Open letter to J. Leonen re ONLINE 2020/2021 Bar exams

Justice Marvic Mario Victor Famorca Leonen
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Bar Examination Chairperson, 2020/2021


Allow us to suggest a possible way to conduct the 2021 Bar examinations online.

Before we begin, we would like to emphasize that our opinion has no bearing whatsoever in the exercise of the Supreme Court's power under the 1987 Constitution. The final say, of course, in crafting the rules to govern the admission to the practice of law and the conduct of the Bar examinations is the exclusive discretion of the Court. Our opinion is not controlling in any way, shape or form.

The following suggestions are a humble attempt to participate in the public discussion on the best way the Supreme Court can administer the 2020/2021 Bar examinations while simultaneously complying with best medical practices and government regulations and while making sure the integrity of this century-old tradition remains intact.

  1. Examinees do not have to travel far;
  2. They can take the Bar exam in the law school nearest to them;
  3. The Bar exam will require the cooperation among court employees, lawyers in the community and, most especially, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), et al.;
  4. The cooperation of the local government units (LGUs) may also be sought in terms of venue (e.g., coliseum, etc.) and other facilities (e.g., internet connection, etc.);
  5. As a result of the above-mentioned cooperation, each Bar exam subject will be proctored by members of the community who are interested in keeping the integrity of the Bar exams intact;
  6. The "proctor committee" may be composed of 3 judges, 3 IBP representatives, 3 LGU representatives, etc.;
  7. Examinees may be required to bring their own laptops;
  8. IT experts can create a software stored in a flash drive which, if plugged into a laptop, will disable all other functions except the "SUPREME COURT BAR EXAMINATION SOFTWARE." This way, no other functions on the laptop can be used or accessed;
  9. This software should not be released to the public for fear of reverse engineering and other techniques that will allow others to circumvent the protective measures and systems thereof;
  10. This way, the Bar exam does not have to resort to multiple-choice questions and can proceed with the traditional essay-type questions;
  11. Submission of the answers can be done by clicking the "submit button" at the end of the page which will transmit to a server in the Supreme Court, which automatically prints and compiles the answers on physical paper;
  12. By the way, in order to access the software, the examinees may be required to enter a unique alphanumerical combination provided to them by the High Court after approval of their Bar exam applications. This may also be a QR Code;
  13. Since the "proctor committee" will oversee the exam and since they will be encouraged to film and report any irregularity, the century-old tradition will be protected;
  14. Since the software will send submitted answers to a centralized server in the Supreme Court which will print the answers on physical paper, the examiners will have no fear of getting infected and they are given the chance to check the answers on physical paper, just like the traditional style of exams. As a result of this, assuming that the Supreme Court will choose a standard font and font size, handwriting as a factor will be eliminated; and
  15. The examiners will also not see who the examinees are because they can only see examinee (alphanumeric or QR) codes on the sheets of paper.
It is understood that the Supreme Court cannot compel the participation of LGUs but there is still time for Congress to be persuaded.

Thank you.