity of time to push federalism. 2019 is an election year and certificates of candidacy will be filed in October 2018. Thereafter, each politician will be in “survival mode” as re-election or other forms of political agenda would be their priority. Take that away, then politicians can focus on delivering the campaign promise of the President which is to revise the 1987 Constitution.

Speaker Alvarez’s statement sparked reactions from Senate President Tito Sotto. Of course, this is no easy task. Yet, under this administration, it appears that anything is possible and we are ready to write our own history. What is important is that politicians, stakeholders and the Filipino people must have an open mind in what can possibly be done within the next year or so. BBL was a dream during past administrations but we pulled it off this time. The same can be said about Charter change.

With all this legislative change that stands to reshape our country, let’s not be mere spectators and instead be active participants. When the dust settles, I will probably still be lecturing on commercial laws that are over 100 years old. Perhaps, a provision in the new Constitution requiring that Philippine laws be mandatorily reviewed and updated every 10 years by a governing body would be a good idea? Let’s try our luck.