Bar exam results


In a tweet, the Supreme Court (SC) confirmed that the newest batch of lawyers will be announced today, 3 May. The SC Public Information Office tweeted last Wednesday: “The results of the 2018 Bar exams will be released this Friday, 3 May 2019, after approval by the Supreme Court en banc in a special session, per Bar chair SC Associate Justice Mariano C. del Castillo.” Congratulations in advance to my new compañeros y compañeras!

“My theory is that the traditional way of teaching law in the provinces fits the Bar exams whose format has not changed since time immemorial.

My bold prediction: A graduate of a provincial law school will top the Bar exams again. The statistics point to this. Let’s look at the results of the past five Bar exams, from 2012 to 2017. In 2012, only one topped from the province, Ralph Karlo Barcelona (7th) of Aquinas University, Legazpi City. In 2013, there were three provincial graduates in the Top 10: Rudy Ortea (3rd), University of Batangas; Tercel Maria Mercado-Gephart (5th), University of San Carlos (USC); and Manuel Sarausad (6th), University of Cebu. In 2014, there were three again: Gil Garcia II (4th), Ateneo de Davao University; Reginald Laco (4th), De La Salle University Lipa; and Michelle Liao (5th) University of Cebu. We started to feel the resurgence of the provincial graduates in 2015 as first place was nearly snatched by a graduate of USC. The following topped in 2015: Athena Plaza (2nd), USC; Jecca Jacildo (8th), USC; Soraya Laut (8th), Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro; and Ronel Buenaventura (10th), Bulacan State University.

2016 was the banner year for provincial law schools for they clearly dominated the Top 10 list. Notably, 2016 was also the year with the most Bar passers, chaired by retired Justice Presbiterio Velasco. A total of 12 topped from the provinces: Karen Mae Calam (1st), USC; Alanna Gayle Ashley Khio (2nd), Silliman University; Fiona Cristy Lao (3rd), USC; Athalia Liong (3rd), Andres Bonifacio College, Dipolog City; Allana Mae Babayen-on (4th), University of San Agustin, Iloilo City; Justin Ryan Morilla (5th), Ateneo de Davao University; Mark Dave Camarao (6th), Northwestern University, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; Anne Margaret Momongan (7th), USC; Jefferson Gomez (8th), USC; Nia Rachelle Gonzales (9th), University of Batangas; Marie Chielo Ybio (9th), Siliman University; and Andrew Stephen Liu (10th), Siliman University.

Provincial schools did a back-to-back win in 2017 with the topnotcher from the province getting the No. 1 slot. This time, five provincial graduates topped: Mark John Simundo (1st), University of St. Lasalle; Christianne Mae Balili (2nd), USC; Ival D’laureil Hisoler (4th), USC; Rheland Servacio (7th), USC; and Krizza Fe Alcantara-Bagni (8th), St. Mary’s University of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya.

I expect another provincial graduate to do a “3-peat” in claiming the No. 1 spot of the 2018 Bar exams. My theory is that the traditional way of teaching law in the provinces fits the Bar exams whose format has not changed since time immemorial. This is disadvantageous to the millennial students and increasing number of millennial law professors of Manila, reliant on digitized case digests and Google for anything they cannot remember. Those from the Cebu law schools are strong candidates, as they have consistently appeared in the Top 10 list, particularly USC for having produced 10 topnotchers in the past five years.

That’s even more than San Beda College-Manila’s eight topnotchers, but less than UP and Ateneo de Manila, which have 17 and 13 topnotchers, respectively, from the years 2012 to 2017.

It would be very interesting if someone can trace where these topnotchers are right now in their young legal careers, and if they are properly positioned for success as practicing lawyers. I am quite aware on how the topnotchers of my alma mater, Ateneo de Manila, are doing, but it would be nice to see how those from the provinces have fared, as compared to those from Manila law schools. I am particularly curious about the topnotchers from “outlier” schools in the above-enumerated topnotchers, such as the ones from Andres Bonifacio College of Dipolog City and St. Mary’s of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya.

What is the reason for this? Because if we see that their exemplary performance in the toughest and most grueling exam of the Philippines, coupled with the attention they garnered from the SC’s public announcement of their topping the Bar exams, has clearly helped them in their legal careers, then this should be proof that the SC’s practice of making public the identities of the topnotchers may be retained and continued. If we recall, CJ Lucas Bersamin has been vocal in his interviews and speeches on his position that the Bar exams be changed into as pass/fail format, without announcing who the topnotchers are. In fact, I support CJ Bersamin on this, but this does not mean I am not open to contrary evidence to debunk my position.

Once again, my sincerest congratulations to the new lawyers!