The Supreme Court has entered into a memorandum of agreement with 16 schools as testing centers for the 2020 and 2021 bar examinations which will be held online and scheduled for four Sundays in November,
The SC through Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, chairman of the Court’s committee on bar examinations, said the SC is eyeing a total of 25 testing sites throughout the country, but it is still in the process of negotiating with several large schools to accommodate more bar examinees.
The public health emergency arising from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has prompted the high court to cancel the 2020 bar examinations and decided to hold them simultaneously with the 2021 tests with more testing sites instead of only in Manila as previously done.
The online examinations and the decision to hold them in many testing sites were conceived by the SC, not only because of the risks due to pandemic, but also to lessen the expenses of bar graduates who, previously, had to go to Manila for the tests.
Besides, the bar examinees will have a choice where to take the examinations preferably near their residents.
Leonen revealed that 16 local testing centers have agreed to the Memorandum of Agreement based on the template approved by the Supreme Court En Banc.
The magistrates said the 16 local testing centers include the Ateneo de Manila University; Manila Adventist College; Saint Louis University Baguio City; Saint Louis College – La Union; Saint Mary’s University; Cagayan State University; De La Salle Lipa in Lipa City; University of Nueva Caceres; University of St. La Salle – Bacolod; Central Philippine University; University of Cebu – Banilad; Mindanao State University – Iligan; Mindanao State University – General Santos City; Ateneo de Davao University; Xavier University – Cagayan de Oro; and Ateneo de Zamboanga University.
Leonen did not identify the other universities or colleges the SC has been negotiating with as possible testing centers.
Last Thursday, the SC signed a MOA with SLU in Baguio City as testing site.
Before the MOA signing, Leonen presented the mechanics of the online bar examinations.
Leonen said the SC is “ready to conduct localized Bar Examinations, with students bringing their own devices into their own classrooms,” with each classroom positioned following the guidelines of the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force.
He said the SC will soon launch an online portal for the digital filing of petitions to take the bar examinations called the Bar Personalized Login Unified System, or Bar PLUS.
“No longer will a Bar applicant have to go to Manila, (to) line up at the Office of the Bar Confidant,” he added.
He stressed that “using the Bar PLUS, Bar Examinations applicants will be able to submit their personal details, access the necessary forms for their application, upload petition requirements, and pay for their application digitally.”
“Applicants will also be able to choose their preferred exam venue, subject to the approval of the Office of the Bar Confidant,” he said, adding that the Bar PLUS is scheduled to be launched on July 15.
Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said the reforms for bar examinations will continue beyond this year, as he will ask the members of the SC “to look into the revision of Rule 138 (of the Rules of Court), particularly on the Bar Exam coverage.”
Gesmundo pointed out the provisions of Rule 138 have not changed since they were promulgated in1964.
“Law courses have become varied; a lot of changes have happened in the field of law. And yet, we have not looked into these specific provisions of the Rules of Court,” he said.
Gesmundo had served as chairperson of the Organizing Committee for the SC’s 2019 Legal Education Summit, a two-day conference organized by the SC to assess and improve the quality of legal education in the country.