General practice of law, commercial litigation and alternative dispute resolution, tax litigation, telecommunications, information and communications technology, appellate practice and banking litigation
The ICC Institute of World Business Law, The International Technology Law Association (ITech Law), The Lawyer Network, The Philippine Bar Association, The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, The Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc., and The Board of Directors of the University of the Philippine Law Alumni Association
Mr. Marcelo has been practising law for almost four decades since 1980 in the field of dispute resolution. His 'long experience in private law practice developed his sharp drive to win' (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 August 2002, page A16), prompting a prominent columnist to compare him to a 'tenacious bull dog' as a trial lawyer (Graphic, 15 October 2007). In December 2000, Mr. Marcelo, whose competence as a litigator was already well-known despite his relative youth, and keeping a long low profile, was chosen by the prosecution as the principal private prosecutor with the task of presenting its “star” witness, during the precedent-setting impeachment proceedings against a sitting President. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 December 2000, page 1; Philippine Star, 13 February 2001, pages 7-8; Sunday Inquirer Magazine, 20 January 2002, page 9) The new President appointed Mr. Marcelo on 15 February 2001 as the Solicitor General, the government principal lawyer who is independent and has the same rank as the Secretary of Justice. Having won all the government’s major cases in the Supreme Court as Solicitor General, he was appointed two years later as the youngest head of the constitutionally-created independent anti-graft body, namely: The Office of the Ombudsman (Newsbreak, 11 November 2002, page 28). Describing his tenure as Ombudsman, the Washington Post stated that Mr. Marcelo 'restored credibility to that organization xxx, taking on the most powerful vested and entrenched interests in a country that perennially ranks among the worlds’ most corrupt xxx'; 'targeting the most corrupt agencies, daring to prosecute even members of the historically untouchable military.' (10 June 2005, at page A14) 'Marcelo served as a widely admired Ombudsman, with a solid reputation for incorruptibility.' (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 May 2009, pages 1, A8). Foremost, he would always be remembered as the Ombudsman who led the prosecution team that secured the historical Plunder charge conviction of a former President (despite the accused being represented by an array of the top and most expensive lawyers of the country). To this day, said successful prosecution remains as the first and only conviction for Plunder of a former president or any other senior government official. Unfortunately, his hundred-hour workweek and working seven days a week took a very heavy toll on his health; thus, Mr. Marcelo was compelled to leave government service in December 2005 and to take a sabbatical leave, thereafter. In January 2008, Mr. Marcelo returned to the private sector to practice law. Two publications, in articles about his return, described him as 'perhaps the country’s best litigator' (The Philippine Starweek, 17 February 2008, at page 5; Metro Society, October 2009 at page 168) Almost immediately thereafter, he was hired to lead the legal team that represented the Lopez Management during the 2008 bitterly contested annual stockholders’ election of directors of the biggest electricity distributor, Manila Electric Company (Meralco), in the country. It was a hostile takeover attempt by the government pension fund (GSIS) reportedly backed by one of the biggest companies in the country. Mr. Marcelo and his legal team, despite the full support of the Executive Department for the takeover, successfully defended against it by winning crucial victories at the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. [GSIS vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 585 SCRA 680 (2009)] Thereafter, other top companies began to secure his legal services, even including the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (the Philippines’ central monetary authority) in order to prosecute the owner and officers of the Legacy Group in the biggest bank fraud case in the country’s history. Bank of the Philippines Islands, BDO Unibank, Inc., and Philippine National Bank, which are among the largest banks in the country, are in the list of clients of Mr. Marcelo. As a consequence, his legal victories in the Meralco cases were followed by other significant favorable decisions at the Supreme Court. With respect to arbitration, he served as a member of an ICC Arbitral Tribunal in two significant inter-related international cases. He was also the Chairman of an Arbitration Tribunal that resolved a very important international arbitration case. In addition, he acted as counsel in several important arbitration cases wherein he and his team secured favorable awards. Meanwhile, from September 2008 to June 2014, Mr. Marcelo served as one of the of the World Bank’s 4-member Independent Advisory Board. Mr. Marcelo served as the President from 2009 to 2010 of the Philippine Bar Association, the oldest and largest voluntary organization of lawyers. He was appointed in late 2012 by the Philippine Supreme Court as a member of the Core Committee which drafted the proposed new Rules of Civil Procedure. As publicly acknowledged by then Senate President Franklin Drilon, Mr. Marcelo played a critical role in the passage of Republic Act No. 10660, entitled an “Act Strengthening Further the Functional and Structural Organization of the Sandiganbayan”, which streamlined the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan (the Anti-Graft Court for senior government officials) and substantially increased the number of the Justices, with the objective of expediting its proceedings. (Prior to R.A. No. 1066, an ordinary case at the Sandiganbayan would take around ten years for the completion of trial and rendition of judgment.) The University of the Philippines Alumni Association, during its Centennial Year in 2013, conferred upon Mr. Marcelo the Distinguished Alumni Award in Public Service. Currently, Mr. Marcelo is involved as legal counsel in high-profile cases in arbitral tribunals, the regional trial courts, the Court of Appeals, the Court of Tax Appeals, and the Supreme Court. Finally, The Japan Times, in an article about the Philippines, recently cited Mr. Marcelo as one of the Philippines’ top litigators (15 May 2018, at page 7). In the May-June 2018 issue of the Asia Business Law Journal, he was listed as one of the country’s top lawyers (at page 71). And at the fourth quarter of last year, during the Asia-Pacific Dispute Resolution Awards 2018 held by Asialaw, Mr. Marcelo was recognized as the Dispute Star of the Year (2018) of the Philippines.