Chief Justice Gesmundo: ‘I don’t see need to abolish the Bar exam’

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 08 2021 02:06 PM | Updated as of Jul 08 2021 08:28 PM

Chief Justice Gesmundo: ‘I don’t see need to abolish the Bar exam’ 1
Bar takers and loved ones wait by the gate of the Supreme Court in Manila moments before the Bar exam results are released on May 3, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE) - Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo is opposed to the idea of scrapping the Bar examinations, as suggested by a Cabinet member.

“I don’t see the need to abolish the Bar exam. We must continue having the Bar exam,” he said in an event at the Manila Hotel on Thursday.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, in a media briefing Wednesday, had questioned the need for licensure exams, including the Bar exams for lawyers.

“Dapat alisin na ‘yong mga board exam sa mga engineer, board exam sa dentistry, bar exam. Eight years ka nang nag-aaral para maging abogado, pumasa ka na sa lahat ng exam, kukuha ka pa ng Bar?” he asked.

(We should remove board exam for engineers, in dentistry [and the] Bar exam. After studying 8 years to become a lawyer and passing all exams, you still have to take the Bar?)

“Kagaya sa Bar, why don’t we do away with Bar? Tutal ‘yong estudyante may 4 years pre-law, 4 years proper. Dadaan ka sa rigorous scrutiny, tapos dadaan ka pa sa Bar,” he added.

(Besides the student has 4 years pre-law, 4 years proper. You go through rigorous scrutiny, then the Bar.)

The Philippine Bar Exam, a rigorous 4-day exam on 8 subjects, has been in place since 1901 and has produced topnotchers who later on became presidents, senators and key government officials.

Bello had cast doubt on whether Bar topnotchers perform well in practice.

For Gesmundo, the Bar exams are an important gauge of a person’s fitness to join the legal profession.

“I respect Secretary Bello’s opinion but as far as I am concerned, we should maintain the Bar exams so that we can test qualifications of those who aspire to join the legal profession. The legal profession is vested with public interest. And we should see to it that only those who are fit and qualified to join the ranks of the legal profession meet the standards required of them,” he said.

The top magistrate pointed out that the Bar exam has been the traditional way of determining who are qualified to join the profession.

“[I]t is important that we make sure that those who join the legal profession are competent, that they can, you know, perform their duties as lawyers, not only to the court but also to their clients and to society as a whole. So the qualifying exam for legal professionals should be therein continued,” he said.

Gesmundo also said the Rules of Court currently requires passing the Bar exams before becoming a full-fledged lawyer, referring to Rule 138 on Attorneys and Admission to the Bar.

“There’s a specific rule under the Rules of Court that provides the mandatory taking of Bar exams as well as its coverage. So for as long as it is in the Rules of Court, we have to comply with it,” he said.

In a separate statement, SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said the High Court did not suspend the Bar exams. 

Leonen added that Law students should understand that the rigorous exams are done only by the Supreme Court. 

"A Cabinet secretary is honorable, very well respected, he is even my friend. And had it been his Bar, I know that he would have taken advantage of this program," he said at an event in Baguio. 

"I know where he came from. But SC has not suspended the bar exam. We are full throttle in terms of preparing this," he added. 

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