Thursday, June 20, 2019

Seares: They want to remove ‘frills’ of bar examinations. Seriously.

SUPREME Court (SC) Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin thinks Filipinos are obsessed with topping the bar examinations and the “madness” can end by adopting the “no-frills” system in the United States, which does not grade the examinee’s work and just marks it “passed” or “failed.”

A Jan. 6 Abogado.Com story says Bersamin disclosed a four-point agenda during a University of Sto. Tomas dinner last December, asking the country’s law school deans to study the American way of opening the gates to the practice of law.

Nation of cheerers

The law schools, through their heads, are only one sector that the SC must consult. Not to be shut out is the nation of cheerers who revel in the excitement that each announcement of bar results brings. CJ Bersamin wants to rob Filipinos of one simple joy that other government examinations do not induce. Tests for doctors, engineers, teachers, accountants, seafarers--name all the other professionals--do not set off a third as much zest and zing as the annual bar exams do.

First, what “madness” is the chief justice talking about?

“Legal festivity”

House Deputy Secretary General Darren de Jesus, joining the Bersamin-led assault against the grading of examinees and listing the Top 10 or Top 20, calls this a “a legal festivity”: (1) examinees treated “like VIP in a parade”; (2) examiners’ names kept a secret and exam questions “anticipated, mocked and criticized”; (3) lots of money spent on review centers and reviewer books are updated almost yearly; and bar reviewers; (4) the waiting of the “entire legal community” for the results and the treatments of topnotchers like celebrities, with law firms thrown into a bidding war to hire them.

Apparently, Bersamin and company despise the public attention on bar exams, “the hullabaloo,” de Jesus calls it. They want the procedure to the essential, which is to choose those who deserve to pass those gates that the SC noted in one case “swing on slow hinges.”

Core of the problem

They are missing the core of the problem about bar examinations. It is the substance and the kind of questions that are asked that matter: not the noise and the hoopla that accompany preparations for the exams and release of the results.

Does the bar effectively test the examinee’s worth to be a lawyer? When the SC board of examiners declares a law graduate worthy, is it fairly sure he knows the law, how to apply it to legal problem presented before him, and the ethics in his practice?

A nagging puzzler is the high number of lawyers who are used to commit corruption or assist drug trafficking: perhaps the tests can be improved to detect early on before the law graduates are let loose into the practice of law to become accomplices, if not principals, of thievery in government or peddling of illegal drugs.

The objections

Check out again de Jesus’s list of gripes: they’re all about the fuss over the Top 10 or Top 20.

Treatment of topnotchers like VIPs? They deserve it. Not just sports heroes must be lauded. But Bersamin and company want those who excel in mental prowess and hard work in academic studies to be denied the reward.

Big spending on preparations for the bar? That’s lawful right and privilege of those who can afford and are willing to use the resources for the competition.

It is a competition. Not quite like sports or politics but when thousands of graduates take the bar, they compete: for the right to practice law and if, they’re brighter and better prepared than others, for the chance to excel over their co-examinees.

What they can do

The noise can be made decibels lower but do not take away the right for a would-be lawyer to find out how his six-year study is rated by the high court, which tends to that slow-swinging gate.

P.S. (1) Not grading the examinee’s blue book would enable lazy and inept correctors to hide their “bad.” (2) We’d lose the rare annual event of our own University of San Carlos, University of Cebu or University of San Jose-Recoletos beating the daylights out of the Manila schools. (3) They could find ways to improve the substance and methods of the bar exams instead.


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