The motoring beat isn’t really a huge crowd.
In fact, if you put motoring journalists all in one room, it wouldn’t have to be a particularly large one (although a shiny new car and particularly large buffet would certainly help get all of us in it). Indeed, one prominent and familiar face in many motoring events is Land Rover Club of the Philippines (LRCP) president Robby Consunji, who many know is the legal columnist for Top Gear Philippines and the president of the Car Awards Group, Inc. which organizes the country’s annual Car of the Year Awards.
“I started with Top Gear Philippines in 2004 before the first issue,” he said. “Prior to that, Summit Media [which operates the local version of the UK-based magazine]had made a summer supplement for an oil company in 2002 and the LRCP contributed to that. After that, the company said that maybe we should open a car magazine.”
Consunji said sometime later, he met with Summit Media president Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng and other members of the car industry to put up a magazine. He said it was originally supposed to be a local version of a US car magazine.
“But when I came home from that meeting, I thought that it didn’t seem appropriate,” he said. “It had to be British because at least I would get to see the newest parts of Land Rover and Range Rover. And so I suggested Top Gear, which had good brand recall in the automotive industry, and they accepted my idea.”
When the magazine’s first issue rolled out in September 2004, Consunji served as the Off-road Editor. However, he discovered that doing off-road tests was time-consuming, so Editor-in-Chief Vernon Sarne (who also happens to be the former motoring editor for The Manila Times) suggested he do a column about legal issues in motoring.
“And so, Wheels of Justice started in 2007,” he said. “I think it was really a default job because there were no other lawyers in the room and I’ve always enjoyed transportation law from a consumer’s perspective, so it came naturally. So far, I’ve done over 90 columns in the magazine.”
Consunji graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1986 after finishing a philosophy degree in UP Diliman, Quezon City. After taking a yearlong backpack tour after the EDSA Revolution, he said he took and passed the 1987 Bar exam and has been a practicing lawyer ever since.
“My work has always been in international law,” he said. “Investment and commercial law, specifically in hotels, property and construction. I don’t really talk about my law practice a lot because I feel being a lawyer is a personal service that I give to certain people.”
However, Consunji said his Law training has helped him in running LRCP, which he has been president of since it started in December 1999.
“Running the club has always been about balancing all kinds of personal and commercial interests,” he said. “As a lawyer, I always look at the risks of what we do, along with finding ways to keep the organization stable.”