SC issues TRO vs law school entrance exam PhiLSAT

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2019 12:58 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court on Friday issued a temporary restraining order preventing the Legal Education Board (LEB) from imposing the Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhiLSAT) as a requirement for admission to law schools, two sources told ABS-CBN News.

This means law schools may determine their own admission requirements for now.

PhiLSAT is a standardized national qualifying exam administered by the LEB to measure the academic potential of a student seeking to study the law.

Two groups had filed separate petitions before the high court questioning the validity of RA 7662, the law which created the LEB, and the LEB issuances imposing PhiLSAT: one group of lawyers, law professors and students led by retired Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Oscar Pimentel and another group of students from the Visayas who either failed to pass PhiLSAT or failed to take it.

Petitioners claimed PhiLSAT hindered aspiring law students from enrolling in law schools because of the steep exam fee of P1,500 and limited locations of testing centers.
 
They also cited low passing rates which ranged from 57 percent to 61 percent since the exam was reintroduced in September 2017.

PHILSAT UNCONSTITUTIONAL?

During oral arguments on March 5, petitioners argued that the LEB is unconstitutional because it encroaches upon the Supreme Court’s constitutional power to promulgate rules concerning admission to the practice of law by imposing an additional requirement for the practice of law -- a qualifying exam for law schools. 

Petitioners noted PhiLSAT is administered by a body not answerable to the SC.

They also argued PhiLSAT violates academic freedom as it interferes with the right of a law school to determine who to admit as students.

Supreme Court Associate Justices Andres Reyes Jr. and Antonio Carpio asked why non-PhiLSAT passers should be excluded from studying law when some students simply want to study the law without necessarily wanting to become lawyers.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen asked what is the interest of the state in interfering with what is essentially a contract between a student and a school (in the case of private law schools) by imposing a qualifying exam.

He also questioned the lack of a scientific study to back up the claim that imposing a qualifying exam will help improve the quality of legal education.

LEB Chairperson Emerson Aquende admitted during oral arguments they did not have any study in the Philippine setting but relied on results of the LSAT in the US.

Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, meanwhile, said the case should have been filed in a lower court so that evidence may be presented regarding the effect of imposing a national qualifying exam, suggesting the possibility of remanding the case to lower courts.