SC scraps with finality PhilSAT requirement for law students

MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) struck down with finality the Legal Education Board's (LEB) orders and memorandums requiring aspiring law students to take up Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhilSAT).

In a 108page decision dated September 10 released Tuesday, the court en banc through Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes Jr., clarified that it is not closing the doors on a system of screening for law students in the future.

"Through time and a better cooperation between the LEB and the law schools, a standardized and acceptable law admission examinations may be configured," the decision read.

The SC ruling declared as unconstitutional and made permanent the temporary restraining order it issued last March against provisions in orders issued by the LEB (LEBMO No. 72016 and LEBMC No. 192018) requiring law school applicants to pass the PhilSAT prior to enrolment.

The decision also ruled as unconstitutional the provisions on the LEB orders dictating the qualifications and classifications of faculty members and deans of graduate schools which it said is "in violation of institutional academic freedom on who may teach".

"The rule is that institutions of higher learning enjoy ample discretion to decide for itself who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught and who to admit, being part of their academic freedom. The State, in the exercise of its reasonable supervision and regulation over education, can only impose minimum regulations," the Court said.

The tribunal also struck down certain provisions of the said memorandum establishing law practice internship as a requirement to taking the bar impinges on the powers of the high court.

"It is clear from the plain text that another requirement, completion of a law internship program, is imposed by law for taking the bar examinations. This requirement unduly interferes with the exclusive jurisdiction of the court to promulgate rules concerning the practice of law and admissions thereto," the court said.

Separate dissenting and concurring opinions were filed by Associate Justices Marvic MV Leonen, Francis H. Jardeleza, and Alexander G. Gesmundo.

Then Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin joined Leonen in his dissenting and concurring opinions.

Concurring opinions were filed by Associate Justices Estela M. PerlasBernabe and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa and Andres B. Reyes Jr.

Leonen will chair next year's bar examinations while Bernabe was the chairperson for last November's bar examinations.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta who was then an associate justice took no part.

The first PhilSAT was held on Apil 16,2017 in seven pilot sites: Baguio City, Metro Manila, Legazpi City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City, and Cagayan de Oro.

A total of 6,575 out of 8,074 examinees passed the first PhilSAT which also saw the LEB adjusting the passing grade from 55 percent to 45 percent by way of consideration. Due to inclement weather during the exam day, those who failed to take the first PhilSAT were allowed conditional enrollment requiring the student to take the subsequent PhilSAT exams.

Law schools violating the LEB memo would have been administratively sanctioned with the closure of the school, the phaseout of the law program and the provisional cancellation of the government's recognition and putting the law program of the law school under permit status. The erring school also stands to be fined with up to PHP10,000.

The suit was filed by a number of petitioners led by retired Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Oscar B. Pimentel, along with some law students in April 2017 which was consolidated with the one filed by another group of law students in November 2018. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency