March 27, 2023

President Rodrigo Duterte on April 20 has appointed Saint Louis University School of Law Dean Lilybeth T. Sindayen-Libiran as presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court of Baguio Branch 61. The transmittal was released to the Supreme Court by the Office of the President on June 30 and (probably) received by Li on July 1 as a pleasant surprise for her birthday. It was a well-deserved, albeit hard earned posting as she joins an elite group of lawyers who have chosen the bench as their career path.
I can still call her Li since we are “family.” We stood as godparents when she married our law partner, John Ray, a couple of years back, hence we can never appear before her court anyway.
John Ray, by the way, has been an original partner who joined our law firm even before passing the Bar. He specialized in ancestral and other land claims, and was about to become National Commission on Indigenous Peoples regional director but politics intervened and he got out, probably frustrated but doubly wiser, and spent most of his time at the golf course. He was the main author of the firm’s Mandatory Legal Education or MCLE program duly accredited by the Supreme Court, pouring blood, sweat, and tears to make it work, as it did work successfully, thanks to him.
Li is the epitome of the quote, “Silent water runs deep,” as she works without fanfare but accomplishes her tasks as quickly as possible. She is a true-blue Baguio lass and Louisian all the way from Saint Louis Center Girls High School to college and post-graduate studies at SLU where she had always been on top of her class.
After graduating in 2005, she joined the Oracion Law Office until as a first step in her chosen path became the branch clerk of the RTC Branch 8 in La Trinidad, Benguet where her writing skills and organizational management was put into great use. In June 2016, she became dean of the SLU School of Law. I was happiest, as the reforms and programs as well as the tradition of quality Christian legal education I started as dean in 1999 would be carried out by her. Adhering to Solomon from the bible praying for “a discernment for justice so that people will know good and evil,” she has made a mark in training would-be lawyers for real-time practice in a difficult yet real world.
She had other aces in her sleeves though, as she activated the law school from a deep slumber in co-curricular activities and made them grand champion in the Lantern Parade in 2017; organized a choir; established a liturgical committee, and the Justice Manuel Moran Legal Aid Clinic, among others.
Before her appointment, she engaged in a social activity assisting stranded Law students during the Covid-19 crisis by providing them care and comfort.
Her greatest achievement, as a stage father speaking, is having a Bar topnotcher during her term as dean, ending over three decades of the school’s non-entry to the exclusive circle of top 10 in the much-coveted Bar.
Quality law education at its best. Of course, she has recruited Anton to teach, waiving the five-year requirement to be a professor of Law.
By way of additional feathers in her cap, Li was director for Luzon of the Philippine Association of Law Schools or PALS and is a holder of a Masters Degree in Juris Doctor or Law at the San Beda College.
Judge Li will bring with her character, humility, integrity, and competence in the august halls of justice. She will definitely be an asset to the judiciary and I would not be surprised if after five years or so she will become a justice of appellate courts. John Ray, Ivan, and River are grinning with pride as their faces bear an ear-to-ear smile of joy for her.
Together with Judge Li, the President also appointed Louisian lawyers Marita B. Balloguing for the RTC 34, Balaoan, La Union; Modesto D. Bahul Jr. for the RTC-Family Court, Branch 2, Baguio City; Criselda M. Lamong-Bumacod for the RTC 11, Family Court, Bauang, La Union; and University of the Cordilleras alumni and professor Isagani G. Calderon, RTC 8, in La Trinidad, Benguet.
May all of you serve our people well.