‘School elitism’ and Guanzon: Realizations after SC names 2019 Bar exam topnotchers

April 29, 2020 - 6:32 PM
Law student
Illustration by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay

Realizations on “school elitism” were shared after the Supreme Court released the list of the top ten passers of the 2019 Bar examinations which indicated the law schools they graduated from.

The topnotcher, Mae Diane Azores, is an alumna of the University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi who earned the highest score of 91.049%.

She is followed by Princess Parahiman of the University of the East, Myra Baranda of UST-Legazpi, Dawna Bandiola of San Beda College-Alabang and Jocelyn Fabelo of the Palawan State University.

Others who topped the Bar exams include Kenneth Manuel of UST, Rhowee Buergo of Jose Rizal University, Anton Avila of Saint Louis University, Jun Dexter Rojas of Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Bebelan Madera of University of St. La Salle.

RELATED: Who’s Sir K? Here’s why this Bar passer is trending online.

Congratulations to the Top 10 passers of the 2019 Bar exams! 🥳📷 Philstar.com

Posted by Interaksyon on Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Of the 7,685 takers who took the Bar examinations in November 2019 at UST, only 2,103 of them passed.

The high court said that the passing rate for the latest Bar exams is 27.36%.

RELATED: FULL LIST: 2019 Bar exam results

2019 Bar Chair Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe said that they lowered the passing rate from 75% to 74 since there is a “need for more younger and technologically adept lawyers” to help society amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

‘No UP and Ateneo?’ 

When the high court released the list of the top ten passers along with the schools they graduated from, the phrase “UP and Ateneo” made it to the top trending list on local Twitter as the online community noticed that there were no law Ateneo or UP graduates on the Bar’s top roster.

“No UP and Ateneo? That’s new. Wala talagang bearing ang university where you got your degree,” a Twitter user said.

Provincial Univs dominating the list. No UP and Ateneo, which shows that the performance of the student is not all about which school he came from but from his hard work and perseverance,” another online user said. 

The phrase “UP and Ateneo” has been tweeted more than 3,800 times, as of writing.

A Filipino said he is hopeful that this instance will remove the “school elitism” among students and alumni.

“Kind of refreshing to see na walang nag top sa bar from either UP or Ateneo. Ang masaya is that, regional law schools did well sa bar exam ngayon. Hopefully, mawala na ang school elitism and people will see that regional law schools can be as competitive as UP and Ateneo,” he said.

Another online user shared a quote from a case between lawyer Melvin Mane and Judge Medel Belen in 2008 where then-Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales wrote in the decision:

“An alumnus of a particular law school has no monopoly of knowledge of the law.” 

Morales’ note continued:

“By hurdling the Bar Examinations which this Court administers, taking of the Lawyer’s oath, and signing of the Roll of Attorneys, a lawyer is presumed to be competent to discharge his functions and duties as, inter alia, an officer of the court, irrespective of where he obtained his law degree.”

“For a judge to determine the fitness or competence of a lawyer primarily on the basis of his alma mater is clearly an engagement in an argumentum ad hominem.” 

A study in an Israel-based University, Bar-Ilan University, defined “elitism in higher education” as the “gap between the elite universities and the standard ones.”

“There are two main differences between these two types of universities. The first is the quality of education. There is a huge difference in the budget per student of elite universities vs. the standard ones, and this difference leads to difference in quality of education,” the study reads.

Law graduates from the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University usually land on the topnotchers list of bar exams.

Reports said that they historically produce “the most number of Philippine Bar Topnotchers,” basing from the years 1913 to 2018.

The top ten schools expected to produce topnotchers are UP, Ateneo, San Beda College, the Philippine Law School, Far Eastern University, University of Manila, University of Santo Tomas and Baguio Colleges Foundation. 

Last year, the bar topnotcher was from ADMU, while the bar topnotchers in 2016 and 2017 were graduates of the University of San Carlos-Cebu and the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, respectively.

The case of Guanzon 

The bar exam results prompted other Twitter users to recall Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon who previously remarked that she only wanted to “debate” against graduates of UP Law or Ateneo Law.

In the middle of online conversations about the case of former soldier Winston Ragos who was shot by Quezon City police officer Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo, Guanzon said that she wanted to engage the latter’s supporters to a debate for saying that the shooting was done on “self-defense.”

RELATED: Amid calls for justice for slain ex-soldier, army men’s mental struggles put to the fore

Those who are challenging me to a debate about the killing of Corporal Ragos should do it personally and directly. Baka sumikat kayo, chance nyo na ito. But be sure u graduated from UP Law or Ateneo Law and u are teaching law. Otherwise don’t waste my time #BawalAngShunga,” she wrote

While her tweets bearing the hashtag amused some Filipinos, others were not too keen on the commissioner as Guanzon eventually bragged of her alma mater in law school, the University of the Philippines.

Someone here said I am proud and arrogant. If u were in my shoes, wouldn’t you be? Hahahaha! Add that I’m good looking and very bright #BawalAngShunga,” one of Guanzon’s tweets said

Twitter users later on tagged Guanzon on their tweets about the Bar exam’s top 10 and asked for her opinion on this, following her recent remarks against schools other than UP and ADMU.

The Comelec commissioner responded to one of them saying “they are used to not topping the bar,” while referring to UP.

“We are used to it, not topping the Bar hahaha. Good for students from colleges in the provinces to top the Bar. About time. Congratulations!” she tweeted in reply to a now-deleted post.

Meanwhile, Guanzon also congratulated Azores for topping the Bar exams.

She also encouraged Bar topnotchers Azores and Madera, who are both women, to join the Comelec.

“I hope they will join us . We need more women lawyers,” Guanzon said.