Why more than 97% flunked labor laws

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

It's Bar Review season once again. About six thousand barristers are going to take the Bar Examinations in four Sundays come October. The chairman of this year's Bar examinations is Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion, a Bar topnotcher in his own right in the same year that Frank M. Malilong, Jr and this writer took the Bar in 1974. When we took that Bar, the Labor Code was just promulgated in May 1974 and it took effect only in November that year, the same month when we took the grueling exams for four Sundays. There was a new Constitution and thousands of Presidential Decrees. It was Martial Law.  But at that time, we did not find Labor Law very hard. Last year, only 165 students got 75 percent and above in Labor Law, out of about 5,500 who took the Bar.

Why did Labor Law, along with Civil Law and Criminal Law, turn out to become the “killer subjects”? Everyone was   expecting that Taxation, Commercial Laws or the very long and complicated Remedial Law to be last year's waterloo. But, of all subjects, why did labor turn out to be the “unkindest cut of all?” As a professor of Law since 1977 until now, (that would be a good 36 years of teaching future lawyers), I contemplated on such an unexpected and perhaps unprecedented phenomenon in the history of Bar Examinations. And as a Labor Law professor in UST and UE, I conducted a random exit interview among the barristers who took their Bar Review in the pontifical University.

My findings are quite revealing. First, most of the Bar candidates took Labor Law for granted. They consider it as a minor subject, a poor cousin to Political Law. Students do not take Labor seriously, classifying it as a “poor man's favorite subject.” On the first Sunday, Political Law is given in the morning and Labor Law in the afternoon. The barristers tend to spend 80 percent their time and attention to Political Law. By lunch time, on the Bar's first Sunday, they are already very tired and exhausted. Labor Law is not given the attention that it rightfully deserves. Labor Law is only given three hours while the barristers have four hours to answer the questions in Political Law.

Secondly, Labor Law is not limited to the Labor Code. It is long and hard. It includes the many amendments to the law on recruitment, the various labor standard legislations like the laws on wages, benefits and hours of work, the SSS and GSIS laws, the Philhealth and PAG-IBIG laws, the Agrarian Reform Code, and the laws on health, safety and welfare, the statutes that deal with workers' diseases, disability and death. Then, the labor relations laws on unions, collective bargaining, unfair labor practices, strikes and lockouts. Then employee dismissals, termination, separation, resignation, retrenchment and retirement. Labor procedures are complicated, including mediation, conciliation, compulsory and voluntary arbitration.

Thirdly, with all due respect, almost all Law schools in the country are in dire need of excellent Law professors who specializes in Labor Laws. Law practitioners who are teaching at night are too busy to research on the latest labor jurisprudence. Arbiters and Commissioners who do teach are likewise too overwhelmed with backlogs of pending cases to hear and decide, that teaching to them, becomes a part-time preoccupation, not really given adequate preparation. More than half of the students too are working by day and studying law by night. They are too tired or do not have the time at all to read all the cases before coming to class.

There are many other reasons why only 195 out of 5,500 passed in Labor Law last year, but given all the odds, I expect this year's batch to be better prepared. They have too. This year's Chairman is a former Secretary of Labor. He was the one who recruited me to become Undersecretary in 2002 to replace him when he went to the Court of Appeals. He came back to DOLE as Secretary in 2007, and left it again to go to the Supreme Court in 2008. The barristers should therefore give Labor Laws the attention that it deserves. I'm now going around the country to lecture as Bar reviewer in 12 universities. I hope to help those who need some assistance. I know how difficult it is. But there is always a way. And I happen to know how.


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