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Brief History of the Integrated Bar

Integrated Bar of the Philippines

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (the “IBP”) is the official organization of all Philippine lawyers whose names appear in the Roll of Attorneys of the Supreme Court. The IBP came into being when the Supreme Court created on October 5, 1970 the Commission on Bar Integration which was tasked “not only to ascertain the advisability on integration of the Bar, but even more, to serve as a common vehicle of the Court and the Bar in fashioning a blueprint for integration and putting same into actual operation.” Republic Act No. 6397, which took effect on September 17, 1971, confirmed the power of the Supreme Court to adopt Rules of Court to effect the integration of the Philippine Bar. Then on January 9, 1973, the Supreme Court, by a per curiam resolution, pursuant to its constitutional mandate, ordained the integration of the Bar in accordance with its Rule 139-A, effective January 16, 1973. Within the next succeeding months, the IBP was organized. On February 17, 1973, local chapters all over the country were finally formed and elections for chapter officers were held. Then on March 17, 1973, the first batch of representatives to the IBP House of Delegates composed of 104 delegates representing the IBP Chapters nationwide convened in Manila and elected its first set of IBP Governors.

Official Organization of Lawyers

It is an official organization – and by “official”, it means that it is established by the State through Republic Act 6397. The law also confirmed the power of the Supreme Court to adopt Rules of Court to effect the integration of the Philippine Bar. Presidential Decree No. 181 was promulgated on May 4, 1973 constituting the IBP into a body corporate and providing government assistance thereto for the accomplishment of its purposes.

All Attorneys

The IBP is composed of all Philippine attorneys now numbering about 40,000. All persons whose names appear in the Roll of Attorneys of the Supreme Court (having qualified for and passed the Bar examinations and taken their attorney’s oath, unless otherwise disbarred) are members of the IBP. If any such person does not agree to join the organization and regulations (such as payments of annual membership dues, now fixed at P1,000.00), he does not become, or he ceases to be, an IBP member, and at the same time his name is removed from the Roll of Attorneys. The effect of the removal is that he ceases to be an attorney. He loses the privilege to practice law in the Philippines.

Commission on Bar Integration

It fell upon the Commission on Bar Integration, which the Supreme Court created on October 5, 1970, not only to ascertain the advisability of integration of the Bar but, even more, to serve as a common vehicle of the Court and the Bar in fashioning a blueprint for integration and putting the same into actual operation. The Commission was headed by Supreme Court Associate Justice (later Chief Justice) Fred Ruiz Castro. The members were Jose J. Roy, Conrado V. Sanchez, Salvador V. Esguerra, Crisolito S. Pascual, Tecla San Andres Ziga and Feliciano Jover Ledesma.

Culmination

The integration of the Bar was the culmination of efforts exerted by far-sighted leaders of the profession dating back to the year 1928. It was accomplished not by arbitrary or unwanted imposition from above but by the vote of the overwhelming majority of the legal profession throughout the Philippines who urged the Supreme Court to ordain it. Indeed, it had long been felt that without their official unification the lawyers were bound to remain disassociated and fragmented, bereft of the force of unity needed to propel the Bar to loftier heights than the voluntary Bar associations which had remained mostly social aggrupations.

Semi-governmental

Some people ask whether the IBP is a governmental (public) or non-governmental (private) entity. The answer is that is that it is an essentially a private (or non-governmental) organization. It is not an agency of the Government. For one thing, the lawyers, who are its members, are private individuals. For another, the funding is derived essentially from their membership dues. We cannot of course deny that the IBP exists to perform certain vital public functions and to assist the Government particularly in the improvement of the administration of justice, upgrading of the standards of the legal profession, and its proper regulation. Moreover, financial assistance is extended to it by the Government itself. Lawyers are officers of the court, and it is this common aspect of their varied personalities that provides the IBP with is bond of unity. Putting it more precisely, therefore, the IBP is a semi-governmental entity; a private organization endowed with certain governmental attributes.

First Board of Governors

On March 17, 1973, the first IBP House of Delegates, composed of 104 delegates representing all the original 78 IBP Chapters, convened in Manila and elected nine IBP governors: Melanio T. Singson (Northern Luzon), Vicente D. Millora (Central Luzon), Ponciano M. Mortera (Greater Manila), Raul I. Roco (Southern Luzon), Tecla San Andres Ziga (Bicolandia), Pablo P. Garcia (Eastern Visayas), Amado A. Parreño, Jr. (Western Visayas), Manuel M. Garcia (Eastern Mindanao) and Liliano B. Neri (Western Mindanao). In the next few days, the governors-elect chose retired Supreme Court Justice Jose B.L. Reyes as IBP President, and Governor Liliano B. Neri as IBP Executive Vice President. On March 25, 1973, these ten top officials of the IBP took their oath of office in simple but solemn ceremonies before the Supreme Court en banc.

Fundamental Objectives of the IBP

Under the organization’s By-Laws, its fundamental objectives are as follows: to elevate the standards of the legal profession; to improve the administration of justice; and to enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility more effectively.

IBP National Presidents

The leadership of the IBP is changed every two years. After JBL Reyes, the next president was Liliano B. Neri (1975-1977). He was succeeded by Marcelo B. Fernan for the term 1977-1979; then Edgardo J. Angara, 1979-1981; Ysidro J. Perez, 1981-1983; Raul S. Roco, 1983-1985; Simeon M. Valdez, 1985 up to March 1986; Vicente D. Milliora, April 1986 to March 1987; Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., March 1987 to June 30, 1987; Leon M. Garcia, Jr., 1987-1989; Eugene A. Tan, 1990-1991; Numeriano G. Tanopo, Jr., 1991-1993; Mervyn G. Encanto, 1993-1995; Raoul R. Angangco, 1995-1997; Jose Aguila Grapilon, 1997-1999 and Arthur D. Lim, 1999-2001. It is currently headed by Teofilo S. Pilando, Jr.

Professional Regulation and Upliftment

To effectively implement the above-captioned objective of the IBP, this premier lawyers’ group endeavored to codify all rules of professional conduct for attorneys. It had earlier drafted a carefully prepared Code of Professional Responsibility which was submitted to the Supreme Court.

But while a well-prepared code of ethics for Philippine lawyers exists, its effective enforcement is a primary concern, thus the need for practicable program of sanctions though a Grievance Procedure. The Supreme Court has approved the Grievance Procedure proposed by the IBP. Known as Rule 139-B, this Grievance Procedure gives the IBP the right to police its own ranks by empowering it to initiate and prosecute proper charges against erring attorneys, including those in the government service. Approved by the Supreme Court en Banc on April 12, 1988, the Rule took effect June 1, 1988.

The IBP’s effort to make effective the discipline process has been complemented by a well formulated plan to improve professional competence and skills. Through its continuing legal education program, lawyers all over the country attend regular seminars and symposia on various legal subjects and are thus honed to better serve their clients in particular and the public in general. Part of this program is the publication of the IBP Journal and Newsletter formerly, the Bar Briefs (for a while merged under the heading “IBP Law Journal and Magazine”) in compliance with the purpose of keeping the members, as well as the public, aware of current legal issues and significant news in the legal profession.

The IBP conducts the regular monthly IBP Forum wherein prominent government officials and personalities are invited to address current and relevant issues for the purpose of enabling the IBP to take a well-informed and well-founded stand on such issues.

The IBP has put up several legal libraries in various Chapters with funding assistance from The Asia Foundation. Its current program now is to equip its Chapters with computers and legal research softwares such as Phil Juris and Lex Libris.

Mandatory Continuing Legal Education

Sometime in 1997, during the National Convention of Lawyers in Cebu City, then Associate Justice (now Chief Justice) Hilario G. Davide, Jr. broached the idea of requiring mandatory continuing legal education for lawyers. While the idea had always been discussed and propounded in the past, no concrete action for its adoption was ever taken until 1999 when the IBP Board of Governors, then headed by President Jose Aguila Grapilon, passed a Resolution adopting a draft of rules for MCLE.

The IBP forwarded the draft to the Supreme Court which referred it to the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) for study and comment. The PHILJA recommendations were referred to the Supreme Court Committee on Legal Education which further studied them. Finally, they were submitted to the Supreme Court and on August 22, 2000, the Supreme Court adopted the MCLE Rules under Bar Matter No. 850.

Under the rules, members of the Bar are required to undergo continuing legal education to ensure that throughout their career, they keep abreast with law and jurisprudence, maintain the ethics of the profession and enhance the standards of the practice of law. Members of the Bar, except those exempted under the Rules, are required to complete every three (3) years at least thirty-six (36) hours of continuing legal education activities.

Legal Aid

High on the list of the IBP’s priority projects is its Legal Aid Program.

The Program extends free and competent legal services to indigent and deserving members of the community. The National Committee on Legal Aid runs the program which it implements through the IBP Chapters scattered nationwide.

The Program has been named “Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion Legal Aid Program” in honor of the late Chief Justice, its long-time Chairman, under whose inspired guidance and leadership hundreds of thousands poor litigants all over the country have been served for free.

As observed by former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, first Chairman of the IBP National Committee on Legal Aid: “Adequate free legal aid to the indigent and the needy is essential to the Primacy of the Law. . . To be effective, it must be provided by a non-political organization independent of the Government. As much as possible, the funds necessary therefor should be raised through voluntary contributions from the people, aside from being partly subsidized by the State, to the extent necessary to achieve the main purposes of the aid which are to render equality before the law a reality in actual practice, to generate the people’s faith in the law and in courts of justice, as well as in other agencies performing similar functions, as instrumentalities of their welfare, and to promote adherence to the Rule of Law and, hence, peace and order.”

To expand the scope of its legal assistance program, the IBP must raise funds. Hence its ongoing Legal Aid Fund Campaign. To encourage donations and contributions, Presidential Decree No. 181 exempts the same from income and gift taxes, and makes them fully deductible for income tax purposes.

Developmental Legal aid

The IBP has taken up lawyering for public interest causes as an integral part of its legal aid program. As distinguished from traditional legal aid, the beneficiary of developmental legal aid is not an individual and his personal interests but a class or a group of persons who face a common problem arising out of social conflicts in society.

Human Rights and Due Process Projects

To render more effective assistance in these endeavors, a Committee on Human Rights and Due Process was created under the Chairmanship of then IBP President Emeritus Justice J.B.L. Reyes. The Committee was specifically established for the purpose of monitoring cases of violation of human rights and the constitutional right to due process. Fact finding missions and formal investigations were undertaken, and favorable results were achieved in a number of such cases. The more popular ones handled by the Committee were the “hamletization cases” in Davao and other parts of Mindanao, the “ASSO and PDA cases,” the “Escalante massacre case,” and other slaying and “Salvaging cases.”

The Committee has since looked into the problems of migrant workers, comfort women and other special sectors of society.

The IBP’s presence is recognized in the wide spectrum of government and society. Its stand is sought in matters of legislation and in important issues affecting the citizenry. Among the issues it took a stand on were the rollback of oil prices, the constitutionality of the VAT Law, the illegal arrest and detention of Filipina domestic helpers in Malaysia, and the military bases issue. The IBP is given key roles in government projects and programs, such as the amnesty process, judicial administration, and the BIR project to give recognition to outstanding revenue districts.

As before, the IBP tirelessly works in concert with all well-meaning sectors of society who believe that our country can regain its stature as a respected and recognized member of the world community.

Administration of Justice

“Toward the objective of improving the administration of justice, the IBP has, since its inception, been given important involvement in the selection of officers to man the various courts in the country. The IBP in this regard has always recommended for appointment to the judiciary IBP members of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.

A most significant relief in the pursuit of this objective was the acceptance of the IBP’s idea for an independent screening body in the selection of individuals for the judiciary. Originally proposed as the Commission on Justice, the Judicial and Bar Council now enshrined in the present Constitution has the principal function of recommending appointees to the judiciary. The IBP is the only lawyer’s group permanently represented in this Constitutional body.

Country-wide Involvement

The IBP undertakes a wide range of activities geared towards the attainment of its lofty goals, foremost among which is to generate and maintain pervasive and meaningful countrywide involvement of the lawyer population in the solution of the multifarious problems that afflict the nation.

Accreditation of Law Schools

The IBP seeks to implement a program of accreditation of law schools. Under a system of accreditation, only those law schools that measure up to prescribed standards or criteria shall be entitled to certain prized benefits, privileges, support and assistance from the authorities. The expectation is that the low-quality schools being denied such favorable treatment will be compelled by force of circumstances to improve their performance or run risk of being phased out.

Moral Formation

Efforts are being exerted by the IBP affecting the system of legal education with the end in view of providing for a more rigid moral formation of future lawyers. Indeed, Legal Ethics which is offered only in one semester during the last year in the law school should be stressed throughout the entire four years of law study so as to indelibly inculcate ethical principles into the mind, heart and soul of those who would be entrusted with a vital role in the administration of justice.

Membership Benefits

In line with the objectives of safeguarding the interests of its members, the Integrated Bar maintains a Welfare Fund for its members.

Section 9 of Supreme Court Rule 139-A, otherwise known as the Integration Rule, provides:

“Every member of the Integrated Bar shall pay such annual dues as the Board of Governors shall determine with the approval of the Supreme Court. A fixed sum equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the collection from each Chapter shall be set aside as a Welfare Fund for disabled members of the Chapter and the compulsory heirs of deceased members thereof.”

Accordingly, the Integrated Bar, prior to March 2, 1976, had been awarding a sum of 500.00 pesos as death benefits to the compulsory heirs of every deceased member. Thinking, however, that 500.00 pesos was too meager an amount to be of any real help to the bereaved heirs, the second Board of Governors proposed to the Supreme Court an increase in the annual membership dues from 50.00 to 75.00 pesos in order mainly to expand the scope of the welfare benefits and privileges extended by the IBP to its members. Of the recommended 25.00 peso increase, 20.00 pesos went to the Welfare Fund. Corollary to this, the Board unanimously approved, effective March 1, 1976, a resolution adopted by the IBP Second House of Delegates at its First Special Convention held in Cagayan de Oro City on January 28-31, 1976 “that pending approval by the Supreme Court of the Board of Governors’ recommendation to increase the annual membership dues, the Board approve xxx a temporary increase death benefits of IBP members from 500.00 to 1,000.00 pesos.”

The membership dues went up from 75.00 to 300.00 pesos effective FY 1992-1993; and from 300.00 to 500.00 pesos effective Calendar Year 1995.

The 500.00 pesos annual fee is one of the lowest membership dues for lawyers in the world.

Effective January 1, 2000, the annual membership dues has been raised to one thousand (1,000.00) pesos.

The welfare benefits were increased to five thousand (P5,000.00) pesos by a resolution of the Board of Governors on August 17, 1992. Then, effective June 1, 2000, the Board of Governors under IBP President Arthur D. Lim raised the welfare benefit to P 20,000.00

IBP Today

The IBP has, through its leadership, thrust itself into the vortex of crucial national issues. It has become more relevant to the lives of our people in their quest for justice.

(Based on an article authored by former IBP Executive Director Cecilio L. Pe that was published in the IBP Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2, Second Quarter, 1977 issue. Updated by Aurora G. Geronimo and published in the Souvenir Program of the 15th House of Delegates of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines)

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