SC may have higher standards than LEB re: PhiLSAT

A nationwide entrance exam for aspiring law students underwent scrutiny before the Supreme Court on Tuesday during oral arguments on petitions seeking to invalidate the Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhiLSAT) and the law creating the body behind it.

PhiLSAT is a standardized national qualifying examination administered by the Legal Educational Board (LEB) to measure the academic potential of a student seeking to study the law.


Two groups had filed separate petitions questioning RA 7662 and the LEB issuances imposing PhiLSAT before the high court: 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 said PhiLSAT hindered aspiring law students from enrolling in law schools because of the steep exam fee of P1,500 and the limited locations of testing centers.

They also cited low passing rates: the September 2017 PhiLSAT had a passing rate of only 57.76 percent while the April 2018 and September 2018 exams produced passing rates of 61.39 percent and 56.78 percent, respectively.

Dean Rodolfo Rapista from the St. Thomas More School of Law in Tagum City, one of the intervenors, said small law schools are also affected by the qualifying exam requirement because with fewer students, schools are either forced to increase tuition or close shop.
In their petitions, petitioners argued PhiLSAT encroaches upon the Supreme Court’s constitutional power to promulgate rules concerning admission to the practice of law because it imposed an additional requirement for the practice of law – a qualifying exam for law schools – and is administered by a body not answerable to the SC.

Lawyer Errol Comafay, Jr., who represented the Pimentel group, said admission to legal education is part of the practice of law and should thus solely be under the jurisdiction of the high court.

The LEB is attached to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) only for budgetary and administrative purposes and is independent from the SC.

Lawyer Karla Marie Tumulak, counsel for the Visayan students, clarified they are not opposed to having an entrance exam as long as it is administered by the high tribunal.

“We believe the SC can in fact administer the admission test. The power to set the requirements with respect to the admission to the college of law is part and parcel of broader power of this Court,” she argued.

But Solicitor General Jose Calida, representing the LEB, said admission to law schools is different from admission to the practice of law.

Some justices also pointed out that the high tribunal had never regulated law schools in the past and only required that law graduates take up a minimum number of courses to qualify for the Bar Exams.

Justice Francis Jardeleza, for his part, warned petitioners that the magistrates might have higher standards than the LEB.

“Be careful what you wish for,” he said.

SOURCE: Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News (2019). SC weighs validity of nationalized law school qualifying exam PhiLSAT. Posted at Mar 06 2019 03:26 AM.