BURKLEY AND AQUINO LAW OFFICE
The law firm with the proven track record in providing comprehensive solutions to the land requirements of corporate and individual clients as they prepare to launch their development projects that will contribute to economic empowerment and growth. From site identification, land consolidation, land use conversion, settlement of land disputes, and investment packaging, we have the experience that will ensure results in the shortest possible time.
Burkley & Aquino (B&A) is a thirteen-year old law firm specializing in land consolidation for development projects, agrarian reform and landowner compensation issues, and investment packaging. They also handle Labor cases and Collective Bargaining Agreement Negotiations, Intellectual Property cases and General Law Practice and Litigation.
The firm (originally known as the Abad, Burkley and Cristobal Law Office) was established in 1995 by former officials from the Department of Agrarian Reform, and Local Government, initially to provide support to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and farmers’ groups working for agrarian reform and rural development. Messrs. Soliman and Casis later on joined as partners (Abad, Cristobal, Casis and Soliman Law). Not long after, B&A’s services expanded to providing advisory and consultancy services to local governments, bi-lateral as well as multi-lateral funding institutions, on issues such as politics, governance and administrative law. The founders of the firm were Florencio Abad, currently Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management and former Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Adrian Cristobal, currently Undersecretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, Ferdinand Casis, former Director for Legal Services of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and Hector Soliman, former Undersecretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform for Legal Affairs and Field Operations.
Many of the original partners have joined government or other multilateral or bilateral funding institutions. Hence, the leadership of the firm have now been taken over by Clifford Burkley, former Undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and Jomer Aquino, former legal consultant of the Legal Affairs Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
CLIFFORD C. BURKLEY [Partner]
Mr. Burkley is a graduate of Class 1992 of the University of the Philippine College of Law and Class 2005 of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (Master in Public Administration). He assumed a position of Assistant Secretary in the Department of Agrarian Reform during the administration of then President Fidel Ramos, and Undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development during the early administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He has worked with the Asian Development Bank and consulted for the World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, AusAid and various NGOs. His areas of expertise are governance, social development, agrarian reform and land compensation, settlement of land disputes, development consulting and assistance to non-governmental organizations in countryside development.
JOMER HERNANDEZ AQUINO [Partner]
Mr. Aquino is a graduate of the University of the East College of Law in 1996. He joined the firm as an Associate in 1998. Atty. Aquino’s experience as legal consultant for Policy, Planning and Legal Affairs of the Department of Agrarian Reform expanded the capacity of the firm to handle more and more agrarian related cases. His experience as legal counsel of Garments and Textile Export Board (GTEB), Department of Trade and Industry also proved useful in expanding to new areas of investment packaging. Atty. Aquino’s areas of expertise are in litigation, agrarian reform law implementation, investment laws (BOI and PEZA matters), intellectual property and administrative laws. Currently, Atty. Aquino works as a consultant at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) at the Office of the President.
GILBERT J. PUNZALAN (Associate)
Mr. Punzalan is a graduate of University of the East College of Law in 2004. He joined the Firm in July 2015 as an Associate and assigned to handle the firm’s litigation cases. His areas of legal practice in the firm include civil and criminal litigation, contract law, land disputes, family law, labor law, administrative cases, contract negotiation, drafting, and review and appellate practice. Before he joined the firm, Mr. Punzalan worked with the Senate Electoral Tribunal under the Office of Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez of the Supreme Court. After a year, Mr. Punzalan was assigned to the Office of the Clerk of Court-First Division of the Supreme Court. He stayed there for almost seven (7) years.
VIRLYNN ROSE R. RAMIREZ (Associate)
Ms. Ramirez graduated from the Ateneo de Manila School of Law in 2014. As a law student, she assisted former Solicitor General Alberto Agra in writing his book Election Law Compendium in 2012. She was also an intern at the Bureau of Legal Affairs of the Intellectual Property Office in 2013. After she was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 2015, she served as an Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) where she focused her efforts on policy development and legal concerns of the Office of the Secretary. Right after her stint in DSWD, she served as legal counsel for The Cravings Group where she represented the company and its subsidiaries in various legal disputes before judicial and quasi-judicial courts. Her field of practice includes litigation and labor law.
HECTOR DIAZ SOLIMAN [Of Counsel]
Mr. Soliman is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1980 and the Harvard Kennedy School (Master in Public Administration) in 1998. He was formerly Undersecretary for Legal Affairs at the Department of Agrarian Reform and also Undersecretary for Field Operations, during the administration of then President Fidel Ramos. He started his career as an Associate of the Romero Lagman Chato and Torres Law Offices. He was legal counsel of various non-governmental organizations, such as the Social Weather Stations and the Haribon Foundation. He was the Project Director of the Justice Reform Initiatives Support (JURIS) Project of the Supreme Court, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. The project introduced court annexed mediation and judicial dispute resolution at the pre-trial stage in the first level courts of the Philippine judicial system.
ASIA G. CANIESO [Of Counsel]
Ms. CANIESO is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law in 2004 and the School of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of the Philippines, Diliman (Diploma in Industrial Relations) in 1995. She handles criminal, civil, corporation, labor and other administrative cases. Prepares pleadings and appears in court and administrative agencies for the litigation of these cases. Provides legal advice for the clients of the law office. She lectures Private International Law and Persons and Family Relations at the University of St. La Salle, College of Law, Bacolod City.
FLORENCIO B. ABAD [Former Member of the Law Firm]
Former Congressman for the lone District of Batanes. He held various positions in government such as Secretary of the Department Agrarian Reform (DAR), Secretary of the Department of Education (DEPed), and Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Land Consolidation for Development Projects
Land consolidation consists of securing the needed ownership or possessory rights over an appropriate size of land in preparation for development projects. This would require a mix of legal arrangements, such as outright sale, long term leases, powers of attorney, extrajudicial partitions, in order to secure the land. It may also require securing the proper land use reclassification and zoning ordinance with the local government for a change of the land use reclassification. Land consolidation also consists of securing the necessary permits, such as land use conversion, land use exemption, clearances from the Department of Agrarian Reform. For example, we are currently doing land consolidation for a wind farm project to generate renewable energy in the province of Rizal. The project will ensure that the wind turbines, the power station and the feeder roads are all accessible and legally covered to allow the project proponent free and untrammeled access to their facilities.
Agrarian Reform and Land Compensation
The practice of agrarian reform consists of the determination of rights of farmers and landowners to the land based on their rights and responsibilities under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Issues on tenancy, maintenance of peaceful possession, determination of lease rentals, ejectment for violation of agrarian reform laws are quite common, and are litigated with the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) found in the Central Office, the Regions and the provinces. As a matter of policy, the firm employs extensive mediation and conciliation processes prior to the filing of cases in the DARAB.
The practice of agrarian reform may also be a component of land consolidation in that certain permits or clearances from the DAR has to be secured, for a complete resolution of land claims, such as land use conversion, land use exemption or exclusion and clearances for sale or transfer of the land. The sale or possession of land usually also involves dealing with farmer beneficiaries of CARP whose titles (Certificates of Land Ownership Awards or Emancipation Patents) have legal restrictions and have to be considered in the process.
An emerging area for the firm is the disposal of agricultural foreclosed assets of commercial banks. Currently the firm is assisting a large commercial bank in this area. The practice consists of transferring agricultural lands to the Department of Agrarian Reform under the Voluntary Offer to Sell scheme, revaluation of land valuation and compensation cases in the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board and Special Agrarian Courts, and completion of pre-payment requirements for the collection of just compensation in the Land Bank of the Philippines. This practice allows the bank to comply with the five year disposal period as required by banking laws, and also maximize their exposure to these foreclosed assets.
Corporate and Investment Packaging
This practice area consists of setting up for-profit companies for registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, setting up the secondary registration with the local government (Mayor’s Permit and other licenses), and more importantly securing tax incentives from the appropriate agencies. Two of the more important tax incentives the firm could help in are Income Tax Holidays for preferred or pioneer industries under the Investment Incentives Act and the Investment Priorities Plan, and registration as an accredited Export Processing Zone under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). The firm has assisted a major hydro-electric power plant register for income tax holidays with the Board of Investments for a six year period. The firm has also assisted a major agri-business firm in Mindanao, with a strong export orientation, in their registration as an eco-zone with the PEZA.
Setting up Non Profit Corporations and their Tax Exemptions
Another practice area of the firm is the setting up, management, and tax exemption of non-profit organizations. Due to the long standing association of its partners with non-governmental organizations, the firm is now in a very good position to advise NGOs on their legal needs. The firm has assisted many NGOs in setting up their charters, and in securing various types of tax exemptions. These tax exemptions can vary from being a tax-exempt corporation under the National Internal Revenue Code, a qualified donee institution under the National Internal Revenue Code and the processes defined by the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC), tax exemption from local taxes, such as business taxes and real property taxes, under the local government code. Currently, the law office is the legal counsel of a consortium of mutual benefit associations and micro-insurance corporations that serve the poorer segments of the population, and various other non-government organizations.
Labor Practice and Collective Bargaining Agreement
The firm has been engaged in the practice of advising various companies on their labor issues and concerns. The firm is currently handling the collective bargaining agreement of two large supervisory unions in the automobile industry. The firm also advises various human resource departments or managers on labor issues, such as worker’s benefits, employee manuals, dismissal procedures, employment agreements and the like. The firm has represented labor unions, individual employees or firms in their labor concerns from the National Labor Relations Commission to the appellate courts.
Intellectual Property Rights
The firm has also extensive experience in assisting clients with their intellectual property rights. These can come in the form of registration of copyrights, trademarks and patents with the appropriate government agencies. The firm also assists clients in the prosecution and defense of intellectual property rights against infringement, and disputes in the Intellectual Property Office of the Department of Trade and Industry, and the courts, if needed. [we can cite a client in this area]
General Law Practice
The firm also accepts cases which clients usually encounter such as traffic accidents and personal injury cases, child abuse cases, extrajudicial settlements in cases of death in the family, nullification of marriages, disciplinary cases of government officials in the Ombudsman, Civil Service or the department itself, bouncing checks, estafa and other similar criminal cases. [we can cite a client in this area, or an important case that we have handled]