OBSERVATION ON THE 1980 PHILIPPINE BAR EXAMINATIONS – Full report

The following are excerpts from the actual reports of the 1980 Bar Examiners submitted to, and released to the law schools by, Madam Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Hererra, Chairperson of the 1980 Committee on Bar Examinations. I have already made a summary of this report and has posted it in this blog in the post entitled “How to pass the Philippine bar exams.” However I believe that law students and law professors will gain more by reading the full report. Although this report was made more than 27 years ago, the lessons that can be gleaned are timeless and can still very much apply to those who will be taking the Philippine bar exams. This report is also useful for law professors and law schools as this will help us re-evaluate our teaching methods in order to effectively help our students hurdle the hardest exam in the Philippines, the bar exams.

The report starts out with these interesting observations:

1. With a relatively few notable exceptions, I observed a deficiency in the examinees’ ability to express properly and concisely their answer to the questions.
2. Likewise, with a few notable exceptions, the analytic or logical process left much to be desired.
3. Knowledge of the fundamental legal principles was lacking in many instances.
4. Only in a few instances was there a command of the English language.Recommendation for consideration1. The elevation of the standards of legal education and instruction, i.e., a more intensive preparation in the legal fundamentals necessary for the assumption of office as a member of the Bar.
2. Require additional courses even in law school proper in the fields of English composition and grammar for those who are deficient in their ability to express and convey their ideas.

Additional recommendation on the grading system

The present grading system tends lo lay stress on competitive performance. And yet, difference in decimal points could be subjective and may not do justice to the competitors, Perhaps, the shift should be towards the assessment of each, individual candidate’s performance. I would categorize the candidates’ performance into just three (3) classes, namely: (1) failure, (2) passing and (3) outstanding without giving any grades in specific figures.

Finally, the unknown identity of the examiners even among themselves (except to the Chairman) until the final submission of the candidate’s performance is to be commended as a meritorious feature in the conduct of Bar examinations and should be adopted as a norm for future examinations. It is obvious that it insulates the examiner from unhealthy representations on the part of interested parties and it should encourage a more respectful attitude towards the Bar examinations.

1. Very many examinees, to put it mildly, “murder” the English language. Some are worse than high school undergraduates.
2. They fail to analyze and understand the question thoroughly, where oftentimes the answer is found or suggested in it.
3. They base their answer not on the specific import or meaning of the question but on the association they believe the question has with a vague knowledge of the legal provision that instantly comes into their minds. The results is an answer given without reflection that obviously misses the point or fails to obtain full credit.
4. There are few examinees who just do not have the mental capacity for the law profession. Taking the examinations for any number of times may only be an exercise in futility.
5. Handwritings of some are difficult to read or “decipher”. Apparently, the examinees concerned do not make any sincere or serious effort to make them readable.
The ink used spreads or the ballpen is too fine or light and blue. Both make correction of the papers an ordeal to the examiner who has to change his correction speed to very slow.
6. Many examinees also need, aside from the English language, a refresher course in logic. They give inconsistent or conflicting positions in one answer and do not know how to analyze problems.
7. Many examinees do not follow instructions. Few give a “Yes” or “No”, making the examiner guess just what they mean in their vague discussion. Others copy the question first before answering. Still others over several pages and making correction difficult, or they write on both sides of the page.
8. Many examinees do not review their answers. Many answers have been found lacking not only several words but important ones as well which spell the difference between correct and wrong answers.

-oOo-

1. Many candidates did not know specific provisions of the Civil Code on Torts and Damages. This may be due to the fact that the subject of Torts and Damages was not given much attention in the basic law course and in the bar review because in the past, this field of law was rarely the subject of the bar questions. And yet, the importance of this branch of civil law cannot be ignored considering that most civil cases filed in our courts involved torts and damages. Our lawyer must, therefore, be more familiar with this important branch of civil law before they are allowed to practice. I respectfully recommend that in future bar examinations torts and damages be listed among the divisions of civil law to be considered in the bar examinations.
2. Many candidates were familiar with cases decided by the Supreme Court and some even mentioned their titles. Unfortunately, however, a good number did not know the fundamental legal principles enunciated in such decisions. Considering that under the civil law system, which is the system followed in the Philippine, the rules of law are found in the codes, unlike the common law where the law is found in the cases, it is evident that a knowledge and understanding of the law as found in the codes is more important than a knowledge of the cases. In actual litigations most cases are resolved by the very law itself and the problem for the lawyer and court lies more in finding the specific law applicable to the case rather than find a decided case on which to base a decision. Therefore, with all due respect, I submit that more emphasis should be given in the bar examinations on the knowledge of the law and the fundamental principles rather on the knowledge of specific cases.
3. I agree that definitions and distinctions, enumerations and memory work should not be the criteria in the bar examinations and that all bar questions be in the form of problems and cases. But may I suggest and recommend that the problems and questions be based on codal provisions and fundamental principles of civil law which law practitioners are likely to face in their practice rather than extra practitioners are likely to face in their practice rather than extra ordinary situations that rarely confront our courts and practitioners.
4. A number of candidates could not write legibly. I found it hard to read their answers and much time was wasted in deciphering what they wanted to say. Bar candidates should be advised to write legibly.
5. Many candidates did not use the proper tenses. Bar candidates should be advice to be more careful with their tenses and try to aim at clarity in their answer.
6. Some candidates do not follow the numbers correlatively in answering the questions. They jump over some numbers and do not indicate where the answer may be found thus making the correction more difficult, confusing and time consuming.
7. Some candidates have resorted to what they called “alternative answer” by discussing both sides of the problem and arriving at opposing conclusions. Considering that most problems in the bar have to sides the appraisal and grading of those “alternative answer become more difficult. In my view this should be avoided.

-oOo-

Except for some exceptions, the ability of the examinees to present their opinions and thoughts on the questions asked was creditable. There were misspelling wrong grammar and a number of omissions but they are acceptable and not glaring, considering the pressure on the examinees and the time constraints.
What is apparent, however, is the general misconception of the principles of taxation in relation to the whole context of taxation, as well as its practical application especially in the light of other applicable laws. Reading the answers, it seems that the approach to taxation is divided into two approaches. One is that taxation is a necessity and, therefore, tax laws must be legal. Second thought is that taxes are burdens on the citizenry and, therefore, must be considered illegal The Method of teaching taxation must have been rather simplistic with no aim to apply the tax laws on our day to day dealings. As this was apparent, the undersigned tended to be more lenient in her corrections of the test papers.

It is observed that using December 31, 1979 as the cut-off date for sourcing the questions is rather restrictive and does not give the examiner sufficient leeway especially in topics where major changes, even on concepts, are effected by the government. Since most of the students will be taking pre-bar review, wouldn’t April or May be a better date? At least questions will be more current.
The procedure by which the test papers were given to us, the checks and counter checks by the bar confidant and others who were participating in the handling of the test papers to maintain the integrity of the bar leaves nothing to be desired. Full cooperation was given by them.

-oOo-

1. The 1980 Examinations, under the strict monitoring and guidance of the Chairman, have succeeded in maintaining the complete confidentiality of the identities of the BAR examiners. This was achieved by the adoption of the following measures:
2. The poor grammar, limited vocabulary, redundancy and unorganized presentation of the issues involved have a caused a telling effect of the percentage of passing in Mercantile Law.
3. The allocation of certain percentages on the number of question given to each subdivision of the bar subject has assured a uniform stress, thereby avoiding the concentration of questions on a particular law or subdivision.
4. Despite the written instructions, a great number of the examinees have repeated verbatim the facts of the case and the question. This has wasted the examiner’s time and effort in correcting the papers.

-oOo-

On November 16, 1980, there were 1,798 bar candidates who took the examination in criminal law, out of this number, 594 successfully passed or 33%, while 1,204 failed, 221 of whom are disqualified for having obtained a grade below 50%.

1. Substandard collegiate or academic training, resulting in the insufficient knowledge of the law and its application; and
2. Inadequate command of the English language.
These observations may be properly shown by quoting answers of a certain examinees to a question thus propounded as follows:

Question No. 6(b) – “An accused was found guilty of double murder and was meted out two sentences of reclusion perpetua. How would be the accused serve the sentences?”

Answer – “Both penalties must be served by the accused, and he was electrocuted and died then it washes out the remaining sentence to served by the accused.”

Qouted hereunder is another question to which the examinees concerned gave his answer as follows:
Question No. 11. – “Patrolman Cruz, acting under orders of the Municipal Mayor, Who wanted to put a stop to the frequent occurrence of robbery in Sitio Masukal, patrolled the place. At about midnight, seeing three persons acting suspiciously in front of an uninhabited house and entering the same, he arrested them without warrant and took them to the municipal building where they were detained in jail for about five hours before they where released.

Patrolman Cruz was accused of arbitrary detention. If you were the Judge, would you convict him of the crime charged?”

Answer – “No. considering his possession as peace officer by the higher authority to patrol the place where robbery are frequent. The one responsible for this is the Municipal Mayor who order without warrant of arrest and the act of the patrolman are in good faith believing to be a robbery entering a house.

So the proper party liable is the Municipal Mayor.”

Most, if not all, who obtained failing grades have different unique ways of answering questions which only tends to show either because of poor scholastic training or lack of preparation not only in their collegiate or academic courses but may also be traceable to their primary and secondary education.
The majority of those who failed in the subject have also manifestly shown their poor command of the English language, such that certain examinees may probably know the law nut they lack the ability to express themselves. The results is that, one will find it very difficult to understand what they really wanted to convey in their answer to the question propounded.

As an example, I hereby refer to the answer of another examinee to question No. 17. herein below quoted as follows:Question No. 17 – “AA” was the owner of a jeepney for hire. When his driver was hospitalized, he hired “BB” as driver on a temporary basis and entrusted to him the vehicle for transporting passengers from Quiapo to Baclaran with a compensation of P30.00 a day. “BB” never returned the vehicle and after search the vehicle was found in Tarnate, Cavite, About to be sold. “BB” was charged with Qualified Theft and was convicted .Appealing the judgment of conviction, defense counsel contends that “BB” may have committed Esta fa but not Qualified Theft on the theory that the position of the vehicle was obtained with the consent of “AA” the owner, and therefore, there was no illegal taking.

Decide the case.”

In answer thereto, the particular examinees gave the following answer:

“The defense counsel of the accused contention in untenable assuming now that there is no illegal taking of the jeep from “AA”. The owner but “BB” a temporary driver hired by “AA” failure to return the jeep such vehicle as now ready to be sold by “BB” have an intent to gain is theft cases as an element.

It may not be amiss to state in this connection, that there are also hundreds of them whose penmanship is almost illegible.

Several examinees have made very unsatisfactory showing to such an extent that there is one who obtained a grade as low as 7% another obtained a grade of 11%; still some others obtained grades of 12%; 16%; 17%; 18%; 19%; 20%; 21%; 24%; 25%; 26%; 27%; 31%; 34%; etc.

Due to this very poor showing of a considerable number of examinees, in order to avoid unnecessary waste of time, money and energy and in order to give the students concerned advice to shift to other course before it is too late, it is suggested that before a law student is allowed to enroll in the College of Law proper, he should first pass an entrance examination, to be given under the supervision of the Supreme Court. More or less, the examination to be given should cover the following subjects: (1) Elementary Law; (2) Logic; (3) English and Composition, etc.

It is further suggested that in order to afford bar examinees a better opportunity to pass the given subjects, at least 30 questions should be propounded in each subjects and the examinees allowed to answer a choice of twenty questions.

-oOo-

(1) The candidates should be required to write their answers on every other line, thus leaving a blank space between lines. This will facilitate correction, especially as many scrawl their answers and there is abundance of poor penmanship. Beside, almost all notebooks are less than half-filled so that there will be no problem of pages to write on.
(2) Answer should be separated from one another by at least two space-lines. This will facilitate identification of answer and obviate the review (resulting in time consumed, which could be otherwise invested in further correction) of questions overlooked by the candidate or not answered at all.
(3) Unless there is a very imperative reason for requiring the examiner to date every initial, this should not be required. Too much time is wasted.
(4) A device should be adopted so that the examiner will not have to write on two separate grading sheets. Instead carbonized paper or similar duplicatory means, should be used. This will eliminate errors committed while transposing the grades on the second grading sheet, and more important, it will save time. More than half an hour is consumed every time grades of 25 notebooks are duplicated on the grading sheet (or an average of more than three hours per 200 notebooks) – time which could, instead, be spent correcting notebooks.

It with be noted that no suggestions on “substantive” aspects have been made because the writer believes that she is still not in a position to suggest further development in that respect.

-oOo-

I. Conduct of the Examination

As far as I know there has been no word, whether publicly made or circulated in whisper, of any leakage of questions or even merely of the identities of the examiners. The story going around, according to a law faculty member of the UST and lecturer at the U.P. College of law, is that in the Bar examinations there was only one examiner for all the subjects: Justice Herrera herself.While this rumor may be laced with some humor, it points up nonetheless the successful safeguarding of the integrity of the examination.II. Showing of the Examinees

In Legal Ethics and Practical Exercise , 620 examinees out of 1,792 applicants (or 34.6%) obtained a grade of 75% or higher. 1,172 failed to make the passing grade; included in this number are 119 applicants whose grades were lower than 50%. Grades ranged from a high of 93% to a disquieting low of 7%. A profile of grade-distribution is appended to this report.

The examinees inhabiting the lowermost rungs of the grading scale manifested not alone an appalling lack of knowledge of the fundamental principles involved in the examination questions but also an inability to logically string their thoughts together compounded by an almost incredible deficiency in language skills.

That is not to say that everyone who received higher grades demonstrated no language difficulties. It may in fact be justifiably said that a commendable command of language is the fortune of but a few of the examinees.

III. Other Matters

(a) Comment on the relative weight of legal Ethics.

Rule 138 allocates the combination of Legal Ethics and Practical Exercise a relative weight of 5% in the Bar examination. Because of the joinder of these two non-homogeneous subjects, it has of course been necessary to apportion the rather meager 5% between Legal Ethics on the one hand and, on the other, Practical Exercise. In this year’s examination. The apportionment is 70% for the first and 30% for the other.

In overall terms, therefore, the effective relative weight of Legal Ethics is only 3.5% (this being 70% of 5%), and that of Practical Exercise 1.5% (being 30% of 5%).

One question that may be asked is whether it is worth examining Bar applicants in full subjects with effective relative weights that, by mathematical calculation, would require almost 30 points (in Legal Ethics) or some 67 points (in Practical Exercise) to effect a single point differential in the overall Bar examination average of an examinee.

A more basic observation, however, arises out of a comparison between Legal Ethics 3.5% and Taxation’s 10%. The relative weight of the first is only a third of the second, But we do know that ethics is bedrock matter to the profession. While its articulation in codal or canonical form may vary from time to time, the basic principles by which a lawyer’s conduct must ever be guided are virtually unchanging, if these are not at all unchangeable. On the other, tax laws in particular undergo changes with rapidity that leaves even the tax practitioners gasping in trying to catch up, so that passable knowledge of tax laws now could mean nothing after we no more than a few years. Yet, taxation in effect is recognized in quantitative terms as three times more important than legal ethics.

It may be a manner if looking at the conclusion of Legal Ethics in the Bar examination, considering the feathery weight allocated to the subject, as but a grudging concession to the ethical aspects of the ancient and honorable profession of the law.

May not a re-appraisal be in order?

(b) The Bar examination as a device to re-orient the educative process.

While passing the Bar examinations has not been conceded by the law schools as an end in the educative process of a lawyer, Dean Irene Cortes has noted that.

***what has developed in most schools is that it has become the principal goal. The curriculum, method of instruction, the review courses in the fourth year-all contribute to emphasize this.”

It seems from the observation of Dean Cortes that the currently predominant stress in instruction has been a sort of reaction to Bar examinations which have largely been a test of knowledge of the law’s content, with scant requirement for demonstration of the applicant’s proficiency in analytical and reasoning techniques associated with the exercise of the profession of the law.

This caused-and-effect relation, so far productive of less than ideal results, indicates that it is possible to cause a re-orientation of the stress in instruction in the law schools by institutionalizing the type of Bar examination that, to enable their law graduates to hurdle the same, would compel the law schools to shift their emphasis instruction towards techniques rather than mere content. For instance, If it were regularly made a part of the Bar examination questions involving problem-situations to ask the examinees to identity the issue, law schools would have to teach their students the techniques in issue identification and not simply to know what the law is. I use this as an example because many examinee in Legal Ethics and Practical Exercise went off-track in problem-solving due to error in perceiving the issues.

The possibilities of the Bar examination as a device with which to trigger off the orientation can only be expressed in general terms here. Obviously, the fashioning of specifics will require a detailed study.

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4 Responses to OBSERVATION ON THE 1980 PHILIPPINE BAR EXAMINATIONS – Full report

  1. This is the longest post I’ve seen in a while. Wonder if anyone has read it?

  2. zigfred says:

    1 Million in 365 Day: Yep mostly law students are interested in this posts

  3. noah says:

    thanks for posting,Zig.

  4. zigfred says:

    Noah: You are welcome

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