Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
“Being a lawyer has always been my cherished dream,” says Attorney Israelito P. Torreon. “When I was growing up, I personally witnessed forms of injustices being perpetuated on different people, the marginalized especially. There were instances of people being disturbed in the ownership of their property, people being duped into signing contracts the terms of which they were made to believe would favor them, people getting involved in crime out of force of circumstances. The list is almost endless.”
Those incidents drove him to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer. He is one of the very few who romanticized the late Pres. Ramon Magsaysay’s statement, which has become his guiding principle to this day: “Those who have less in life should have more in law.”
The boy who’s from Bansalan, Davao del Sur, has gone a long, long way; he is now one of the finest and most in-demand lawyers in Davao City and other parts of the country. The eldest son of Carlos Torreon and Thelma Pañares – both school teachers – he struggled his way up, however. Although he grew up in a middle-class family, he had the will to succeed and a brilliant mind.
Actually, he never dreamed of becoming a lawyer. “I wanted to become a doctor when I was growing up,” he admits. “However, when I was in elementary school, I realized that I had a gift in reasoning and analytical thinking. It was then that I decided that I will be a lawyer.”
It was a struggle pursuing his dream. “It was not an easy path for me,” he says now. “I experienced some financial difficulties while studying law. I did not have the money to buy the books that I needed. Hence, I ended up being a library rat.”
Bobbet attended Bansalan Central Elementary School and finished his secondary course at Nazareth High School. He attended the University of the Philippines – the Visayas for his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. In all those endeavors, he garnered honorific awards and assumed leadership in studentry.
He finished his law at the Ateneo de Davao University, where he got the highest quality point index (QPI) – the running grade point average, like the general average in high school – in his batch. While still in his second year, he became the student council president aside from being a master chancellor of Sigma Legis Fraternity and Sorority.
Bobbet finally became a full-fledged lawyer on May 6, 1998. He pursued Masters of Law at San Beda University and qualified for a scholarship for Masters in International Humanitarian Law at Nalsar University in India. Likewise, he finished Introduction to US Laws, Systems and Methods at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., through the Institute of US Laws.
When he was 36, he became the president of the Davao del Sur chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). He was considered the youngest lawyer to hold such office in the province.
“I felt elated when I was elected,” he told this author some years back. “I was elated in the sense that my distinguished compañeros and compañeras chose me. I must say, however, that the road before victory was not easy….”
Atty. Torreon was also elected by leaders of lawyers as IBP Eastern Mindanao Governor. “As IBP officer, I spearheaded many projects to help our people and our lawyers such as IBP legal aid projects, seminars and I even managed to make IBP Davao del Sur as an MCLE (Mandatory Continuing Legal Education) accredited provider,” he says.
For more than two decades, he has been a law professor (in Ateneo de Davao University, Cor Jesu College of Law, and Jose Maria College of Law). He is also been a law dean for about 12 years now.
“I started teaching when I became a lawyer in 1998,” he recalls. “What I like about teaching is the chance to touch the lives of your students by sharing your legal knowledge and experiences as a lawyer. I also cherish the times when students would meet you in some places and thank you for being their mentor. Such is priceless.”
While in Ateneo, Atty. Torreon was chairman of the Centralized Bar Operations, which assisted barristers in taking and passing the bar. He was likewise the coach of its debating team, which produced national champions in Square Off: The CVC Law Debates beamed via ANC Channel.
When Atty. Torreon was recruited by the Sacred Heart Brothers of Cor Jesu, he was instrumental in increasing the passing percentage of lawyers “by a great leap.” He credits this “miracle” to “God’s guidance and help coupled with hard work, study, and perseverance.”
“We also managed to make Cor Jesus become national champion in CVC Law Debates,” he points out. “Our performance in Ateneo and Cor Jesu were the motivating factor why Pastor Apollo Quiboloy offered me to establish the now renowned JMC College of Law. In a short span of time, JMC Law became regional champion and even national champion and international champion in debate and moot court competitions.”
Now, there are some talks that he is entering a new field – that of being a political leader. In next year’s election, he is running for governorship in Davao del Sur. The last time a governor was chosen from his Bansalan hometown was in the 1960s when Ramon delos Cientos became the first governor of Davao del Sur.
“I think I have prepared my entire life for (becoming a governor),” he says. “What I lack admittedly would be an efficient organization that can convert awareness into actual votes. While I also have a little money, it may not be enough to sustain a rigorous and costly campaign.”
Right now, Atty. Torreon thinks there is a need for new leadership in the province. “There are realities that I have to contend with but I’m finding ways to overcome them. I just really feel that there is a vacuum of responsible, decent and competent leadership in our province. Somebody competent has to step up knowing the enormous responsibilities that await the governorship come 2022,” he says.
Atty. Torreon cites the Mandanas ruling, which will be implemented in 2022; hence enormous funding would flow into the local government units (LGUs). “Such, however, brings concomitant responsibilities knowing that under the Magna Carta of the Poor (a new law), the LGUs are mandated to craft development plans as to how to respond to the rights of the poor to decent food, decent shelter and decent life. That would be an awesome responsibility that cannot be handled by anyone.”
What if Atty. Torreon becomes the governor? What would he be doing? “I would implement a wholistic approach towards answering the need to respond to severe poverty while not neglecting the small businesses that need to thrive, especially in this time of the pandemic.
“I would identify the poorest of the poor and make sure that they can avail the skills training program that would help them acquire the needed skills to earn a decent living,” he continues.
The government’s Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) program, he says, should be used to the maximum so it can train them, including the unschooled youth, mothers, and those who desire to have more in life.
“I would maximize the training programs and assistance from the Cooperative Development Authority so we can create cooperatives for the poor, the youths, mothers and all national and provincial livelihood programs would be channeled through this scheme,” Atty. Torreon says. “This is the best way because in collectively, accountability is easily tracked.”
Atty. Torreon also believes that government, especially in times of pandemic, should be the stimulus for business. “Hence the provision under the Local Government Code empowering LGUs to create local economic enterprises should be maximized.
“If plans to invite investors to create processing centers would not be successful, then the provincial government should lead the way towards the establishment of these processing centers into coco oil and soaps. Our cacaos would be processed into world-class chocolates and the like,” he says.
“The PPP (Public Private Partnership) option under the build operate and transfer law would likewise be an option,” he continues. “A provincial PPP office can be created so that it can facilitate the establishment of enterprises for development in partnership with the government.”
Another project Atty. Torreon would like to do, should he become a governor, is to build modernized ports in Malalag and Santa Cruz. “I likewise believe that the provincial government should be the catalyst for big-ticket projects that can bring real benefits to the constituents,” he explains.
He thinks the modernized seaports in the aforementioned towns “can bring direct and incidental benefits to the people. Ports have always been known to be the spark plugs of progress of any society, hence, even if belated already it is now high time to make a big push for these to happen.”
These are just a few of the things he would like to do once he becomes a governor. He believes he could do his plans “because all my life whatever modest accomplishments that I have done have been self-made with the assistance of people who love me and with the guidance of the Supreme Architect of the Universe,” he says.
Atty. Torreon may be a dark horse among the candidates, but with the support of those who believe in him, it may happen. “The challenges are almost insurmountable, what with lack of organization and money,” he says. “But with the Supreme Being, hard work and perseverance, everything is doable for we are here on earth not to linger in every nook and cranny but to strive hard so that we may all become instruments in making our world a better place to live in.”