Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, 2020-2021 Bar Examinations chairperson, disqualified 219 examinees who tested positive for COVID-19 and a number of Bar examinees who violated the Honor Code.
In the two-page Bar Bulletin number 39, Leonen noted that “Unfortunately, a number of examinees who were able to take the Bar Examinations violated the clearly published policies of the Office of the Bar Chairperson and their Honor Code.”
In the course of the Bar Examinations, he said his office received reports of examinees who deliberately entered the local testing centers without disclosing previously tested positive for COVID-19, smuggled mobile phones inside the examination rooms and accessed social media during lunch break inside the premises.
He said, “For their infractions, I am exercising my prerogative as Bar Chairperson to disqualify these examinees from the 2020-2021 Bar Examinations.”
“I take my constant message of honor to the examinees seriously,” he said.
“I owe it not only to those who risked their lives just to make the 2020-2021 Bar Examinations happen despite all odds but most especially to examinees who could have taken the Bar Examinations were it not for their positive COVID-19 test results,” he also said.
However, Leonen clarified that the disqualification is not perpetual and only covers the current bar examinations.
The associate justice also said, “For now, reflect on what you have done but know that you can still change your narrative. You will not end up as the examinee who lost your honor forever in your desperation to pass an examination. Learn from your mistake, and earn your honor back,” he said.
Aside from those disqualified, 219 examinees were also unable to take the Bar after testing positive for COVID-19.
After a two-year hiatus and two postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bar Examination finally pushed through on February 4 with more than 11,000 examinees in 31 local testing sites in 22 local government units.
Leonen said 11,378 took the examination out of the 11,790 who paid application fees.
Leonen said this is the largest batch of bar examinees. “It is the batch that would fulfill the lack of new lawyers that happened during the last two years because of the pandemic,” he said.
Due to health protocols against Covid-19, the vaccinated examinees were segregated from the unvaccinated.
The fully vaccinated underwent antigen tests 48 hours before the first examination while the unvaccinated had to present a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result taken within 72 hours before the examination.
According to Leonen, this year’s Bar exam marked the first time that it was held in multiple venues, shortened to two days (February 6 was the second day) instead of the usual four, and conducted digitally with examinees bringing their own laptops and downloading questions from a secured online application.
At least 12 examinees were allowed to take the examination in the traditional handwritten format.
One examinee afflicted with a disease that disabled his hands was allowed to take the exam with the aid of a stenographer who will encode his answers.