Soaring to Greater Heights: MSU College of Law launches the Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic

by | Feb 18, 2021

The Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic was officially launched by the Mindanao State University-College of Law in partnership with the Asia Foundation (TAF), and the US Department of State – Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) on February 18, 2021. It can be accessed at www.sarimanoklawclinic.com.

The virtual clinic is managed by bonafide students of the Mindanao State University-College of Law together with supervising lawyers who guide and supervise the law student practitioners in conformity with Revised Student Practice Rule. It aims to provide free online legal assistance to marginalized clients and conduct extensive legal literacy campaigns for the benefit of the common people in the community.

The website launch ceremony was hosted by Atty. Annabelle Cañazares-Mindalano, Assistant Dean and Academic Head of MSU-College of Law Iligan Campus. The event was attended by representatives from partner institutions, faculty and staff of the MSU system, and students from all three campuses of the MSU-College of Law – Iligan, Marawi, and General Santos.

In his opening remarks, Atty. Alizedney Ditucalan, Dean of MSU-College of law, said that, “One of the best things in this pandemic is the creation of Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic – a manifestation that we can transform adversities into opportunities”. Indeed, the entire team has leveraged the time afforded by the pandemic to create a breakthrough project. Through the unwavering efforts of Dean Zed to create a curriculum relevant to the needs of the community, the MSU-College of Law has successfully produced the first ever virtual law clinic in the country, Sarimanok.

The launching ceremony was graced by the Honorable Justice Alexander Gesmundo, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and Chairperson of the Technical Working Group for the Revision of the Law Student Practice Rule. In his keynote speech, he said that, “The establishment of law school clinics is part and parcel of every law school in the country under Rule 183-A, the Revised Law Student Practice Rule.”

Commissioner Josefe C. Sorrera-Ty of the Legal Education Board (LEB) shared her experience while navigating through the website. She said, “I went through the contents of Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic. I also read the news and updates. And I also looked into the calendar of events. The contents of your website, your knowledge displayed the deepening of the learning process. There I could see your reflection, critical analysis and synthesis”. She further stressed the potentials and significant contributions of the website to the legal world. Her very appreciative message flattered the entire Sarimanok team and fueled them to even work harder.

The President of the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS), Dean Marisol DL Anenias, reinforced the goal of the endeavor and commended the launching of Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic as it is, in her words, an “indicative of how progressive MSU-Law is, because this is indeed the way forward.” She also added a powerful statement, saying that, “The ideals of the nationwide legal education program, lofty and ambitious as they may appear, are grounded on the very foundation that makes the legal profession consequential: service to the public and service to the nation”. She further described Sarimanok as a model for the success of the Legal Education programs, and that it has “cemented the concept of institutionalizing the creation of key sites for access to justice in various areas of the country”.

Dr. Habib W. Macaayong, President of MSU System also said that, “This health crisis, paralyzing our normal operations, requires innovative approaches in various fields which one has to say afloat. It is in this respect that I applaud with pride the initiative, hard work and ingenuity behind the Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic of MSU-College of Law.” The words of the MSU System President proves that the administration is right behind the team, rooting and supporting its endeavors to achieve more.

Atty. Joanah ALinog-Disocor, Assistant Dean for Clinical Legal Education of MSU-College of law, presented a backgrounder on Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic. Here, she discussed the origin, goals, and projects of Sarimanok. This was followed by a live video demonstration of the features of the website by Mr. Van Ceasar Openiano, a Law Student Practitioner and the president of the MSU College of Law – Iligan Campus’ student-run Legal Aid Clinic. His demonstration showcased how accessible and user-friendly the website is. With just a few clicks, access to justice is in your hands.

Mr. Sam Chittick, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation (TAF), said that, “This website is really at the forefront pushing the edge of ways in which law schools can translate their service role into action and making it so accessible.” The Asia Foundation (TAF) is a partner institution of the MSU-College of Law along with the US Department of State – Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and Limitless Lab who designed and developed the Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic’s website. Without the support and efforts of these partners, the website launching would not have come into fruition.

The shift towards clinical education has slowly changed the landscape of legal education as schools, like the MSU-College of Law, propel students to not only be bar-centric, but also practice-ready to bridge the shortcomings and perceived inadequacies of purely theoretical learning. With brilliant students and mentors working hard to be effective channels of justice by providing free legal assistance through the Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic, the words of Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. that, “Those who have less in life should have more in law”, is now transforming into reality.

News and Updates by: Arence Jian T. Zalsos, Contributor

Edited by: Gabriel Joseph M. Esporsado, Editor-in-chief