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The LEB and the Bar examinations
Published April 25, 2017, 10:00 PM
By J. Art D. Brion
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Despite the passage of RA 7662 in 1993, the LEB was only organized in 2009 under the chairmanship of retired CA Justice Hilarion Aquino. Since then, through no fault of the LEB, it repeatedly suffered from multiple vacancies in its seven-man board; at times, the number of incumbents was less than half of its full complement. The composition of the board only began to normalize in the past 14 months after the assumption to office of Chairman Emerson Aquende. (Quite recently, though, it again lost two members due to the expiration of their term of office and no replacement has been appointed.)
Under its charter, the LEB only has four staff plantilla positions; thus, it has more officials than support staff for the implementation of its mandate. It relies on the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) support for its personnel, budget, finance, accounting, cashiering, procurement, information technology, and general administration needs.
The LEB’s budget is a meager P5.4 million annually, solely allocated for its MOOE. It has no budget for capital expenditures; no Legal Education Fund has been established because it was only organized 16 years after its creation in 1993.
A Roll of Honor and a Roll of undistinguished law schools can be discerned from the LEB records, based on the schools’ performance in the last five (5) years (2011-2015).
The following law schools (in alphabetical order) are in the Honor Roll based on a passing rate of at least 50% in a given Bar exam year for their examinees. Angeles University Foundation; Ateneo de Manila University; San Beda College, Manila; University of San Carlos; and University of the Philippines. They maintained their records for all of the last five years.
The roll of law schools at the other extreme, is based on a 0% passing rate in the same five-year period. Zero % means that not one of a law school’s examinees passed during a Bar exam year. Three law schools had zero (0) % passing rate in all of the five years; seven had zero % in four of the five years; five scored 0% in three of the five years; and nine law schools had 0% passing rate twice in five years.
Beyond the zero raters are the law schools with 10% or less passing rate for their first time examinees in the last five years. Eight law schools had less than 10% passing rate in all of the five years; another eight failed to hit the 10% passing rate for four years; 11 failed to make the grade for three of the five years; and 17 failed to make it for two years.
The total number of law schools in the two undistinguished lists is 68 or 54.4% of the 125 existing and operating law schools in the country (using 2016 records). I wonder how the passing rate records of those in the two undistinguished lists would be affected if the rumored 40% passing rate materializes.
For 2017, the LEB Board has laid out a list of reform measures to improve legal education. Foremost among these is the Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhiLSAT), the counterpart of the US Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This measure requires prospective law school applicants to pass the PhiLSAT exam before they can be admitted to law school. This exam is without prejudice to a law school’s own entrance requirements (with the PhiLSAT standard as minimum) that every law school may impose on its own on applicants for admission.
After consultations, the LEB implemented the admission test on April 16, 2017. Eight thousand seventy-two (8,072) applicants took the exam. A legal challenge, however, has been filed with the Supreme Court to question, not only the entrance exam requirement, but the constitutionally of RA 7662 that created the LEB.
Apparently, the petitioners want the Supreme Court to regulate and supervise, not only the admission to the Bar and the practice of the legal profession, but legal education in the country as well. The petition’s approach of questioning the constitutionality of the LEB’s charter interestingly avoided the issue of the intrinsic merits of the PhiLSAT.
I am ethically bound not to comment on the merits of the petition in light of its pendency before the High Court. Thus, I can only pray that the challenge shall soon be resolved as the ASEAN regional integration (that covers the practice of the legal profession) continues to march towards its full implementation. Please join me in this prayer and in hoping for a competent and regionally competitive legal profession. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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