ON TAKING THE BAR EXAMS
“Despite the Supreme Court deciding en banc to adjust the passing rate from 75 to 73 percent, the 2014 bar exams posted the second lowest passing rate, 18.82 percent, since the year 2000.
This was the third consecutive year that the high court had to adjust the passing rate: it was lowered to 70 percent in 2012, when only 949 out of 5,343 takers or 17.76 percent passed, and in 2013, when only 22.18 percent of 5,292 examinees made it despite the lowered 73 percent passing rate.”
Phil Daily Inquirer, March 29, 2015
Every time an announcement was given on the schedule of Bar Exams, I was excited to the point of jubilation. I was a picture of confidence. I had completed my legal education in 1990 and passing the Bar was the penultimate reward for the 4-year rigorous study. Finally in my parochial mind, I would be able to proudly repay the hopes and aspirations of my father who wanted me to be a lawyer like him.
But as soon as I was gearing to take the Bar Exam the year I graduated, I was promoted in the Prison bureaucracy as Penal Superintendent IV, the highest rank in the security division of the agency. I had to show my mettle first.
And so I prepared for the succeeding year. But what was challenging in the review was the effort in reading and understanding the new laws. At that time, the constitution had been replaced already. Rules of criminal procedures were also changed. A lot of jurisprudence came into view as the Supreme Court would issue landmark cases, one after another, never before resolved during the silent years of Martial Law. I must study law as if I was a neophyte once again.
As I was about to get my papers and clearances done, I asked my supervisor for a study leave to prepare for the Bar. As if it was a threatening proposal, I was sent to Davao Penal Colony. A year passed without having to challenge the gods of luck in the legal profession. I struggled to adjust and was able to check out the Law Review Center of Ateneo de Davao. As I was about to enter my first day of the review class surreptiously, I received an order to proceed to San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City. Accodingly, I had to indulge and engage the polticians in the area who proposed to abolish the oldest prison in the country if only to give way to a pier near the politician’s farm. It was a technical struggle I had to mount with the legal battalion of the business community. Another round of adjustment, another bar exam passed by.
At soon as I was able to explain my institutional policies in just a few days, I hastily went to check the fabled Ateneo de Zamboanga for my law review. After paying the fees, I received another marching order to proceed to Iwahig Penal Colony. My stint in Zamboanga could have been considered the shortest term ever—6 months only. I could not ascertain whether it had something to do with my taking my review classes but nonetheless, as a good soldier, I reported at Puerto Princesa City where Iwahig is situated. I learned that Palawan University then had no law review since their law school could only reach up to second year.
I virtually dropped the idea of taking the bar exams. I had read a lot of changes already and I could no longer cope with the demands of review. I merely gathered my materials, books and notes and went into a self imposed review. My room in my officers quarters was transformed into a law library. And then, as if on cue, when as I was about to write my school for clearance to take the bar, I was sent back to Muntinlupa, in New Bilibid Prison.
At that time, NBP was already at the cross hair of media sensationalism. It was also period when death penalty was about to be carried out. It was likewise the time when I was directed to assist in the execution of condemned men through lethal injection. I got my 15 minute fame alright but I had forgotten that I have finished law.
And then I was sent back again to Davao Penal Colony and shortly thereafter reassigned back at NBP once again. After an un-ceremonial term of 6 months, I was asked to handle Public Information Office and deal with media.
Again, for a while I was a darling in media with my correctional pronouncements on prison programs, explaining the dynamics of incarceration and egging legislators for updated laws on prisons. I thought that it would be nice to straddle back to UP Law Center for another crack at review and return to my office routinely. It would not be a simple case of time management though.
As I was about to get my first file of review materials, insurgents raided Davao Penal Colony. Its armory was emptied and a couple of personnel held hostage. I was immediately sent to Davao Penal Colony to deal with the problem. On my way to the area, I thought of pasting the whole shebang and using the thick review files I had as my improvised bullet proof vest! There was no way I could review for the Bar if my intention was to engage the break away faction of NPA, they who raided Dapecol, for a tit-for-tat.
From then on, I merely contented myself to check the internet, whenever the Bar exams results had been released dreaming that even as a matter of accident, someone with a similar name as I had, would pass the Bar!
I have reached the point of no return. Here I am with a credential of having completed my legal education but for the life of me, I have never tasted the triumph or defeat of taking the most difficult exam government has ever imposed on its eligible members.
Here I am right now engaging lawyers in debate, using the language of the court of law in communicating, counseling people on their rights, assisting those with legal problems understand the remedial courses available but ironically, I have nothing to show as proof that I have qualified to practice. Several times I even submitted myself to be my own defender in the courts of law and in various quasi-judicial bodies but would be frustrated when disallowed. I tried hard and every time a situation was called out, things fizzled out in the blue.
There is something sinister whenever I would pursue my plan to take the Bar. I am tempted to change my tact because there might something eerie or strange whenever I would aim my sight to it. What if instead of taking the Bar, I would just walk into a government sponsored exam and take instead a licensure test for MIDWIFERY?!!!