DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 July) – Paramisuli “Suli” Sevilla Aming of Bongao, Tawi-tawi, the topnotcher of the Social Worker Licensure Exam in 2017, is pursuing her dream to become a lawyer, at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law in Diliman this year.
Suli is among 345 applicants who passed the Law Aptitude Examination (LAE) to qualify for admission to the UP College of Law’s Juris Doctor program. The Admissions Committee announced in April that 1,494 applicants qualified to take the LAE on May 16. On July 12, the list of passers was posted, accounting for 23.1% of 1,494 examinees.
In its April announcement, it said admission in the UP College of Law is “highly competitive and based solely on merit.”
“With limited slots available in each incoming class, UP Law has a selective admission process. We take into consideration a holistic set of factors in determining admission. In addition to your LAE results and GWA (general weighted average), UP Law can consider other information in your application form, an in-person interview, and ask for other requirements as may be deemed necessary.”
Suli topped the exam administered by the Professional Regulation Commission’s (PRC) Board for Social Workers on July 27 and 28, 2017. A total of 5,997 took the exams and out of this number, 3,951 or 65.9% passed.
Suli, who is turning 25 on August 20, took the Social Worker Licensure Exam two weeks after she graduated Cum Laude at the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City. She was also the Valedictorian of the College of Public Administration and was the recipient of the Department of Social Work’s Leadership Award.
Suli had always wanted to be a lawyer. “In my mind, it’s a profession that helps people, especially those that don’t have access to privileges. It’s the same line of thought that led me to choose Social Work in undergrad. All I know is I want to engage in work that directly impacts people’s lives,” she told MindaNews in a text message.
Her mother, Arlene Napoles Sevilla, a civil society leader in Tawi-tawi, says Suli, the fifth of seven children, wants to be a lawyer to become a better social worker. “As a social worker, she said she needs to know the laws so she can help more indigents,” Arlene said.
Suli wanted to proceed to Law immediately after college graduation in 2017 “but circumstances weren’t ideal for me at that time.”
War was raging in Marawi. In fact, their graduation was held not in the main campus in Marawi City but in neighboring Iligan City.
Law school could wait. The Marawi ‘bakwits’ (evacuees) had to be attended to.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017 and six days later, Defense Secretary terminated combat operations in Marawi.
“I did what I can to contribute and help in Marawi rehabilitation efforts, from serving in NGOs and then in government institutions. Moreover, aside from wanting to earn a living, I wanted to gain experience with my Social Work degree and try different fields of the profession, which I fortunately have had the opportunity to do in the past few years,” she said.
Becoming a lawyer, however, “was this constant thought in my mind, but it hadn’t got to the point where I felt I had to do it right away, not until this pandemic happened.”
“Witnessing how personality politics contributes to deterioration of public policy, programs and services was the last straw for me. I knew I wanted to participate in creating spaces where there is a safe, sound and dignified discussions on how we move forward as a country. The best way I can see myself do that is through studying law,” she said.
But which Law school?
“UP (University of the Philippines College of Law) has always been my first choice. It has the perfect balance of having quality education while also being affordable and accessible for the less privileged,” she said.
Residing and working in a faraway island in the southwesternmost part of the Philippines, Suli shared her journey towards admission in the UP College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City.
The application process, she recalled, was a “very strenuous four-part process” — application screening, pre-LAE course, LAE, interview — that started in January 2021.
“This was the first time that UP LAE was done through a digital medium, and all those who passed the pre-LAE course took the exam simultaneously. It was quite challenging with the format, and the technical issues that may arise (poor internet connection, incompatibility of device, power shortage etc.), but kudos on the part of UP College of Law, they have been very clear on instructions, and gave ample time for us to familiarize with the digital medium,” she said.
She described the interview as “very nerve-racking.”
“Outside of the fact that I was afraid of technical issues that may arise during a live video call, I had no idea how to prepare for it. The dynamics are totally different compared to face to face interviews where you could gauge nonverbal cues, and have actual people in the room with you. In the zoom interview, we cannot see who are interviewing us, and it felt awkward speaking alone in a room. I just went with being honest on answering the questions,” she said.
Classes in the UP College of Law, which will still be held online, will start on September 17.
Isn’t she worried about internet connectivity?
“As of the moment, use of mobile data is sufficient albeit inconsistent, for video calls over the internet. Internet connection here also largely depends on geographical location. Some areas have poor to non-existent signal. For those who can afford, there are internet providers here, with good signal strength, that charge 50 to 80k (50,000 to 80,000 pesos) for installation. It is still a matter of privilege.”
Arlene Napoles Sevilla, a civil society leader in Tawi-tawi, told MindaNews that her daughter Suli, the fifth of seven children, wants to be a lawyer to become a better social worker. “As a social worker, she said she needs to know the laws so she can help more indigents,” Arlene said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)