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DLSL Alumnus in Focus: Atty. Johween Atienza, M.D.

Eighty per cent as lawyer, he says; and the remaining twenty per cent as doctor. Those of you who are still in school and cannot wait to get out, spare a thought for this remarkable individual who spent no less than twenty-five years of his life in school studying.

Johween Atienza is from the high school class of 1991. He calls himself an authentic Batangueño, having been born and reared in the small municipality of San Jose just fifteen or so minutes away from Lipa.

He is the son of the Engr. Mario Atienza and the late former Lina Ozaeta. The latter, Johween says, died in rather tragic circumstances when he was merely six years old. “She was admitted to a tertiary hospital near España, Manila due to a femoral fracture brought about by a car accident,” he recalls. “She was about to be operated on eight days after the accident; but died of anaesthesia overdose prior to her actual operation.”

His father later remarried and Johween has five siblings from his father’s second marriage. All, like Johween, went to school at DLSL.

When I wrote to Johween to ask him if it was alright to write about him, his reply came with something of a curious reintroduction. “Sir,” he wrote back, “I was your student in your History class during my fourth Year in high school. You were also our Year Level Moderator. You always scolded us because we always made one of our teachers cry in our class.

Oh yes, the Crying Teacher. The truth is, there was no need whatsoever for that reintroduction.

I remember Johween quite well, as a matter of fact. He was the quiet – even pensive – boy in the corner and was very respectful. Of course, as with many of my students, there was really no way to track how their lives had gone after they graduated from high school; and this has made writing this series such great fun for me.

The way Johween’s life eventually turned out after he graduated from high school was due in no small way to his being a brainwashed grandson and an obedient son.

“Since childhood, I wanted to pursue the medical profession,” he explains. “My paternal grandmother, who took care of me when my mother died, brainwashed me because she was frustrated that my father left Medical School when he was on his second year proper to marry my mother. When he went back to school, he took up Mechanical Engineering.”

And the law part? “I decided to go to Law to fulfil my father’s dream,” he says.

From high school, he went to DLSU-Manila to take up BS Biology. He was an average student, Johween describes himself. “My daily routine was house-school-house. No gimmicks, since I was then the only probinsiyano in my class,” he recalls. True to his promdiprobins character, he adds, “I was then afraid that I might get lost in Metro Manila.”

Saturday was the most anticipated day of each week. “Every Saturday, after class, I rode the bus to Batangas either at Lawton or Buendia; and then I went back to Manila on Sunday afternoon.”

In 1994, having obtained his Biology degree from DLSU, he started taking up Medicine proper at the St. Luke’s College of Medicine. Medical School was serious business. “We read several chapters of our thick books every night. More than 100 pages per subject,” Johween relates the effort required of him and his classmates.

“Then came clerkship (fourth year) and internship (fifth year),” he continues. “If we were on duty, we were required to go to the hospital at 6:30 am and stay until 5 pm the following day. I spent two birthdays, Christmases and New Years at the hospital.”

In 1999, he graduated from Medical School and later acquired his license to practice as a medical doctor.  He had the distinction of being ranked second in his class during his fourth year in Medical School.  Instead of going into a residency program – which he knew he could always do later – Johween instead enrolled at the Arellano University School of Law.

“I was fortunate and grateful that my father shouldered all my expenses at Law School,” he laughs. “However, there was a condition. He insisted that I should finish law school and pass the bar. Up to now, I really don’t know if my father would have seriously sought reimbursement if I did not finish or failed the bar. I did both and never asked him.”

While waiting for the bar results in 2005 after having graduated from Law School, he was accepted in a law firm owned by Representative Edcel Lagman. He is still with the firm and is currently assigned at the litigation division and in charge of retainer clients.

“I handle criminal, civil, appellate, special proceedings, labour, election, administrative, corporation law, banking, negligence and medical malpractice,” Johween describes his work. “I also do consultative work for the House of Representatives.”

Although he practices both professions, Johween is candid enough to admit that he earns more from his practice of law. “I am pro-bono in my practice of medicine,” he says. Although he did have thoughts of going into residency training in Nuclear Medicine, this he could not do anymore because he had married and had children by the time that he became a lawyer.

Still, his being a medical doctor has been remarkably helpful to his law career. “I use my medical knowledge during trials, especially in criminal and malpractice cases that I handle,” Johween says.

How different is law as a career to that of medicine? “Medicine is entirely a different world from law,” Johween explains. “My doctor classmates cannot understand even the simplest law or legal principle when I advise them. On the other hand, my lawyer classmates cannot even comprehend what I am saying when they consult me. Doctors are scientific; lawyers, on the other hand, are philosophic.”

Johween considers his greatest professional accomplishment his serving as legal counsel for Representatives Edcel C. Lagman, Rodolfo B. Albano, Simeon A. Datumanong and Orlando B. Fua, Sr. in a Supreme Court case docketed as G.R. No. 193036, entitled “Rep. Edcel Lagman, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Ochoa, Jr., et al.”

He explains, “I drafted and filed the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition declaring unconstitutional E.O. No. 1 or the Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 of President Aquino.

Johween argued before the Supreme Court that the Truth Commission set up by the current administration was in violation of former President Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo’s constitutional right to equal protection.

He goes on, “I said that the proper venue to prosecute her was by filing complaint/s either at the Office of the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice. My arguments were sustained by the High Court. The case is a precedent and is part of the assigned cases being studied by law students in constitutional law and human rights law; and is now cited by constitutionalists.”

Johween is married to the former Myleen Santos of Antipolo City, who he met while still at Medical School. They have two children – 9-year old Kyra Lynah Jomai and 5-year old Kyle Markus Jomai. The small family currently lives in Pasay City.

Unlike many of his peers, Johween never entertained thoughts of leaving the country for greener pastures. “The salary abroad is hefty,” he says, “but the cost of living is also high.”

“Moreover,” Johween continues, “I am nationalistic. I don’t even want to travel abroad for my vacations. I prefer to travel within the country. Abroad, we also see the same sun, moon and sky as we see in our country. There is no need to work abroad if all you want is to be able to afford a simple and decent life here.”

Johween would someday like to go into academe to share knowledge gained in not one but two professions. Time, however, is always at a premium when one is at the peak of his career. As things are at the moment, Johween’s time is eaten up “attending court hearings and meetings; drafting court pleadings; and reviewing contracts. I attend hearings as far as Santiago City in the north and Cebu in the south.”

Whatever free time he has, Johween spends with his family at the malls or checked in at local hotels. When at home, he likes to sleep on the couch, play computer games with his children, surf the Internet or play with the family’s pet dog Shakes. Holidays are for visiting his wife’s family in Antipolo or his own in San Jose.

Being the simple and self-effacing Batangueño that he always has been, Johween probably does not even fully appreciate the enormity of his having become both a medical doctor and a lawyer at the same time. He considers both as noble professions guided by the strictest standards of morals and ethics.

He calls himself a mere average student; but emphasizes that he was a diligent one. Although he has left school after being in it for all of 25 years, he says that every day is still a learning experience. Although he has not won many awards and distinctions, he considers the smiles of his clients – particularly after he proves them innocent of false accusations – as his greatest rewards.

He also has not forgotten where he came from, and continues to value and keep in touch with friends from high school.

“I am still in constant communication with my friend Dennis Endaya, who is now living at Qatar with his family. I am also in touch with Virgil Umali, who migrated to Milan with his family. There is also Jun Paul Hernandez, who is working in the United States as a nurse. In the country, there is Rommel Tibayan.”

Johween says that he is eternally grateful to his teachers, who have helped him realize his dream. “Up to now,” he confesses, “I still keep in my wallet the image of St. Joseph and Jesus given to me by my fourth year adviser Mrs. (Juliet) Sumcad way back 1991. Mrs. Sumcad’s hand written dedication is still readable after 21 years.”

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