June 24, 2017, 3:08 am
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USC grad tops 2016 Bar exams

A LAW graduate from University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu currently working at accounting firm SGV& Co topped the 2016 Bar Exams, leading 3,747 out of 6,344 examinees who hurdled the exams for a 59.06 passing rate, the highest since 2000.

Karen Mae Calam, 30, emerged as the topnotcher with a rating of 89.05 percent, leading three other USC graduates who also made it to the top 10.

Alanna Gayle Ashley Khio of Siliman University (88.95) finished No. 2, followed by Fiona Cristy Lao of University of San Carlos and Athalia Liong of Andres Bonifacio College who shared third with a rating of 88.80 percent.

Allana Mae Babayen-On of University of San Agustin was No. 4 with a rating of 88. 75, followed by Justin Ryan Morilla of Ateneo de Davao University (88.40), Mark Dave Camaraol of Northwestern University (88.10), Anne Margaret Momongan of University of San Carlos (87.80), Jefferson Gomez also of University of San Carlos (87.70) while Nia Rachelle Gonzales of the University of Batangas and Marie Chielo Ybio of Siliman University shared 9th place with a rating of 87.50.

Andrew Stephen Liu of Siliman University rounded out the top 10 finishers with a rating of 87.45.

Since the USC opened its college of law in 1937, it has produced 25 bar topnotchers.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the chair of the 2016 Bar Exams Committee, said the successful examinees will take their oath on May 22 at the Mall of Asia Area, the first time the event will be held outside the Philippine International Convention Center.

“Since it is a big venue, we are allowing the successful candidates to bring or invite at least two or three others for this momentous event,” Velasco said.

Last November, Velasco shot down rumors on social media that some questions in mercantile and criminal law had been leaked, saying that an investigation he initiated found no evidence that the   test questions were compromised or leaked.

In the 2003 Bar exams, the SC ordered 5,000 Bar examinees to retake a test on mercantile law after it was discovered that the exam had been compromised.

In 1979, a re-examination was ordered after a similar exam leakage involving two subjects – labor and social legislation and taxation – was discovered.

Velasco said the passing rate was a big improvement on the 26.21 percent or 1,731 out of 6, 605 examinees who passed the 2015 Bar exams.

SC records showed the highest percentage of Bar exam passers was in 1954 with 75.17 percent while the lowest was in 1999 with 16.59 percent. It also showed that since 2000, the highest passing rate was in 2011 when 31. 95 percent of those who took the exams passed. 

The lowest passing rate was recorded in 2012 when only 17.76 percent passed the exams, despite the High Court’s lowering the passing grade to 70 percent.

Velasco said of the 6,924 law graduates who applied to take the exams this year, 21 were denied while 72 withdrew their applications, leaving a total of 6, 831 who were admitted by the High Court to take the Bar.

Of the 6,831 admitted, 477 did not show up during the first Sunday exam, leaving 6, 354 who actually took the exams. After the fourth Sunday, only 6,344 examinees completed the examinations.

Eight subjects were taken by the Bar examinees during the four consecutive Sundays of November, namely, Political Law and Labor Law, Civil Law and Taxation, Mercantile Law and Criminal Law, Remedial Law and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises.

Calam said she was on her way to the Bureau of Internal Revenue when one of her officemates informed her of the results of the exams.

“I didn’t believe at first that I topped the Bar but when my officemates called to inform me, I told myself this is true,” said Calam, who said she is the first in her family based in Bukidnon to become a lawyer.

“We feel so blessed. It’s like a dream. I don’t know, there are no words,” she said, referring to Lao, Momongan and Gomez, who are her friends.

Calam added that it would be a double celebration for her and her family as she is also set to wed her fiancée in August this year.

Absent from the list of the top placers are graduates of the top law schools in the country, among them University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda College.

Lawyer Christina Layusa, a Bar confidante, said this is the first time that Metro Manila-based law schools did not place in the top 10 placers.

Calam said she called her mother in Bukidnon to inform her of the good news but she was not answering her cell phone. 

She said that unlike her classmates who lost asleep studying and reviewing for the exams, she made sure to get enough sleep, especially in the run-up to the exams last November. She also credited the good foundation she received her law school.

Calam added that “I want to go to the Basilica of Sto. Nino in Cebu. It’s one of my patrons for the Bar exams. I also want to visit other churches to show my thanksgiving to the Lord. I also owe a lot to my family, friends, classmates, my fiancée and his family.”

The SC said the bar examiners were retired SC Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura for political law and public international law, SC Associate Justice Noel Tijam for remedial law, Court of Appeals justices Magdangal De Leon for labor laws and social legislation, Japar Dimaampao for civil law, Ramon Paul Hernando for mercantile law, Victoria Isabel Paredes for criminal law, Myra Garcia Fernandez for ethics and practical exercises and Court of Tax Appeals Justice Lovell Bautista for taxation
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