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Miriam asks SC to abolish Bar exams

- Marvin Sy -
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has urged the Supreme Court to abolish the Bar examinations as the only means to gauge an individual’s aptitude for practicing law.

With the percentage of examinees passing the Bar staying way below 50 percent over the past five years, Santiago said that it is about time that something is done to address this statistic.

She said that in 1999 only 16.59 percent of the examinees passed the Bar; 20.84 percent in 2000; 32.89 percent in 2001; 19.68 percent in 2002; and 20.71 percent in 2003.

"A significant number of examinees who take the Bar each year have already taken the examinations once, twice, even thrice in the past and flunked," Santiago said.

Santiago, a lawyer and an honor graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law, argued that the testing for admission to the practice of law should be done before entry into law school and not after graduation.

"Put yourself in the shoes of someone who attended law school for four years of his life, took the Bar a gazillion times and never passed it because he just didn’t have the intellectual aptitude for it," she said.

"It is better to know early on that the legal profession is not for you than to spend four years of your life studying law and never becoming a lawyer," she added.

Santiago said the Bar fails to test the skills needed in the legal profession and "does not focus on the full spectrum of legal knowledge."

Citing a recent survey conducted by former UP College of Law Dean Merlin Magalona and lawyer Manuel Flores Bonifacio, Santiago noted that a significant number of lawyers think that the Bar examination is not a good index of legal competence.

The survey cited a number of reasons from its respondents, namely: passing the Bar is not an absolute guarantee of a successful practice of law, because not all Bar topnotchers are good in practice; the Bar is a test of memory and not of competence; examinees are expected to know everything at one time; passing the Bar is a matter of chance and luck; the Bar is just an index of legal competence and other factors should be considered; and the actual practice of law is the best index of legal competence.

Instead of the Bar, Santiago suggested the adoption of a National Law School Aptitude Test and a one-year legal internship program as prerequisites for admission in the study and practice of law.

She said the aptitude test would be similar to the National Medical Admission Test used by medical schools as a requirement for admission.

She also said a legal internship program will enable aspiring lawyers to gain a practical education, skills and knowledge necessary in representing clients, as well as to provide them with awareness of the myriad problems plaguing the Philippine justice system.

At the resumption of the regular sessions of Congress this Monday, Santiago intends to file a resolution urging her colleagues in the Senate to support her call for the abolition of the Bar.

BAR COLLEGE OF LAW DEAN MERLIN MAGALONA INSTEAD OF THE BAR LAW LEGAL MANUEL FLORES BONIFACIO NATIONAL LAW SCHOOL APTITUDE TEST NATIONAL MEDICAL ADMISSION TEST SANTIAGO SENATOR MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO
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