Equal partners

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

There is a daily news dump on the leading presidential candidates on social media. According to a study by the Ateneo School of Government, social media led by Facebook (Meta) has become the Filipino default option for news, 79 percent of us do it.

In this arena of blurred barriers, it’s been a labor separating chaff from grain: real v. fake, news v. PR, ad hominem v. ad rem/ad verecundiam arguments.

A richer source of edifying information would be the spouses. None know better about the challenges and pressures that our chosen have confronted and will confront 100 times over. And they, too, will be held to account for their roles. Equal partners, equal scrutiny.

The most famous and beloved of them is the one no longer with us. It has been ten years since Vice President Leni’s Secretary Jesse Robredo met his untimely end. His passing altered the course of VP Leni’s trajectory and, possibly, the course of our lives. Should she win, her children will stand with their mother in the delivery of the contracted service.

If fame were the metric, hands down the most familiar would be Jinkee Pacquiao. Her own following is well over a million on Instagram. This is unsurprising, as Senator Manny happens to be the most recognizable Filipino in history. On her own, Mrs. P. served as former vice governor of Saranggani province.

First lady of Manila Dynee Domagoso is the most down to earth of them all. She has her superpowers: the discipline and confidence of a taekwondo black belt and former national team member and the sense of purpose of a successful businesswoman.

As spouse to frontrunner BBM, Atty. Louise “Liza” Araneta Marcos has predictably reaped the most scrutiny despite having the lowest profile. As many ways as BBM has been celebrated and condemned as an individual, he has presented himself his entire public career as family man, above all: father to three sons and husband to Atty. Liza. Hence, the spotlight on her more than on the others, speaking of equal partners.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...” Atty. Liza is renowned as principal in one of the country’s more successful law firms. But rather than expound on her high-powered vocation, this Ateneo lawyer has spoken about her avocation: her passion for legal education. She is a distinguished member of the faculty of several law schools, mostly in Region 1. From 2010 to 2014, we were fortunate to have her teach exclusively at the College of Law of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

Atty. Liza the law professor was a bundle of surprises. I knew her to have practiced abroad but her forte turned out to be criminal law. Even at her previous gigs at the law schools of FEU and Northwestern University, this was her primary teaching load. She was highly professional and would always top the faculty evaluations.

She was generous with her students, even offering her own ride when they had special outings. For Bar operations, the out-of-pocket expenses which included humongous photocopying bills and accommodations, she would ask students to charge to her. This generosity solved the quandary created when she initially refused payment for her teaching services. Told that this would upend public university internal processes, Atty. Liza agreed to receive her salary but she promptly turned it over to the students afterwards as a fund for their Bar operations. This was on top of her own personal ayuda. BBE. On April 12, the results of 2020-2021’s storied Bar exam, a.k.a. #BestBarEver (BBE), are out. Whatever was written about the Bar Exams in the Philippines since 1901, this BBE has completely rewritten it.

The BBE reboot is a concatenation of firsts: two exam days only (vs 4); four canonical, core subjects for the exam syllabus (vs the usual 8); three examiners per subject (vs the usual 1 or 2); 45-day checking and waiting period for results (vs usual 4-5 months); suspended not once, not twice but three times (the second world war is the only precedent). Two batches took the exam, hence the largest number of takers at almost 11,400.

It is the first time that digitalized test taking was allowed. The ultimate selection of software (the Court settled on ExamSoft’s Examplify) from among the myriad options and understanding the varying system requirements, et.al., listening to experts, studying, taking the chance, deciding, all these is a story in itself.

The main leap of faith is of this being the first regionalized and localized Bar exam. I recall the logistical nightmare of staging this premier event, for years, centralized in one Metro Manila testing area. The concern was security against leaks and ensuring the integrity of the experience. Long after licensure exams in other disciplines became regularly regional and multi-venue, the Bar Exam would not be moved, literally and figuratively. At UST and before that, DLSU, MLQU, it was always a grand production that engaged the entire court, the City Mayor of Manila, the ground forces of the PNP, traffic, disaster risk preparedness, the engineering office, among others.

The BBE Chair had previously green-lighted the regionalization, necessitating multi-venue innovation (think logistical nightmare multiplied 31 times). Thus, when this COVID modality became reality, the Court was prepared. He even staged mock exams and provided online certification and Bar application capacities at the height of the pandemic.

This is a mighty triumph for the Court as a whole. The sheer moxie it took to see this through is unimaginable. Respect to the men and women of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.

But they would have succeeded surely, no matter what. Because it happened under the watch of BBE Chair, the prodigious Marvic Leonen who had the analytical horsepower, fortitude and sangfroid to oversee this colossal effort. Parenthetically, it was touted as the Court’s “humane” way through this god-forsaken time. The trickiest challenge was winning the examinees’ trust and approval. With his ubiquitous Bar bulletins serving as their crutch, the examinees truly felt that Mr. Justice Leonen was right there with them at every step of the journey.


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