Merlin Magallona

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Merlin Magallona (6 August 1934-1 January 2022) was an international law luminary and former dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law. He was a resource person for issues such as the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. He was also known for his advocacy in upholding the Philippines’ territorial sovereignty against the incursions of foreign powers such as China.

His views and writings are often used by government officials as standard. He published works on various topics such as Philippine Territorial Issues, Use of Force and International Security, Philippine Practice of International Law, Globalization, Law of the Sea, and many others.


He earned his Bachelor of Laws from the UP College of Law and spent decades teaching international law at UP. He was Dean of the UP College of Law from 1995 to 1999, Associate Dean from 1991 to 1995, and Director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies from 2000 to 2001.

He was a participant in the Tokyo External Session of The Hague Academy in 1968, a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University in 1969, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Graduate School of International Development of Nagoya University in 1994.

He was a member of the Expert Group on the Legal Aspects of the New International Economic Order of the UN Institute on Training and Research in 1992 and was listed as an Expert in Human Rights of the UN Human Rights Commission.

Nomination as Associate Justice

In 1999, he was nominated as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines (SC). He served as Chair of the Department of International and Human Rights Law of the Academic Council of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) of SC. Through PHILJA, he helped the Supreme Court by training judges in international and human rights law. He was also a member of the Panel of Arbitrators of the Permanent Court of Arbitrators.

Magallona served as Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary For Migrant Workers’ Affairs from 2001 to 2002. As such, he pushed for the creation of an Overseas Filipino Bond and government-subsidized housing program for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Opposition to US military exercises

He was remembered for taking a principled stand against US military exercises in the Philippines post 9/11. Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo backed the deployment of American troops to the Philippines while then Vice President Teofisto Guingona – a concurrent DFA secretary – opposed it. Magallona took on the Arroyo government for passing RA 9522, which adjusted the country’s archipelagic baselines. They lost that petition.

International representation

He also served as a member of the Supreme Court Committee on Legal Education from 1999 to 2003 and a member of the arbitral tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, France from 1999 to 2000.

He served as counsel for the Philippines in the oral arguments before the ICC in the case of Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons (Advisory Opinion, 1995) and case Concerning Sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan (Indonesia v. Malaysia), in which the Philippines intervened in 2001.

In 2002, Magallona represented the Philippines in the Working Group of the UN Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC) in Rome in 1998. He headed the Philippine Delegation to the meeting of the ICC Preparatory Committee in 2002.

In 2004, the SC appointed him as an amicus curie in the citizenship case of Fernando Poe, Jr. He was also part of the organizing committee and the Executive Council of the Asian Society of International Law (AsianSIL) in 2004. He was also a member of the International Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and the International Honor Society for the Social Sciences, Pi Gamma Mu.


  • Globalization and Sovereignty: The Republic in Crisis (2017)
  • Legal Education: The Search for its Strategic Center in Filipino Cultural Development (2016)
  • The Philippines in the International Law of the Sea (2015)
  • Philippine Constitution and International Law (2013)
  • Dictionary of Contemporary International Law (2011)
  • Supreme Court and International Law: Problems and Approaches in International Law (UP Law Center, 2010)
  • Fundamentals of Public International Law (2005)
  • A Primer on the Relation of Philippine Law and International Law (2000)
  • International Issues in Philippine Perspective (1998)
  • A Primer on the Law of the Sea (1997)
  • A Primer on the Law of Treaties (1997)
  • Japan in the New State of World Capitalism: Problems in Law and Development in Philippine-Japanese Relations (1995)
  • The Dismantling of the Philippine State (1994)


He died peacefully in his sleep on 1 January 2022 at the age of 87. Tributes poured from the Philippine legal sector and remembered Magallona as a legend who had taught generations of Filipino lawyers.




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