New IBP Pres. is Atty. Roan LIBARIOS


At last, the IBP will now experience some inner organizational peace. It has a new (legitimate) president, Atty. Roan Libarios, a UP Law alumnus and a former UP Collegian editor. He is a known regional IBP leader in Mindanao, that great island with many great minds who are often ignored by national leaders.

At least now, we have somebody from Mindanao as IBP president.

The IBP has long been monopolized by lawyers from imperial Metro Manila and haughty Luzon.

We, the Filipino lawyers, having been trained by our respective law schools in the art of law and order, should be the primary symbol of "orderliness" in our own national bar association.

Let us stop all the barkadahan attitude, the clique mentality, the regionalism/factionalism, and the politicking in the Bar.

For once, I ask, is it not fair on the part of Filipino lawyers to demand unity in the Philippine Bar?

- Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr., Founder, Las Pinas City Bar Assn Inc. and Former Vice Pres., IBP PPLM Chapter.

By Nicolette Ann P. Cruz

Describing himself as the sum of all his experiences, the incoming President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has indeed made a mark in both the legal profession and in the government service. Various involvements in the public and private sector have molded him into the man he is now: an excellent lawyer and a passionate leader of the legal community.

The first lawyer in his family, Atty. Roan I. Libarios highly regards the members of the legal profession as “dispensers of justice and community leaders.” He finished grade school at West Butuan Elementary School and high school at Agusan National High School. He is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines, from where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and later, his Law degree. Indebted as such to the Philippine public school system, he has made it his mission to use his education in order to serve his country and fellow Filipinos.

Having started college at a time when burning issues concerning academic freedom, democratic rights, and national liberation moved students to engage in militant efforts towards political change, he became involved with various campus and political organizations espousing activist ideals. He harmonized his love for journalism with his dream of becoming a lawyer by joining and eventually heading the Philippine Collegian, UP’s official student publication. His writing and leadership ability while serving as editor in chief not just honed his skills in writing and critical thinking, but also served as fertile ground for developing his advocacy and sense of social responsibility, skills, and sensibilities which he was also able to apply in the coming years as a lawyer and public servant.

Perhaps the biggest moral and ethical dilemma that Atty. Libarios faced during his days of student militancy was the one between his urge to respond to the call of the activist movement to dismantle the authoritarian rule of deceased strongman Ferdinand Marcos, and his personal ambition to join the legal profession at a time when lawyers were widely regarded as defenders of the status quo.

He found the answer to this seemingly immovable impasse in the example set by his idol, Jose W. Diokno, once a member of Marcos’s Nacionalista Party, but who later resigned when the latter suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus during martial law, and since then was considered one of the Marcos regime’s foremost opponents. A “revered icon in both the protest movement and in court battles,” Ka Pepe Diokno’s efforts to “use the law against the status quo to seek redress and accountability” for the various human rights abuses and constitutional transgressions committed by and under the Marcos regime inspired Atty. Libarios and other student militants of Malcolm Hall to reconcile their staunch opposition against the ruling dictatorship with their passion for the law and commitment to the principles of democratic freedom.

After his days of fierce activism during the turbulent years of martial law, Atty. Libarios went back to his home province of Agusan Del Norte, where he practiced law and became one of the most successful lawyers in Mindanao. But despite having established and maintained a lucrative private practice, he remained true to his activist roots and dedication to human rights advocacy by becoming a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), an organization founded by Ka Pepe Diokno himself, which is engaged in providing free legal services to the victims of martial law.

Atty. Libarios then heard and answered the call of public service. He was elected Vice- Governor of Agusan Del Norte from 1992 to 1995, and Representative of his province’s second district from 1998 to 2001. His legislative career was characterized by the same passion for upholding and defending human rights, as shown through his chairmanship of the Sub-Committee on International Human Rights and of the Poverty Alleviation Committee, his spearheading of the campaign against the death penalty, and his active lobbying for the “20/20 Initiative.” He was also the youngest among the 11 members of the prosecution panel of the House of Representatives in the impeachment case against then President Joseph Estrada. Upon stepping down as Representative, Atty. Libarios was appointed as a member of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Peace Panel, the body formally tasked with the duty of engaging in peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

After serving in the government, Atty. Libarios decided to rebuild his legal career, expand his private practice, and thus founded LIBRA Law Firm, which is primarily engaged in litigation and appellate practice. LIBRA Law focuses on project development, specifically Build-Operate-and-Transfer (BOT) schemes, and now one of the leading law firms in the country in the field of public private partnership (PPP) development.

Committed as he is to maintaining and enhancing professionalism and ethics between and among his colleagues at Bar and within the legal community in general, it was but a matter of time that Atty. Libarios’ path would eventually lead him to leadership of the Integrated Bar. He was elected Governor for Eastern Mindanao, and because of his journalistic background, was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the IBP Journal.

Atty. Libarios’ membership in the IBP leadership core has enabled him to continue his various advocacies. Being the incumbent Executive Vice President of the IBP, he was appointed as Lead Convenor of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), a non-partisan organization working for clean, honest, and credible elections. He is also the Philippine Country Councillor for LAWASIA, an international organization of lawyers’ associations, individual lawyers, judges, legal academics, and others which addresses the interests and concerns of the legal profession in the Asia Pacific region, and President of the Philippine Development Alternatives Foundation (PDAF).

Indeed, Atty. Libarios’ experiences in private legal practice and in the legislative and executive branches of government have all contributed to his development as the incoming IBP President. With hard-earned accolades and lessons in tow, he hopes to be the driving force in reconciling divisions in this esteemed brotherhood, and to make the organization more relevant and responsive to the needs of the Bench and the Bar and of the public in general.

Atty. Libarios welcomes his mandate with a light heart and a clear mind, despite the many challenges that have come and that will continue to be thrown his way. As a testament to all that he has gone through in his legal career, the Iskolar ng Bayan in him pushes him to give back to the nation which nurtured his education; the Alpha Phi Betan in him moves him to rely on “wisdom to attain liberty”; and the Minanawon in him inspires him to stand tall in the face of adversity. For at the end of the day, he is indeed the indefatigable sum of all his experiences.
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