Bar exams in Cebu soon

(The Freeman) - February 23, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - When she went to Manila to take the Bar in 1963, former Court of Appeals Justice Portia Hormachuelos admitted being frightened as it was her first time to set foot in the country’s capital.

She feared the thought of spending a month away from the comfort of her family. She even recounted when she got lost in the big city. During the Bar she also came to the point when she did not care about passing or failing anymore, she just wanted the ordeal over with.

Apart from the mental tribulations, economic constraints are also a major concern. Nowadays, Hormachuelos said, a Bar taker has to spend more than P100,000 for Bar-related expenses and their stay in Manila.

Expenses may even be higher for those from other provinces, and this, along with previously mentioned challenges may even affect their aptitude, she added.

Noting these concerns, the retired justice said she and other Law deans have been pushing for the decentralization of the Bar exams to minimize the burden on the takers.

Their effort is now bearing fruit after the 2016 Bar Examinations Committee finally assented to the proposal to conduct the annual licensure exams for admission to the Philippine Bar in Cebu City this year.

However, this will only happen if at least 1,000 Law graduates prefer to take the Bar exams here in the province this November.

Hormachuelos, Dean of the Gullas Law School, told The FREEMAN that she met the deans of law schools in Cebu City last Monday and asked them to conduct a survey among their students.

She said they were only given until Thursday next week to submit the results of the survey to the Bar exams committee. The survey covers would-be graduates and re-takers as the respondents.

She added that other Law schools outside Cebu will also be involved since the province only has 250 expected fresh Law graduates.

The Philippine Association of Law Schools already provided Hormachuelos with the contact numbers of the Law school deans in other provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“We even have more bar takers in the Visayas and Mindanao… I’m very positive that time will come,” Hormachuelos said.

Survey forms will be made available in different Law schools starting today.

The latest development came after Hormachuelos conferred recently with Bar Exam Committee Chairman Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., who also expressed support to the decentralization of the Bar exams.

The retired CA justice is optimistic that the new development will pave the way to finally regionalize the Bar exams.

“That is an understanding between the Bar (exams) committee and Supreme Court en banc,” she noted.

Once realized, it would be the first time in history that the Bar examinations are held outside Manila.

Hormachuelos said the University of Cebu offered a venue free of charge should Cebu be chosen as pilot area for the Bar exams.

She said the Legal Education Board, which supervises all Law schools in the country, and the PALS have been paying P4.5 million to University of Santo Tomas as bar exams venue.

There have been several proposals for the regionalization of the Bar exams but these failed to get the nod of the Supreme Court to protect the integrity of the examinations.

However, Hormachuelos believes otherwise, saying cheating will not happen as doing so will lead to imprisonment for contempt.

“Only the Law schools have the power to do that. We will involve the judges who will serve as proctors,” she said.

Gonzalo Malig-on, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu Chapter said the move is a good gesture to start with.

 “I hope the Supreme Court will reconsider the threshold because that would still be many years from now to reach if Cebu-based examinees lang ang basehan. We are praying for the leveling off of the playing field; hence, it should given be primordial consideration than just the cost of doing the exam here,” he said.

Baldemero Estenzo, dean of the College of Law of the University of Cebu, said they will be extremely happy if the regionalization will push through.

“For years we have been asking for the regionalization of the Bar Examination in order to level the field for the examinees. Bar candidates from the provinces spend so much amount of money staying in Manila for the Bar. In addition, they are far from their respective family and it is only normal that they will miss them. Hence, they cannot fully concentrate in their preparation for the exams,” he stated.

Estenzo added the candidates will not have access to Bar review materials in Manila unlike when they are in Cebu where they will have free access to their school library facilities.

“I pray the plan of Justice Presbitero will push through. It will mean our answered prayers,” he said.

Mae Elaine Bathan, assistant dean of the College of Law of the University of San Jose Recoletos and IBP Governor of Eastern Visayas, also welcomed the development.

“That is a very welcome development for all provincial barristers and I am very sure that the required number can be attained. I hope the Supreme Court will this time seriously consider regionalizing the bar exam as this will greatly help the barristers from the provinces. We continue to hope and await for a long time request,” she stated.

Hidelito Pascual, president of the IBP Cebu City Chapter, said the IBP Cebu City Chapter will be passing a resolution to support the regionalization of the Bar exams. —/BRP (FREEMAN)

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