Decentralization still first victory in Bar reforms bid

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo - Reporter/CDN Digital | April 29,2020 - 08:52 PM

Bar examinees await the release of passers from the Supreme Court. ( FILE PHOTO / RYAN LEAGOGO)

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Legal educators in Cebu are hoping that the decentralization of the bar examinations is just the first victory in the bid for reforms in what is regarded as the country’s toughest licensure test.

Following the release of the 2019 Bar exam results on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, the Supreme Court issued Bar Bulletin no. 11, announcing that the next bar examinations will be held in Manila and Cebu City.

The bulletin, which also announced that the 2020 Bar exams will be pushed back to 2021 due to the coronavirus threat, was signed by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the 2020 Bar Examinations Chairperson.

This will be the first time that the Bar will be held outside of the National Capital Region (NCR) despite the long-standing appeal of the law schools in the provinces for the decentralization of the examination.

“Kaning holding [of] the BAR exam in Manila is very disadvantageous financially, psychologically, emotionally sa mga examinees nato,” USC Law School Dean, Lawyer Joan Largo told CDN Digital.

In a 2018 interview, Largo said that holding the Bar exams only in Metro Manila has been a disadvantage to law graduates from the provinces since they will have to bear added financial, psychological, and emotional pressure on top of the stress in taking the four-week exam.

READ: Decentralize Bar exams, law school dean urges

“We thank Justice Leonen, the Bar chair of Bar 2020. We also thank the Supreme Court for this request to have been granted by them,” Largo said.

“This is really a major history because we have been asking the SC for this one and we are just very blessed to have Justice Marvic Leonen as the next Bar chair who is very receptive of this idea,” Largo added.

In 2014, the bid to decentralize the Bar exams first gained the support of some members of Congress.

In an report, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr., in 2014, filed a resolution urging the Supreme Court to “seriously consider” holding the annual qualifying examination for lawyers simultaneously in Manila, Cebu City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

Earlier calls for the decentralization of the Bar exams were set aside by the high court due to logistical constraints and difficulty in protecting the integrity of test questions due to the risk of leaks.

The law school dean said this development will somehow minimize the geographical and material inequities among the Bar exam takers.

Aside from the decentralization of the Bar exams, Largo said they are also pushing for a digitized examination where the takers will encode their answers instead of the current pen and paper set up.

Largo added that they are also asking the Supreme Court to rationalize the subjects covered by the examination.

At present, aspiring lawyers will have to take eight sets of tests for eight subjects namely: Political Law and Public International Law (15%), Labor and Social Legislation (10%), Civil Law (15%), Taxation (10%), Mercantile Law (15%), Criminal Law (10%), Remedial Law (20%) and Legal and Judicial Ethics (5%).

“These are the things that we have put forward sa Supreme Court pero kani gyung Cebu as the next Bar site is one major victory,” Largo said. /rcg

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