Meet the lawyer who gives free advice on Tiktok

Published July 31, 2021, 8:00 PM

by Marie Buenaventura

How Antonino Roman III has become a viral sensation

There’s an uproar now on TikTok. 

Antonino “Tony” Roman III—a lawyer with postgraduate degrees and certificates from Columbia University, Harvard University, and the University of Cambridge, and a licensed law practitioner in the Philippines and the US state of New York—has been making waves in a field far removed from law: social media. He’s been noticed by CNN Philippines and Mega magazine, both of which have dubbed him as the “TikTok lawyer.”

Three months into his advocacy of providing free legal advice, Roman continues to make waves in all social media platforms. He now has (as of July 10) 913,000 followers, 40 million cumulative views on TikTok, and more than 300,000 followers, 11 million in reach (“reach” is the number of unique individuals viewing content), and eight million cumulative views on Facebook.  

What makes Roman exceptional is that he gives legal advice about everyday issues faced by poor, marginalized people—and gives it for free. He began his advocacy “para hindi maabuso ang mga Pinoy (so Filipinos won’t be abused).” For instance, he has one video discussing what one does when the mangoes of one’s neighbor falls on one’s property reached 1.1 million views in less than 12 hours (yes, you can claim the mangoes as your own if they fall on your property). His other videos on legal and social issues also went viral quickly: Dealing with problems such as rowdy neighbors doing loud karaoke-signing all night, people in one’s barangay fabricating malicious stories on social media, debts and debt collection, child support, and many other relatable topics.

He has one video discussing what one does when the mangoes of one’s neighbor falls on one’s property reached 1.1 million views in less than 12 hours.

The father of three girls is the son of the former Bataan representatives Antonino Roman, Jr. and Herminia Roman, and the younger brother of Bataan First District Representative Geraldine B. Roman, the famous and first openly transgender member of the Philippine Congress. He earned his bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees at the Ateneo de Manila University and his Master of Laws at Columbia Law School in New York. He has completed special courses on leadership and policy design at the Harvard Kennedy School and the University of Cambridge. Roman grew up in the Philippines but spent most of his adult life practicing law in the US.

In April 2019, he returned to the Philippines to do two things he’s passionate about—teach and practice law. Roman has extensive experience in motion and discovery practice, trial work, including drafting trial court and appellate briefs, taking and defending depositions, eDiscovery protocol negotiations and management, witness examination, litigation and arbitration in various legal jurisdictions, including US state, federal, and Philippine courts.

In these hard times, he steadfastly produces “free legal advice” content to help the masses of Filipinos who have no access to a lawyer, or those who are financially challenged. His recent posts are relevant not only today but for eternity: What do you do if another driver bumps your car but you’re not carrying a valid driver’s license? Is it permissible to shoot a robber who has entered your house? Can I cut the branch of my neighbor’s tree that’s jutting over my fence? Can I sue people who are constantly insulting and embarrassing my sister who is a Person With Disability?

A post of Roman about the matter of legally changing one’s name had a bit of humor in it. A TikToker revealed her first name is Dinalego, which means “did not take a bath” in English. “Can I legally change it?” the TikToker asked.  

Other issues in his social media accounts are just as practical and interesting: Can you use “self-defense” as an argument after shooting an unarmed aggressor who punched you in the face during a traffic altercation? What can I do with my ka-barangay(village neighbor) who promised to pay his debt to me in three monthly installments but hasn’t fulfilled his promise? Can a traffic enforcer confiscate my license? How can I get financial support that’s due me and my children from my ex-husband, from whom I am legally separated? 

For millions of Filipinos in the Philippines or working abroad, it’s comforting to know there’s a good lawyer out there who won’t charge an arm and two legs for legal advice.