I arrived thirty minutes early but I did not proceed to the venue. I just hovered and people watched at the grand lobby of Sofitel Philippine Plaza. I was dreading to go as I noticed the minutes pass by.
At exactly four in the afternoon, I dragged myself and started my death march toward Sulu Function Room where the Law Deans’ Meeting with Justice Eduardo Nachura will be held. I had hoped it was a big area and I just had to slip quietly inside. I was wrong. It was a very small function room, just barely enough to house at least 100 participants. Well, since there were only 108 law schools in the Philippines, that day’s meeting venue was appropriate for a cozy and very personal interchange of ideas. Groups of ten were seated in tables and as soon as I stepped in, I hurriedly settled to the one nearest the door.
I found myself seated between the Dean and the Associate Dean of Bukidnon State University and the Dean of the University of Nueva Caceres. Within the same table were Dean Villanueva of Ateneo de Manila University and the representatives of the deans of San Beda College and Far Eastern University. Yeah, at least I was not the lone representative there.
I hated that the meeting was a few minutes late because it meant making small talk with the other law deans and I predicted the topic would be the performance of the school in the recent bar exams. I was right. The elderly dean of the University of Nueva Caceres asked me how our school fared in the recent exams. I replied it was not good and that it was very much lower than what we garnered in the past. Then the associate dean of Bukidnon State University seconded, saying they only had 4 passers out of the 22 who took it. I avoided mentioning numbers because I cannot bring myself to say we only had one out of fourteen. I know, it was useless denying the fact because that meeting will also provide the statistical data of the schools’ performance in the recent bar exam. At that instant, the President of the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) and the Dean of Xavier University (sorry I forgot their names!) dropped by our table and chatted with Dean Villanueva and the rest of us. Since our dean was an active officer of PALS, they naturally asked me when Atty. Ty was coming back and after my reply, the topic went back to the low passing percentage of the recent bar. I cringed when they asked me how FSUU did. “Badly”, I softly replied, hoping they will let the topic go but they did not. “But last year, your school’s performance was good”. Yeah right, I wanted to say “we were even mentioned in Justice Puno’s column in a national newspaper as one of the top performing law school in the country since the year 2000” but i changed my mind and shut up because that would even embarrass me more.
Thankfully, Justice Nachura, Chairman of the 2009 Bar Examination Committee, had arrived and everyone settled down.
I had thought this was just a pro forma meeting, with the Chairman revealing the bar coverage for this year’s examination. I thought wrong. We had to take up one by one the list of laws to be included in a particular subject and discuss its relevancy to be included in the examination syllabus. The eight bar examination subjects took a long time to finish.
I used to think that law schools do not have any power on any bar matter and are just left to take and follow whatever the Supreme Court decides. It turned out the law schools pretty much shape and influence what are to be included in the coverage. I later learned that during the checking of the examination booklets, the PALS had to provide suggested answers to the questions as well. I was amazed how the deans “coerced” Justice Nachura to disregard some listed coverage of laws on the list. I was more amazed when Justice Nachura gave in to the deans’ neverending arguments why some laws need to be taken off the coverage in the bar! It surprised me how the Bar Chairman (and the rest of the deans in central luzon) considered the situation in the provinces to determine the subjects to be included in the bar exam coverage. For example, this year’s initial list of coverage expressly emphasized International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law as part of Public International Law. The deans wanted Justice Nachura to omit the emphasis. I am sure the deans were apprehensive that the emphasis would mean the examiner for the subject might give concentration thereon when the same is merely a small part of Political Law. Justice Nachura asked if the schools in the provinces had this on their curriculum. Some said no, others said the same are only electives. Because of this, he agreed to take the emphasis off.
The following laws were successfully taken off the inital coverage of the 2009 Bar Examination:
- Political Law – excude International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law
- Labor Law – exclude Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (note that the Constitutional provision on Agrarian/ Land Reform will still fall under Political Law
- Mercantile Law – exclude The Insolvency Law (Act no. 1956 including Rules on Corporate Rehabilitation – PD 902-A)
- Criminal Law – exclude Obstruction of Justice
While there were exclusions, there were also additional inclusions as well:
- Civil Law – include HLURB jurisdiction in connection with the Law on Sale of Subdivision Lots and Condominium (PD 957) and the Condominium Act (RA 4726)
- Mercantile Law – Include to Phil. Deposit Insurance Corporation Act (RA 3591) all its amendments within the year 2007
- Remedial Law – The Rules on Evidence includes DNA Evidence and Electronic Evidence
- Remedial Law – BP Blg. 129 includes special courts except special commercial courts
Due to the changes, the Bar Committee needs to rewrite the Coverage of the 2009 Bar Examination again before it can be circulated to the schools.
The Bar Coverage finalized and settled, Justice Nachura proceeded to discuss Bar Matter No. 1161. This year’s bar exam then, will have two examiners for each subject designed to speed up the correction process of exam booklets.
Justice Nachura also discussed Bar Matter no. 194. This now settles that for those who have failed the bar exam for three times, their refresher course must also include enrolling in Labor Law Review and Taxation Law in addition to Civil Law Review I and II, Political/Constitutional Law Review, Commercial Law Review, Criminal Law Review and Remedial Law Review. Aside from the Refresher Course, three time flunkers need the pre-bar review course too.
The meeting ended with Justice Nachura informing everybody that they are expecting 7000 examinees for this year’s Bar Exam. Last year’s 6300+ was record breaking but the number could still rise this year. Because of this, the Bar Confidant will be very strict in accepting applications and those with pending cases might not be able to take the exams conditionally anymore. Additionally, the SC is thinking of new venues to hold the examination. The grounds of La Salle might not be able to accommodate all of the examinees. While there are schools around Manila which have spacious grounds, the Honorable Justice wants some place compact like La Salle and not the scattered builings of U. P. Diliman and UST because it will be very difficult to secure the place. Justice Nachura had initially talked to the management of Mall of Asia for the possibility of holding the 2009 Bar Exam there – given the fact that its 3rd floor had hosted events with 7000 participants in the past. The Mall of Asia is compact and the security is tight. Thus, in the event that the exam applicants do sum up to 7000 and premises of La Salle is already small for such number, Mall of Asia it is then!
After the meeting, a fellowship followed. Thank God, the topics over dinner dealt on the new matters taken during the meeting. I was able to relax a little and enjoy the meal in front of me. After I ate my dinner and continued small talk a little, I surreptitiously left.
I walked out with a load of stress off my shoulders. ^ ___ ^