Ilonggo team bags As-Pac moot championship

The winning team of USA-College of Law – Carla Faith Aquino, Glyngie Erika Basilan, Isaiah Daniel Javier, and Samantha Grajo and coach Atty. Anfred Panes. (Photo from Atty Panes’ FB page)

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

The University of San Agustin – College of Law (USA Law) brought home the bacon for the Philippines over 23 other countries in Asia and the Pacific in the 22nd International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Moot held over the weekend in Hong Kong.

The Philippine team bested Thailand in the final round held at The University of Hong Kong’s Philip K. H. Wong Theatre, with the moot problem containing issues of aiding terrorism, child soldier recruitment, and prisoner interrogation, ultimately addressing the clash between religious freedoms clashing with international law during urban warfare.

The moot problem refers to the hypothetical case being argued between two competing teams, acting as counsels of the fictional countries that are parties to the case.

The contest tests the application of their knowledge in IHL and its various sources through written memorials and oral arguments before a mock International Criminal Court.

The team also beat defending champion Australia in the semi-finals and Singapore in the quarterfinals, held in other venues within the Chinese territory.

This is the first time that the Philippines won the said competition since the University of the Philippines College of Law won in 2005.

The team is composed of Carla Faith Aquino, Glyngie Erika Basilan, Isaiah Daniel Javier, and Samantha Grajo, who was also crowned as the competition’s Best Mooter, and were coached by lawyer, USA faculty member, and Daily Guardian columnist Anfred Panes.

Grajo briefly described their process as “difficult”, having to juggle their preparations with their academic commitments.

“After the national rounds and our exams, we studied IHL again and all related legal documents. We deep dove into the moot problem, explored different angles for our arguments and researched cases down to the footnotes. Amidst all the stress and uncertainties, the team members became each other’s rock and this helped develop our teamwork and chemistry,” she told Daily Guardian.

The overlying feeling when they won, she expressed, was more of gratitude to everyone who had helped them.

“The moment we were announced as winners, there was a plethora of emotions but above all stands gratitude for God, for ourselves, for each other, for the people who have been so patient with us, and for the people who have supported us in any way they can,” she stated.

Ultimately, the win for her as team captain was “three-fold”, for their moot organization The Parliament, their coaches and law school teachers, and for themselves.

“For all the Parliament IHL teams who have paved the way for us and given us rich institutional knowledge. Without them, we wouldn’t have even reached the international rounds. For our coaches and professors, who have been thorough in helping us be more confident in our form and substance. For them as well as our family and friends who have believed in us when we did not. For ourselves who battled a lot of mental wars, who persisted even when we were tired, who always pushed ourselves to be the best we can be, and who, despite all this, never gave up. For Team 05, for always finding laughter and joy in being together,” she narrated.

Panes dedicated the team’s victory to everyone who supported the team’s efforts to win not just for their institution, but for the country as well.

“This is a testament to the dedication of our mooters and the Augustinian community. Throughout the several months of our preparation, we have tapped the members of our alumni and faculty so this glory is theirs as well,” he told Daily Guardian.

“This victory proves the quality of legal education in the Philippines in general and the University of San Agustin in particular,” he added.

Aquino, a freshman student, called their win a “testament of hard work, consistency, and faith.”

“As the youngest in the team, I always remind myself that I have a lot to improve in myself and a lot more to learn from my teammates, as well as from our senior mooters, and our coach. The whole preparation process showed that it does not only take an Augustinian community to train and raise a winning a team, but it takes a whole nation to produce international champions. As I quote Dean Tirol, ‘Para sa Iloilo, para sa San Agustin, para sa Pilipinas,’” she said.

Javier, a sophomore, gushed about bringing pride not only to the school but also to the city through the efforts of the alumni and fellow students who have come before them.

“Above all, I feel honored to be part of this prestigious organization and school. It’s really because of those who have gone before us and built the way for us that we are able to bring pride and honor not just to the school, to the City of Love, but of course to the whole Philippines. That’s why I say that this is not just our win. Aton gid ini tanan,” he said.

His fellow sophomore Basilan said that the win should serve as a driving force to be better at studying law.

“It made me realize that hard work, knowledge, coupled with passion lead to great outcomes. Winning IHL also made me become more grounded, and appreciate every highs and lows in studying law. Lastly, winning IHL made me value more the camaraderie that my teammates and I share,” Basilan said.

USA Law Dean Jose Mari Benjamin Francisco Tirol echoed the same sentiment as Panes, crediting the team’s victory as a “community effort” with support from within and outside the university.

Tirol hoped that this win would also generate greater support for their future tilts, including the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition to be held from March 30 to April 6 this year in Washington, D.C., United States of America.

“As a locally grounded, globally oriented law school, we are very pleased with our victory at the 22nd International Humanitarian Law Moot in Hong Kong, and the consistent support of our faculty, students, staff, and alumni, our University Administration led by our Father President Frederick C. Comendador, OSA, and our City, led by Mayor Jerry P. Treñas, whose backing we are very thankful for,” the Dean said in a statement.

“We also especially thank and congratulate our alumnus and fellow faculty member Atty. Anfred P. Panes for coaching this and our other Moot Court Teams; Atty. Panes will be leading another team of ours to Washington DC as Philippine National Champion, in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, which is the Holy Grail of mooting. As an Augustinian, Ilonggo, and Filipino law school, we pray for your support in Jessup, where, like in Hong Kong, we will compete for our University, our city, and our country,” he added.

This is USA Law’s third consecutive bout in the international regional competition, having won the national rounds against Philippine law schools since 2021.

The IHL Moot is an annual inter-university law moot competition organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Hong Kong Red Cross for law schools in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Its objectives are to raise awareness of international humanitarian issues among law students, enhance knowledge and application of IHL rather than black letter law, promote the spirit of humanity among law students in the Asia-Pacific region, and promote understanding on the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.