05212024.Web.Banner Xavier Ateneo News

Nurturing Seeds of Legal Advocacy: The 2nd CLEP Summit
by Andrea Felice J Abesamis, Junior Intern, XUCLA 

05152024.Web School of Law 4
The PAG-UMAD event poster and digital art is designed by XUCLA Senior Intern Hillary Marie Ratilla.

On 4 May 2024, Xavier University - School of Law held its second Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP) Summit, themed “Pag-ugmad: Cultivating Seeds of Social Justice in Nurturing Advocacies of Law.”

In compliance with Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court promulgated by the Supreme Court, CLEP requires law students to engage with different marginalized sectors, government agencies, and civil society organizations. This requirement aims to enable students to put into practice the legal principles they have learned in the classroom. In the process, this deepens their appreciation of the law while cultivating a sense of public service, guided by the principles of social justice and human rights.

Fruits of love and labor: Accomplishments of CLEP clinics

The 2nd CLEP summit opened with some words of appreciation from Atty. Ernesto Neri, the current Director of Xavier University Center for Legal Assistance (XUCLA). He expressed how CLEP has grown from its initial conception as a tool of innovation to prepare aspiring lawyers to be of service to others, and shared his hope that these student practitioners will continue with their advocacy of social justice in the second phase of CLEP in the next academic year.

These words were echoed by Law School Dean Silvia Jo Sabio, she shared her gratitude to the people behind CLEP and commended the enthusiasm and efforts of the student practitioners for embodying the University’s principle of being men and women for others in the practice of law.

Under CLEP, students are made to choose one among six clinics. These various clinics offer different sectoral focus and experiences responding to the current socio-legal issues of the Philippines. The clinics are: Labor and Employment Clinic, Gender and Women Clinic, Libertas Jail Decongestion Clinic. Indigenous Peoples Clinic, Arkyub (Ridge-River-Reef Environmental Law Clinic), and Peace and Democracy Clinic. Each representative of the CLEP clinics shared their accomplishments throughout the last eight to nine months of engaging with the community and their partner institutions, as well as their reflections and steps forward.

Efforts accomplished by the clinics included the Labor Clinic explaining pertinent labor laws during the XU Job Fair and prepping graduating students of USTP with knowledge on how to navigate the working life after graduation.

The Gender and Women Clinic assisted their partner non-governmental organization with amending their by-laws and working on the documents needed for their registration with SEC. They also helped start the formation of a cooperative as well as providing them with rights-literacy concerning anti-sexual harassment laws and laws protecting women from abuse and violence.

The Libertas Clinic shared how most of the overcrowded jail problems were due to drug-related cases and conducted numerous focused group discussions and dialogues with BJMP and the city government in order to combat this issue and amplify the call to reform the current drug laws. They then moved to coordinate with the PAO and the courts to help facilitate case assistance.

The Indigenous Peoples Clinic engaged in conversations with the various indigenous tribes of Bukidnon in order to deepen their understanding on the current issues which includes land grabbing and access to basic services. In response, the clinic provided a free legal seminar and assistance to the communities.

Arkyub Clinic, subdivided into the Ridge, River and Reef groups, also partnered with various LGUs of Misamis Oriental living near the ridge, river and reef in order to raise awareness about the environmental conservation efforts of the province and promote environmental laws at the community level.

Similarly, the Peace and Democracy Clinic partnered with the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) and divided themselves into two groups: those who promoted voter rights on social media and those who assisted in the election monitoring during the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections. Additionally, the latter clinic also assisted the Arrupe Educational Center in answering legal queries from the Night School Program students, usually those on getting necessary documents from the PSA and other government agencies.

05152024.Web School of Law 2
The Xavier Ateneo Clinical Supervisors and Dean Silvia Jo G Sabio. (From the right:
Atty Shayne Bance for the Labor Clinic, Ret Judge Corazen Gaite-Llanderal for the Libertas Clinic,
Dean Silvia Jo G Sabio, Atty Ernesto B Neri for the Arkyub and Peace and Democracy Clinic, and
Fr Ij Chan-Gonzaga for the Women’s and Indigenous People’s Clinic).

Moving forward: To the future CLEP practitioners

In the Xavier University – School of Law curriculum, part of the institutionalized CLEP is the externship program for law students. The externship program, as defined by Rule 138-A, is meant to provide the law students an avenue to engage in legal work for the marginalized sectors or for the promotion of social justice and public interest through partnered government offices and non-governmental organizations.

Ms Ariane Corcino shared her externship experience with NLRC, where she worked under the tutelage of her supervising lawyer and the assigned labor arbiter to write position papers and observe the labor court proceedings. Mr Jayson Orajay likewise shared his externship experience with the Office of the Solicitor-General, where he spent his summer writing pleadings, case briefs and position papers ranging from cases involving qualified theft to declaration of nullity of marriage. Both of them shared that their externship experiences truly showed that practice is indeed the best teacher and that they were humbled by what they have learned throughout their stay with their respective government offices. They emphasized that hands-on learning deepened their understanding and appreciation of the law and made them more ready and excited to become an attorney in the near future.

Aside from the externship experience sharing, freshman student Cassy Vegafria, also expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the XUCLA supervising lawyers and interns for organizing the 2nd CLEP Summit. She shared that hearing about the legal work accomplished by the CLEP clinics and witnessing the passion behind their achievements reminded her – and perhaps the other freshmen present – of the initial motivation for choosing law school: to serve others, uphold justice and truth, and consistently strive for excellence as aspiring lawyers.

05152024.Web School of Law 1 
The XUCLA Interns and Supervising Lawyers of the Clinical Legal Education Program.


The Summit ended with Fr IJ Chan-Gonzaga, SJ, congratulating the student practitioners for completing the first phase of CLEP and for making an impact on the lives of the communities and people they have met along the way. He reiterated that the beating heart of our law is social justice and students should use the law as tools to promote the liberation and empowerment of those in the margins. Despite being an academic requirement, he believed that CLEP offers something more – that it is a program meant to foster a sense of duty and advocacy to serve those who need the law the most.

He also likened CLEP and its student practitioners to the story of the old man gathering starfishes by the shore – that despite being mocked and ridiculed by passersby for continuing to throw the starfish into the waters even if it comes back to the shore, those efforts spelled a huge difference at least for that single starfish. This mirrors our own social ills, which though daunting and systematic, organized and consistent effort will surely make a difference in the lives of our clients, be it an individual or an organization.

The ongoing dedication of CLEP and its student participants to cultivate the foundations laid by the initial group of CLEP students will have a profound impact in the future, provided that these students uphold the lessons from the 2nd CLEP Summit and embrace the principles of social justice and public service as future Atenean lawyers.

05152024.Web School of Law 3
The assembly of first year students who are the main participants of the 2nd CLEP Summit.