Brief History and Profile

I. Brief History

The history of the Philippine Law Journal (PLJ) is intertwined with the modern history of the Philippine legal system. Founded in the earlier part of the American Occupation, only three years after the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law’s establishment in 1911, the Journal served as a platform for the country’s first legal scholars and luminaries to discuss highly contentious issues which would later become the foundations of our current laws and jurisprudence. Decades thereafter, the rationale behind our legal system’s policy to protect indigenous people’s rights sprang from theories originally presented in the Journal. On several occasions, the Journal advocated the advancement of reforms to the law curriculum and legal education, the formation of policies protecting academic freedom.

Established in 1914 under the guidance of the UP College of Law’s founder and first Dean, Justice George A. Malcolm, and the law faculty, the PLJ was designed as a vital training tool for law students, and modeled after the student-edited law reviews of American law schools. At its inception, the Journal was distinctively the only English legal publication in the Orient.

The pioneer editorial board was composed of former Associate Justice Alexander Reyes as managing editor; Paulino Gullas as business manager; and Jose A. Espiritu, Victoriano Yamzon, and Aurelio Montinola as associate editors. The inaugural issue featured a message from Justice Malcolm, which encouraged students to publish and maintain a law journal that would stimulate discourse and disseminate legal knowledge.

The Journal originally published nine issues per academic year. The issues contained legal articles, comments, and case reviews. They also contained write-ups on the UP College of Law, including its social events and co-curricular activities, and the College’s alumni. Frontispieces of Supreme Court justices and prominent practitioners were also featured in the earlier issues. The issues also contained commercial advertisements in order to generate income for the operations of the Journal.

The Journal temporarily ceased publication on several occasions, most notably during World War II. It was revived after the war with the release of Volume 22 in 1947. This volume consisted of six issues, with articles written by faculty members and law students. During this time, the students worked on assignments given by the faculty editor. The issues after the war contained annual surveys of Philippine Supreme Court decisions, case digests, recent legislation, and book reviews of local and foreign works. They also contained features on student law debates and symposia sponsored by the Order of the Purple Feather, the prestigious honor society of the College of Law.

From 1948 to 1955, Journal issues were published bimonthly. In 1956, the Journal published five issues. After several changes in the number of issues released, the Journal, sometime in the late 1970s, adopted a policy of quarterly publication or four issues in an academic year. Student editorial boards were likewise given greater freedom and independence with the abolition of the post of faculty editor, which was replaced by a faculty adviser. Beginning this period, the issues generally contained legal articles, notes, comments, and book reviews mostly written by members of the judiciary, law professors, legal practitioners, and law students.

Impelled by the activism of the Journal’s editors and its student and faculty contributors, articles prominently published in the late 1970s and the 1980s included those on native titles, indigenous peoples’ rights, pre-Hispanic legal systems, and academic freedom. In these areas, the Journal became an important resource, and was cited in the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission which drafted the Philippines’ present charter.

In 1990, the Journal saw, for the first time, the publication of articles written in Filipino, the national language. In the 2000s, the Journal published special issues on topics including Gender Rights, Environmental Law, Law & Economics, the Administration of Criminal Justice, and the Supreme Court, among others.

In 2010, at the height of the disciplinary proceedings against the 37 faculty members of the College of Law who publicly spoke against the alleged plagiarism in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary, the Journal released a strong statement on defending legal scholarship.

While issues of the Journal were, by then, available on the Internet for some time, in 2012 and 2013, a major push towards digitalization was made with the re-launch of the PLJ Website, containing an extensive archive of the Journal’s published volumes. The ten-year digitalization project was heavily supported by Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, who also sponsored the Special Maritime Issue of the Journal, a continuing digital issue of the publication devoted to maritime law issues, particularly those surrounding the competing claims on the West Philippine Sea.

In 2014, the Centennial Year of the Journal, the publication was made available on HeinOnline, one of the world’s biggest legal research services—a first for a Philippine law review—through the efforts of the College of Law and the UP Law Library.

II. Membership

In its early years, members of the PLJ’s editorial board were selected based on academic performance. The board composition varied according to the needs of the editorial board in a particular academic year. At that time, there was no chairperson. The position was created only in 1935, with Enrique Fernando being appointed as chairperson.

Today, the members are selected on the basis of competitive examinations and academic qualifications. The editorial board is composed of only eight members: a chair, vice-chair, and six editors. The students who rank first and second in the examinations serve as the chair and vice-chair, respectively.

Past chairpersons and editors of the PLJ have become luminaries in their respective fields. Some have served in the Philippine government, including members of the Cabinet, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the lower courts. Other PLJ alumni have excelled in private practice, establishing institutional law firms or serving as managing and senior partners of prominent firms. Distinguished members of the academe have also been part of the PLJ.

III. Readership

The issues of the PLJ are distributed to various legal and educational institutions in the Philippines and abroad, including the United States, Canada, England, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Australia, Japan, India, China, Malaysia, South Africa, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, and Brazil. It also maintains exchange arrangements with other law reviews, both domestic and foreign.