Leonen's statement re 2020/21 Bar Exams Results

Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen
Chairperson, 2020/21 Bar Examinations

        The bar examinations for 2020 and 2021 cannot be compared with any past bar examinations. These were conducted under challenging circumstances never before faced by any bar examinee, let alone any bar chairperson. This Court creatively adjusted and conducted these qualifying examinations with very critical reforms.

        The 11,790 bar applicants went through not only several waves of COVID-19 pandemic, but also a super typhoon that battered the Visayas region, and the uncertainties brought about by the effects of the pandemic and adjustments of its corresponding health regulations. There was no large national government licensure examination that provided a model for the implementation of the bar examinations under these conditions. Even the approaches during World War II were not appropriate to the conditions we faced.

        Building on the suggestions of many and knowing the possibilities that technological platforms offer, we conducted the first ever digitalized and localized bar examinations. We mobilized around 7,000 personnel, including those who composed our core teams in our command center and our various teams, to conduct the examination efficiently in 29 local testing sites across 22 local government units. Looking back, the sheer concept, the logistics of coordination, and the training — all built from scratch — were immense in their scope. The support we received from the Court en Banc and all court personnel was excellent. 

        The reforms include the introduction of an honor code for bar examinees, the reconceptualization of the grouping of subjects, the reduction of the number of examinations days, the full digitalization of the application process, the adoption of a platform that considered the gender identity of the examinees, and the crafting of a gender-neutral set of examination questions, avoiding any patriarchal and unnecessary suggestive use of gendered pronouns.

        If pursued for the next bar examinations, these reforms will ensure that the bar examinations will be equitable, regardless of the geographic location of law schools or the residence of the bar examinees. They will also make it possible for the next bar chair to recruit experts who work outside the National Capital Region to become bar examiners.

        Finally, the reforms include the recalibration of the grading system to avoid unnecessary competition for an artificial top ten, recognizing that the examinations are not a competition. The system of pass, exemplary pass, and excellent pass without any ranking already recognizes effort without encouraging needless competition among individuals.

        As an important philosophical point, we have removed all references to "fail." Instead, we categorize those who did not make it as "did not finish" or "did not pass."

        To provide feedback to legal education, we have also adopted a listing of law schools reflecting their categories based on the number of their first-time takers who have passed and those who did so exemplarily and excellently.

        I thank the 24 bar examiners, two of them whom came from outside Metro Manila. Aided by the digital platform, but no less by their conscientiousness and grit, they have checked 11,042 answers for each of the exams' 69 questions, all in less than two months.

        All these are historic achievements.

        I have no doubt that the next bar chairperson, Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, will improve on the system this Court has introduced. My team and I will continue to give him full support as he pursues further reforms to make the bar examinations more efficient, more relevant, and more equitable for all.

        Again, let me underscore and acknowledge: Never before did bar examinees face the uncertainties they did for these bar examinations. Anxiety was universal. You only need to ask any lawyer who went through the bar examinations under conventional circumstances to understand that the difficulties of review and uncertainty that this batch went through were sui generis and far more than what others, during their time, went through.

        That 11,402 were able to complete the examination is a feat in itself. Regardless of the result, I congratulate each one of them. To them, I say, you showed courage. You showed resilience. You proved that you can persevere.

        Do not be concerned about those who say that yours were the easiest bar examinations. Clearly, those naysayers only envy your courage, your resilience, and your grit. They have not experienced what you have gone through. I do not wish that they experience what you have experienced.

        You are an extraordinary batch of bar takers whether you made it this year. It was an honor for my team and I to be with you every step of the way. It was an honor to be your bar chairperson.

        Today, with my team and with the approval of the Court en Banc, it is my honor to announce the results:

        Of the 11,790 admitted to take the exam, 11,402 completed the examinations. Only 3.29% were unable to take or finish the bar examinations.

        8,241 of the 11,402 bar takers passed the bar examinations, obtaining a grade of 75% or above. This translates to a passing rate of 72.28%.

        Of the 8,241 that passed, 761 earned recognition for exemplary performance, having obtained grades ranging from 85% to 90%. This represents 9.23% of those who passed.

        A further 14 bar takers earned recognition for excellent performance, having obtained grades higher than 90%. This represents 0.17% of all those who passed the bar examinations.

        The names are currently being decoded as I speak.

        Here are the rankings of law schools:

        We have divided the law schools into four groups. Group 1 includes schools with more than 100 bar takers. Group 2 encompasses law schools with 51 to 100 bar takers. Group 3 covers law schools with 11 to 50 bar takers. Lastly, Group 4 includes law schools with 10 or fewer bar takers.

        We cannot rank the law schools in group 4 (those with 10 or fewer bar takers) because 6 of these 27 schools had a passing rate of 100% among their first-time takers. In alphabetical order, these 6 schools are:

Abra Valley Colleges
Batangas State University
Rizal Memorial Colleges
Tabaco College
University of Makati
Western Leyte College

        Of the bar takers from Group 4, there are three exemplary passers, two from the University of Makati and one from the University of Bohol.

        We cannot also rank the law schools in group 3 (those with 11 to 50 bar takers) because 7 of the 61 schools had a passing rate of 100% for first-time takers. In alphabetical order, these 7 schools are:

Ateneo de Naga University
Bulacan State University
Jose Maria College
Mariano Marcos State University
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila
Siliman University
University of Asia and Pacific

        22 law schools belonging in group 2 (those with 51 to 100 bar takers) are ranked according to the percentage of passers among their first-time takers. Of these, the top 5 law schools and their respective passing rates are: 

First, Saint Louis University: 98.6667%
Second, University of Cebu: 97.4026%
Third, Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan: 96.9388%
Fourth, Ateneo de Davao University, 96.4912%
Fifth, Lyceum of the Philippines University, 94.3396%

        There are 15 law schools in Group 1 (those with more than 100 bar takers). They are ranked according to the percentage of their passers among first-time takers. The top 5 law schools in this category, and their respective passing rates are as follows:

First, Ateneo de Manila University: 99.6429%
Second, University of the Philippines: 98.8406%
Third, San Beda University: 98.1061%
Fourth, University of San Carlos, 98.0000%
Fifth, University of Santo Tomas — Manila, 93.0556%

        The top 5 law schools with most number of exemplary passers are as follows:

First, University of the Philippines: 147
Second, Ateneo de Manila University: 100
Third, San Beda University: 94
Fourth, University of San Carlos: 57
Fifth, Arellano University: 39

        Meanwhile, the following law schools produced the most number of excellent passers:

        First, University of the Philippines: 4

        Second, Ateneo de Manila University and University of San Carlos: 2

        Third, in alphabetical order, all with one excellent passer:

Arellano University
Ateneo de Davao University
Far Eastern University
San Beda University
University of Cebu
University of the Cordilleras

        To those who made it today, face your success with magnanimity and humility. Bar examinations only facilitate your entry to the legal profession. Do not be blinded by today's success. Be awed by what lies ahead. There is suffering among our people. Their clamor for justice is beyond audible. Begin your practice with the values that we have inculcated during this bar examination: compassion, serve our people, and abiding passion for justice.

        For those who did not make it, accept it as a challenge. That you did not make it, did not finish or were not able to take because of the pandemic does not constitute you. You are who you choose to be. Persevere, as always. Inspire by getting back on your feet and accomplish more.

        Honor and Excellence. Ours is a noble profession. Make that a reality.

        Always, in service and for meaningful freedoms,