Senior law officials from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States attended the 21st ASEAN Senior Law Officials Meeting (ASLOM) in an on-site meeting held at the Hilton Hotel in Pasay City, Philippines last 13-14 October 2022. The ASLOM is an annual forum, which was established in 1985 for senior law officials from various ASEAN Ministries of Justice to discuss legal issues of common interest pertaining to legal cooperation with a view to promote ASEAN’s objectives within the ASEAN Political-Security Community.
The meeting marks the assumption by the Philippines of the chairmanship of ASLOM with the election of Department of Justice Undersecretary Brigido J. Dulay as Chairman of the 21st ASLOM until October 2023. The 21st ASLOM also marks the first in-person ASLOM meeting after the previous meetings were held virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
Before commencing deliberations on the various agenda items ranging from judicial cooperation to an ASEAN-wide extradition treaty, Undersecretary Dulay exhorted senior legal officials from ASEAN Member States “to build on the gains, however small, that we have already achieved so that we can forward towards achieving a consensus on areas of common interest.”
Citing the importance of strengthening the rule of law, judicial systems and legal infrastructure within ASEAN, Undersecretary Dulay stressed the need for a consensus and enhanced legal cooperation among the Member States, reminding the delegates that “there is more that bind us together than what keeps us apart.”
The two-day event was concluded with important negotiations on, among others, the ASEAN Extradition Treaty (AET), with a consensus among the ASEAN delegates on the approach to be used in determining what an extraditable offense is. At the close of the session, a work plan was finalized for the succeeding meetings on the AET, which is expected to include three (3) rounds of negotiations before the 22nd ASLOM to be held in Myanmar in October 2023. The proposed AET is seen as the institutional framework among ASEAN Member States to combat transnational crimes while sending the strong message that “the region will not be a refuge for fugitives from the law.”
The 21st ASLOM also saw progress in the proposed ASEAN Convention of Transfer of Sentenced Persons (ACTSP) using the principles and modalities of ASEAN-Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in Criminal Matters as a guide to crafting the new agreement. The ASEAN MLAT, which is now in force in all the ASEAN Member States, was elevated into an ASEAN treaty in 2019.
During the meeting, the Philippines also obtained a consensus among ASEAN Member States on its proposal to hold an ASEAN Law Forum for Member States to share information and experience on their export control regimes as part of the ASEAN MLAT. This is aimed at implementing the ASEAN-wide commitment to be free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
The Philippine delegation was led by Chief State Counsel George Ortha II, Assistant Chief State Counsel Mildred Bernadette Alvor and other state counsels from the DOJ Legal Staff.
The 22nd ASLOM will be hosted by Myanmar in 2023.