Philippines Lawyer is honoured with IBA Annual Outstanding Young Lawyer Award
Raphael Lorenzo Aguiling Pangalangan of The Philippines wins 2023 IBA Outstanding Young Lawyer Award
Raphael Lorenzo Aguiling Pangalangan (centre) with IBA Vice President, Jaime Carey (left) and Co-Chair of the IBA Young Lawyers’ Committee, Alberto Mata Rodríguez.
Human rights lawyer Raphael Lorenzo Aguiling Pangalangan of the Republic of the Philippines is the recipient of the 2023 International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Outstanding Young Lawyer Award for his unwavering dedication to human rights and criminal justice through advocacy and academia. The award was presented by Alberto Mata Rodríguez, Co-Chair of the IBA Young Lawyers’ Committee, at the IBA Annual Conference 2023 in Paris at the Section on Public and Professional Interest (SPPI) breakfast on Thursday 2 November.
On being the 2023 awardee, Mr Pangalangan said: ‘I stand before you today, honoured and humbled. The IBA Outstanding Young Lawyer Award is not just an accolade that celebrates individual accomplishment. It is a recognition of the victims we represent and the cause we advance. It is an affirmation of our greater purpose as legal professionals. This may come as a surprise to those outside of the practice, but contrary to the Hollywood image now-all-too familiar: We as lawyers are much more than simply legal mercenaries for hire. We are social engineers. And it is that social function that lies at the core of the legal profession. It is what transforms our work from being merely an occupation to our vocation. It is that shared duty that brings lawyers from all walks of life to the IBA today.’
With the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), Mr Pangalangan has represented victims of the Philippine drug war before domestic courts, foreign sanctions regimes, and international mechanisms. He has played an instrumental role in several landmark cases for the country, including challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Philippines Supreme Court and in filing for a writ of amparo for victims of red-tagging, a practice used to target and intimidate human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents. He also served as legal counsel to members of the Malaya Lolas organisation, a group of women who survived the ‘comfort system’ of sexual exploitation instituted by Japanese occupying forces in the Second World War.
As part of his private practice, Mr Pangalangan has also advised on business and human rights, supply chain due diligence, ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance), and environmental law. A lawyer and counsellor at law in both the Philippines and in the State of New York, he joined Ocampo & Suralvo Law Offices as Special Counsel.
In addition to his work in the Philippines, Mr Pangalangan has taken on several advisory roles within the United Nations over the course of his career. As a legal advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, he helped in the preparation of the ‘domicide report’ spotlighting the systematic violation of housing rights in Syria and Ukraine, which was subsequently presented during the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly. Alongside the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, he also developed a transnational treaty to challenge terrorism and human trafficking in Southeast Asia.
On his aspirations for the future, Mr Pangalangan stressed his commitment to human rights and the pursuit of justice: ‘My life is dedicated to using law as an instrument for change – to stand up for the marginalised, to voice the voiceless, and to improve the lives of those around me. My vision goes beyond the conventional and stretches into realms where I believe true justice resides – in bridging grassroots advocacy and international representation.
In the academic world, Mr Pangalangan has served as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard, and as the Associate Dean and Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School, teaching courses on human rights and international law. He also lectures on legal ethics and bioethics with the University of the Philippines.
His dissertation at Oxford University, titled Speaking Truth to Justice in Times of Tokhang: Fair Labels and the Prosecution of the ‘Military-like’ Commander, analysed the application of the doctrine of command responsibility under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war. Mr Pangalangan’s thesis was subsequently awarded the Oxford Dissertation Prize and published in the Asian Journal of International Law of the Cambridge University Press.
In addition to his academic work, Mr Pangalangan serves as the youngest regular columnist in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where he represents the voice of the youth on pressing legal and human rights issues.
In a letter of recommendation, Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, retired Ombudsman of the Republic of the Philippines and former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, noted: ‘It is rare that a young Filipino lawyer can achieve so much recognition in highly competitive selection processes locally and abroad. I am especially gratified with how Mr Pangalangan manages to combine his highly academic interests with his practical, hands-on work. His international recognition brings honor to our country, and should inspire fresh, idealistic lawyers who dream of careers in public service. Mr Pangalangan has shown that it is possible to be rooted locally in Philippine law practice, while being active internationally in law and social analysis.’
The IBA Young Lawyers’ Committee annually presents an award to a young lawyer who has shown excellence in their career to date, commitment to professional and ethical standards, and dedication to the community at large. The award was established in recognition of William Reece Smith Jr – a past IBA President who distinguished himself as one of the most respected legal experts over the course of a career spanning more than 50 years. LexisNexis sponsored the Award following Mr Reece Smith’s passing in 2013.
Nigel Roberts, Vice President of Global Associations LexisNexis and Vice President of the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation, commented: ‘It was a very special privilege for LexisNexis to partner with the IBA Young Lawyers Committee to establish this award back in 2008. I commend this year’s honouree, Raphael Lorenzo Aguiling Pangalangan, for his commitment and dedication to human rights and to advancing the rule of law, and offer my sincere congratulations on behalf of LexisNexis.’
Mr Pangalangan also expressed gratitude for the people in his life who have contributed to this achievement: ‘I thank Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales for the strength of her words in my nomination. I likewise thank my parents Judge Raul Pangalangan and Professor Elizabeth Aguiling Pangalangan, who are my greatest inspiration in both law and life. And I thank my wife, Isabel, who continues to bring into my life not only joy but meaning. Last but not least, I thank the IBA. Our work is far from done. There are still many battles to be fought, voices to be heard, and wrongs to be righted. Let us continue to redefine the legal profession in terms of the good we can do and the society that we shape.’