(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Sept. 21, 2008)
Today is the third Sunday of the Bar exams, and by this time, many of the Bar examinees have become quite desperate, clinging to the hope that luck and prayers might at least see them through.
On the other hand, quite a few are already fantasizing to land in the top ten, if not emerge as number one, particularly graduates of the two big Law schools, the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila, and for sure, even from the University of the Cordilleras, whose Law school is ranked first north of Metro Manila, and over the years, has had a bunch of Bar topnotchers, including the first-placers.
The men are now separated from the boys – meaning those who prepared well for the exams, and the others who took it for granted, believing on the false premise that the Law is nothing but logic, reasoning, and common sense.
Perhaps, but the better part of valor when you go to battle in any field is to follow the Boy Scout motto – Be Prepared.
As any successful lawyer will likewise tell you, that too is the case in Law practice.
Once upon a time the men dominated the Law profession, since only a few women showed passing interest in the Law, preferring the more feminine courses like medicine, dentistry, and nursing with some venturing into Engineering and Accounting.
But over the past decade, more women than men have made it to the top ten of the Bar exams, and the explanation is simple enough – women dedicate themselves more to their books than men, and as the study of Law requires, as they say, 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration.
Men hate to sweat, but the women will do anything to get what they want, not just in the study of Law, but in life as well.
What I would like to see, however, is an old examinee topping the Bar exams, although I remember one instance when an elderly couple, both in their sixties, took the Bar together.
As you might have guessed, the wife passed, while the husband consoled himself by telling stories of what could have been.
According to the papers, among the batch of examinees – the biggest, the report said – are 61 year old Roberto Pagdanganan, former Bulacan governor and Cabinet secretary, and an 81-year-old, but I am clueless to the latter’s identity and educational background.
Pagdanganan is a summa cum laude Engineering graduate of Mapua, and placed first in the Chemical Engineering board exams that he took in his early years.
But engineering is mostly figures and formulas, and Law requires not only knowledge of the subject, but to a large extent, proficiency in the English language, as well as exceptional writing skills.
So, it is a different atmosphere for an engineering topnotcher Pagdanganan, but I know of many Accounting topnotchers who went on to become Bar topnotchers, scoring high in taxation, a Bar subject.
My father took the Bar exams twice, and was unlucky both times. He took the first disappointment well, claiming he didn’t prepare hard enough for it, and that maybe he should improve his handwriting.
My dad was in his mid-fifties when he graduated from Law school, which he finished at great sacrifice, resigning from his job at City Hall in his senior year, and forced to sell a good portion of his inheritance at modest prices on installment basis, in order to support a wife and seven hungry mouths.
The second time my old man didn’t make it, I still remember the pain on his face while telling my mother and I that if only the Supreme Court had lowered the passing mark one percent more, his average grade of 74 percent would have been enough to pass.
Unluckily for him, my dad didn’t have someone like Justice Felix Makasiar as Bar chairman.
You see, when I took the Bar in 1971, about 15 percent of those who passed owed a great deal of gratitude to the kindly and understanding Justice Felix Makasiar.
It seems that only 18 percent actually passed, but Chairman Makasiar was unhappy with the low percentage, and expressed his wish that at least one third of the number of examinees should pass.
When the Bar results were announced, 33 percent of over 3,000 examinees were listed as new lawyers.
Think about it, 15 percent, or 450 new lawyers in that year, courtesy of a good man.
Let me brag a little by saying that I belong to the original 18 percent, since I had no failing grade in any of the Bar subjects.
When we took our oaths as members of the Philippine Bar, Justice Makasiar, who attended the ceremonies, related the story of an old examinee who pleaded in his examination booklet for the Supreme Court to kindly pass him for the sake of his wife and children, to have the honor of being called “attorney,’ and even made a promise not to practice the profession.
Justice Makasiar said he and the examiners very carefully went over his answers, hoping to help him attain his dream.
Alas, to their dismay, there was no way they could grant the poor fellow’s wish, who must have been deeply disappointed when he failed to see his name in the list of successful examinees.
So, every time the Bar exams come around, I think of Justice Felix Makasiar and my dear old man both now resting in heaven, and that if fate had put them together in life, my dad would have become a lawyer, definitely a much better one than his son.
Like Justice Makasiar, my father would have been a unique lawyer – a lawyer with a heart.
In fact, when my father went back to work as legal officer of the Bureau of Public Schools, no offending teacher was ever removed or suspended, merely transferred to another jurisdiction.
My dad’s boss, Superintendent Felix Brawner Sr., always approved by dad’s recommendation with a happy and understanding smile.
I can only pray that the 81 years old examinee will hurdle this year’s Bar exams, and even more hopefully, all 5,000 plus examinees.
The country is in tatters anyway, so 5,000 more new lawyers can no longer add to our burden of miseries.
Imagine however, the babble of discordant voices, and the ensuing confusion.