Calesa Presentation

“CALESA” is a horse-drawn carriage that was brought by Spain to the Philippines. It is the acronym for the project to symbolize their historic ties and and future partnership towards building a better tomorrow. CALESA is also the acronym for “Capacity building for Legal and Social Advancement in the Philippines“, name chosen by the consortium of institutions that form the Erasmus + Capacity Building High Education Project number 609668-EPP-1-2019-1-ES-EPPKA2-CBHE-JP (2019 – 2012/001 – 001)

José Manuel de Torres Perea, Coordinator of the Erasmus+K2CBHE CALESA

This project is composed by four European universities, four Philippine universities and the Philippine Judicial Academy, a body under the Supreme Court for the training of judges. The European universities involved are: University of Malaga (UMA), Universidade Nova de Lisboa (UNL) University of Deusto and University College Dublin (UCD). The Philippine universities involved are: The University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), University of San Agustin (USA) and Ateneo de Zamboanga University (ADZU).

CALESA seeks to address five (5) interdependent problem areas in Philippine legal education:

1. Academic research. As of 2017, there were 108 law schools in the Philippines. Virtually all of them are professional ones. This means that they are systemically geared towards producing legal practitioners and not research. Thus, very few have a thesis requirement in their Juris Doctor or Bachelor of Laws programs, although these are postgraduate degrees. Furthermore, only six (6) have Master’s programs, while only one (1) offers a Doctoral program. Of those that offer Masters programs, only some have dedicated research tracks. 

This kind of model has several considerable negative consequences. First, law schools do not contribute significantly to legal innovation. Second, very few of their faculties can be considered to have deep academic expertise (as opposed to professional expertise) in the subjects that they teach. Third, law schools do not systemically produce graduates with such expertise. Fourth, the legal profession is limited in its ability to contribute to effective policymaking. 

2. Multilingualism. The Philippines was a former colony of Spain for 367 years and thereafter the US for 48 years. As a result, it is one of the few hybrid civil law-common law systems in the world. The bulk of its private law comes from the civil law tradition (through Spain), and its public law from the common law tradition (through the US). However, since an overwhelming majority of the new generation of Filipinos no longer speak Spanish, it has lost access to the roots of its own civil law tradition and its branches in other countries.

3. Legal Modernization. The Philippines needs to review and modernize its legal codes to be more responsive to the needs of its people for the 21st century. For instance, the Philippine Civil Code, except for Book I on family law, was last updated in the 1950. However, the ability of the Philippines to accomplish this satisfactorily is seriously hampered by the limited pool of academic experts and research to draw from.

4. Human Rights and the Rule of Law. The Philippines has serious human rights problems. For example, the Philippines is also considered the most dangerous place in Asia for journalists. Reporters Without Borders global index ranks it 133rd out of 180 countries. The rule of law is the preeminent legitimating ideal in the world today, and it has its genesis in the protection of human rights. Thus, the rule of law is always undermined to the extent that human rights are left unprotected. One of the bastions for that protection is the legal profession, the wellspring of which are the law schools. Despite the Philippines’ human rights record, most of its law schools do not place emphasis on the study and protection of human rights. 

5. Regional integration. The Philippines is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional organization founded in 1961, and now consisting of ten (10) countries with a combined population of around 650 million. They entered into the Bali Concord II where they formalized their intention to establish the ASEAN Community to unleash the human potential of its peoples and maintaining regional peace and stability. Despite the laudable objectives, to date, little progress has been made. Neither are the law schools and the legal profession fully capacitated to assist in this process despite its strategic implicatons because of the limited pool of academic experts and research to draw from.  

The Erasmus+ KA2: Capacity Building in Higher Education Action groups the Philippines under Region 6. One of that region’s priorities is Law. CALESA addresses this priority because it seeks to remedy a systemic defect in Philippine legal education – the lack of programs in law schools that are geared towards developing academic expertise and generating research. This creates a knowledge deficit that prevents the legal profession in general from more effectively combining law and policy to deal with some of the most pressing needs of Philippine society, such as the protection of human rights and the rule of law, legal modernization and regional integration.

CALESA tries to deal with this problem at its root – the law schools. Through the Partner Institutions, it hopes to initiate a cascade effect whose benefits will in time reach the other law schools, the Judiciary, the legal profession, the legal system, and Philippine society. CALESA will assist the Partner Country HEIs: (a) offer research-oriented Juris Doctor/Bachelor of Laws and/or Master’s programs that are consistent with the Bologna process, that encourage multilingualism, and are relevant to the protection of human rights and the rule of law, legal modernization, and ASEAN regional integration, and (b) build the academic expertise of their faculty on these same areas through knowledge transfers on Spanish and EU law, their legal and justice systems, pedagogies and instructional materials.