Saturday, September 04, 2004

Knocking at the Portals of the Bar

Knocking at the portals of the bar

Updated 09:34pm (Mla time) Sept 04, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the September 5, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

TODAY being the first Sunday of September, it will mark the beginning of the annual bar examinations to be held on the four weekends of this month. According to the Bar Confidant of the Supreme Court, 5,422 applicants have registered to take the tests, 3,002 being first timers and the rest repeaters. The fee of the former is P2,250 and the latter pay an additional P250 per failure. All of them will be subjected to the same examinations.

The subjects of the examinations are Political Law and International Law in the morning and Labor Law in the afternoon for the first Sunday, Civil Law and Taxation for the second Sunday, Commercial Law and Criminal Law for the third Sunday, and Remedial Law and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises for the last Sunday.

The examinations will be a gauge not only of the candidates’ abilities but also of the examiners’ competence to test them. One could say that at the time of the examinations, the average students, and more so the exceptional ones, know more law than the examiners. But this has got to be proved by the candidates to the satisfaction of the examiners.

The examiners are usually and not necessarily especially conversant with the subject assigned to them. I have suggested that the examiners be experts or at least knowledgeable of their respective assignments, but this has been rejected on the ground that they will tend to be unduly strict with the examinees.

This is how professors are with their students in the better law schools, but the Supreme Court seems to prefer the examiners to be less informed than the examinees. This has resulted at times to the prejudice of the examinees.

Decades ago, an examiner simply copied his questions from a quizzer without even changing the names and the dates in the problems; worse, they called for the application of old decisions, not the current doctrines the students had studied. That examiner could not even compose his own original questions, and it is doubtful if he knew the new answers to the old questions he plagiarized.

Only a few years ago, the examiner asked for the distinctions between recognition de jure and de facto of states, instead of governments. In that same examination, the examiner spoke of the budget and the general appropriations bill as if they were synonymous when professors in Political Law make it a point to distinguish between the two terms.

In my own examination in 1951, we were asked what kind of nuisance a bagoong factory was, and I correctly wrote it was per accidens. When I got my examination notebook five years later, I found that answer with a big cross. The examiner held the nuisance as per se and therefore could be abated summarily, that is, without judicial permission. I was deducted for being right.

And, yes, when I used the word “trifling,” that superficial fellow encircled it as wrong, thus confessing that he was also deficient in vocabulary. That examiner will be nameless here for pity’s sake, but God rest his soul in the purgatory of the ignorant.

Problems like these may be due to the practice of confining the identity of the examiners only to the chair of the bar examining committee and the Chief Justice, who are thus the only persons who can judge their competence. The rest of the justices learn their names only after the examinations, when the results are submitted to the banc for its approval and it is too late to make amends.

The reason for such secrecy is to prevent undue identification of the examiners and their possible subornation. Even without such precaution, however, irregularities have happened in the bar examinations, probably as a result of such disclosure or some other corrupt cause. The test in Taxation was invalidated years ago and Commercial Law only last year for leakage of the questions, and during the 1920s an honorable justice resigned when his niece falsified the bar results.

The end of the examinations is celebrated by the candidates like a thorn that has been pulled out (“nabunutan ng tinik”) with parades, music, dancing in the streets, and delirious howling. Many of the examinees will release their tensions in beer. Most of them will go out with their spouses or sweethearts and enjoy those pleasures they denied themselves during the past four weeks.

What will follow next are the months of prayer, worry, hope and despair as they await the release of the results of the tests. These will determine if they will become lawyers after their years of study, or they should study some more and take another examination, and perhaps another, and still another, if they should be so unlucky or plain undeserving to enter the fastidious portals of the bar.

I pray for the bar candidates, having also endured their anxieties. I hope all of them will pass the examinations with the help of St. Judas Thaddeus, the patron saint of the impossible, and become honorable members of the greatest profession in the world.


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