PLM Law grads: ‘Take One Pamantasan’


PLM Law grads: 
‘Take One Pamantasan’

The author, who passed the Bar exams in one take and he is sharing his wisdom to all those who are taking the Bar of November 2011.


(NOTE: This is a re-post of an old article I wrote. I  modified and edited it further .  My purpose in republishing this is to give an insight for better preparation for readers who happen to be taking the bar examination this November 2011.)
By BERTENI “TOTO” CATALUÑA CAUSING
2005 graduate of the PLM College of Law


There is nothing wrong in taking it twice, thrice, or even five times for what is important is to pass the toughest licensure test in the country. 

It does not make a difference anyway when one goes to the practice of profession: not one client will ask how many times his lawyer took the Bar Exams.

Additionally, only diligent and intelligent persons can pass the Bar: no matter how many tries one did yet he or she fails means he or she has no diligence and no intelligence. 

Take comfort that one of the best lawyers who graced this land is a take-two: Atty. Claro M. Recto, one of the best remembered senators of the old best mold.

            But there is a priceless joy in passing the Bar Exam in one take.  And there is that obligation: Every student of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), of the College of Law and of the rest, has the obligation to pass the Bar and other tests in one take only.

            Why is it an obligation?

            Know that even if you pay for tuition and other fees, the bigger part of the expenses needed to keep the PLM going and to keep the students in school are shouldered by the People of Manila, through its City Government.

            It becomes more compelling to pass the Bar or other tests in only one take because of this sad fact of life.

To pass the Bar test in one take is the only thing that the PLM Law students can give back to the alma mater that makes them a matter.    That thing will bring a good name to the PLM.  This is aside from the honor that may redound to the institution if its graduates make good in the workplaces or in practice.

It is observed that most students of the PLM Law do not look back to the University of the City of Manila (the English name of the school) to return the good things given to them before leaving the Walls where Jose Rizal once spent his memories.  

They call themselves “Iskolar ng Maynila” while in school. They forget it when they are already professionals.

This being a fact of life makes sense for the institution to ask all those who are graduating from the law school to sign a covenant to give back to the institution or the City of Manila.   This reimbursement may be done by means of requiring any graduate of the law school to handle at least five cases of poor residents of Manila every year for five years or donating to the school an equivalent amount every year or handling at least three (3) units of teaching loads in the College of Law for free for five years.

            With this obligation to pass the Bar in one take being clear, this author exhorts all students of the PLM Law to keep this in their hearts and minds:

TAKE ONE PAMANTASAN.

            Abbreviate this and it makes us at the TOP.

In demanding for this obligation, this author perhaps is speaking with credibility.  This graduate of the PLM Law takes pride in one brick he contributed to the Wall of Fame of his alma mater by passing the Bar in one take.   At the same time, he and his all-girl 2005 batch mates put their bricks together to register 89% passing rate to make PLM the top school all over the country that year.  Unconscious then, he wrote on the Wall: TAKE ONE PAMANTASAN.

            Having said this, how can “Take One Pamantasan” be achieved?   

            There is no formula. There is no trick. No one can predict the questions to be given in the Bar Exams to enable a focused mastery of the test answers. The only sure thing a student can do to achieve “Take One Pamantasan” is to master everything and—most likely he or she will end up passing the Bar.   

Yes, it is not a guarantee that one who does this will pass the test.  But it cannot be disputed that the only way to have a better chance of passing the Bar is to learn all possible laws and legal principles one can during his four years in the College of Law and master as much as he or she can during the review for the Bar.  If one masters all laws and all legal principles, then he or she is assured that he can answer any question that may be picked by the examiners.

By mastering everything, it means that one student must master all laws included in the Bar, master all the principles of law, master how to apply the laws and principles on all kinds of issues, ensure a good command of the English language, and be good in how to write a concise answer to strengthen the power of arguments.

Now that the Supreme Court has drastically changed the system of the Bar, with more reason that the mastery of everything is required. 

Starting the 2011 Bar Exam, 60% shall be in the form of multiple choice questions (MCQs) where each item features at least five seemingly all correct choices but the only correct answer can be detected by full knowledge of the law by the letter and full knowledge of the principles of law.  The other part is the essay type where examinees are required to prepare a trial brief, a memorandum, a pleading, writing of a decision based on given facts, or an opinion brief for a client on a set of circumstances.

The new system of the Bar does not alter the substance of the questions.  But it redesigned the manner the questions are asked.  The author tried an MCQ test when he took the 2005 Bar where five MCQ questions were given. 

Gauging from what he felt when he analyzed these five items he concluded MCQ test questions are three times tougher than answering an essay-type test. 

In essay-type question, one is always more comfortable in writing his best guess and supporting the guess with legal basis and he will feel comfortable enough that at least he will get half of the total points allotted to that question.  

In MCQ, there is only one correct answer that if an examinee failed to get it he or she gets zero for that item.  And to decide which is correct is like looking for a pin in a maze of sand grains. That is like how to detect the only one correct choice from at least five seemingly correct options.

The other part of the new Bar system is essay type.  But it is a far different type of the essay-type questions this author had in the year 2005. 

The old type of the essay-type questions calls for a resolution of one or two given issues.  The new type requires the examinee to identity the issues first before resolving them, and—the harder part of it—to write them all in one pleading as a decision, a memorandum, a brief, or a legal opinion.

Of course, mastering everything is impossible to achieve.  If so, what is the alternative?

There is no other way but to be serious in studying all laws that have to be read over and over again, read every day at least 20 cases decided by the Supreme Court, then sleep the whole Sunday to recharge.

The author admits he did not take a rest on all the Sundays during his law school days.  Probably, this was his biggest mistake.

In his student days, particularly the first four years, the author read all laws required by the college of law and dissected every day at least 20 cases decided by the Supreme Court. 

His batch mates were trained in the same manner.  Even before the class could advance to third year, the dean that time, Atty. Jose A. Roy III, was predicting that the class will beat Ateneo and UP, confident in the regime of learning he imposed.   Dean Roy turned out to be a Nostradamus, making a bold guess of what would happen in the Bar as to the fate of his babies (including the author) and that guess turned out to be correct.

The author admits that he practically had to sleep three hours a day in order to survive the ordeal of working as an editor of People’s Journal Tonight for eight hours a day and studying assigned cases and chapters of the laws assigned in his subjects for more than eight hours.   

He further admits that with this regimen he was always sleepy and his eyes were about to fall off the sockets that in many times he got caught red handed snoring to the delight of classmates.  

There was more delight every time a seatmate female classmate tapped a part of his body to wake him up for his name was called by the professor.   Relief came always to him because he could give the substance of the correct answer to the question thrown at him. 

What probably helped him sustain the daily cycle of hard labor were 1,500cc of vitamin C a day and it must have been the reason he did not fell ill in the whole of four years.

In short, the author was serious to his studies that he had a large stock of knowledge of coded laws and legal principles when he took the Bar.  The knowledge of coded laws came by ordinary means of reading the written laws repeatedly. 

Caveat: knowledge of the law is one thing, high level of quick recall is another thing.

In this author’s experience, he did not memorize the laws. 

What he did was this.

During his self-review he copied down into notebooks by his handwriting all the laws included in the Bar. 

Rule by rule, section by section, he wrote all the laws, the Constitution, and the Rules of Court. 

He began writing by his hand all provisions of the Rules of Court, from Rule 1 to Rule 134, upon the theory that by the time he was to write down all the Constitution’s provisions he was now preparing for the first Sunday of the exam that was slated for Political Law.  

He decided to do this because he did not have time to read new cases churned out by the Supreme Court.  He did not have much time to review because he had to stay in his work to sustain his needs for food, apartment rental, electricity and water while reviewing.

Surprise came when he was answering Bar questions. 

Believe it or not, while answering Bar questions it was as if the laws needed for all his answers appeared in his imagination with great ease, to the extent that he could even know where the punctuation marks should be and what the exact words were used by the laws. 

Every time he submitted his examination booklet, he was confident he can pass, further taking comfort from the mind-conditioning that it only needed 75% to pass the Bar, that if he were sure of at least three-fourths of his answers the only issue left is whether there was a forthcoming bonus, an individual honor of getting lucky to be included in the top ten list. 

But it was not enough to have high quick-recall ability.  One examinee must have very rich knowledge of legal principles, which are actually derivatives from the natural or divine laws and common sense. 

These principles may be found in the Golden Rule of the Civil Code of the Philippines, which is Article 19. 

To master Article 19, all one has to do is to remember the word “AGO” to recite it as: “Every person must, in the exercise of rights and performance of duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, observe honesty and good faith.” 

A stands for “Act with justice.” G stands for “Give everyone his due.”  O stands for “Observe honesty and good faith.

There are plenty of legal principles like “unjust enrichment is not allowed,” “it is not a crime when there is no law punishing it” that is “nullum crimen nulla poena sine lege” in Latin, the principle that the voice of the people is supreme that is “vox populi vox dei” in Latin, the principle that laws are not intended to defraud or to cheat, the principle of reasonability, the law of necessity, the principle of estoppels, among others.

While the advices I gave find better application to the old system of the Bar, this author believes it is still of the same application under 60% of MCQ questions and 40% of long essay answers. 

The only things that need to be done more to prepare for the new system of the Bar are:

(a) how to master the skill of detecting the best answer, mindful that there are tricky words that are inserted or omitted in the choices and analyzing all of them by looking for the incorrect answers rather than tab on the correct choice; and

(b) how to master the skill of identifying the issues in problem situations and how to write pleadings with good English, mindful that the best chance of coming out with it is by mastering the technique of making an outline of what are the things to be said, and which outline could just be simply regarded as an enumeration of topics to write about.

To the author’s juniors at the PLM College of Law, believe you can sustain the sacrifices he advises them to do in order to achieve.

TAKE ONE PAMANTASAN.

What can you say, Dean Ernest?
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