Every Philippine Bar Examination has its own controversy, and this year’s tests have not been spared.
The 2017 Bar Examinations came to a close on Sunday, November 26, chaired by Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.
A few days later, Twitter user @PapaFrenma posted on Friday, December 1, that many of the questions in the Legal Ethics Examination appear to have been copied from previous bar examinations. (READ: Bar examinees urged: Become people’s lawyers, human rights defenders)
The account said “8 out of the 16” questions in Legal Ethics were copied “with only the names changed.” The user posted photos of 4 questions side-by-side with the respective questions from previous examinations which it seemed to have been copied from.
See the comparisons here:
2017 Q1 is almost the same as 2013 Q16. Able Law Office became Brando and Luzon Law Office. pic.twitter.com/UIrD3lQHPO— Fred M. Papa (@PapaFrenma) December 1, 2017
2017 Q3 is the same as 2004 Bar. The name Atty. Malibu was changed to Atty. Frank and Miss Magayon became Malen. Pregnancy at 16 and filing after 7 years are also the same. pic.twitter.com/V2BUyGAmd8— Fred M. Papa (@PapaFrenma) December 1, 2017
2017 Q16 is a verbatim reproduction of 2002 Q3 with minor modifications but Q3C is verbatim. pic.twitter.com/lQMUqKuG2P— Fred M. Papa (@PapaFrenma) December 1, 2017
2017 Q7 is the same as 2005 Q4 with minor modification from school to university. pic.twitter.com/Z2KfsbmfLK— Fred M. Papa (@PapaFrenma) December 1, 2017
The 2017 Bar questionnaires are uploaded on the Supreme Court website. Examination takers can also take home their questionnaires if they choose to after the exams, while past questionnaires are either uploaded by 3rd party websites like Lawphil.net or collated by schools which use them as reviewers.
It’s not clear if the Twitter user was among the Bar takers this year.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen replied to the tweet, which tagged him.
“Which questions and allegedly copied from which bar examinations. Please specify. This is a serious charge. If not true, it is also a serious offense to accuse,” Leonen told the Twitter user, after which he posted the photos in reply.
Lawyer Pia Bersamin, Judicial Staff Head of Bar Chairman Justice Bersamin and also the Head of the Office of the 2017 Bar Examinations Chairman, also replied to the tweet asking for proof.
Asked by Rappler if it merits an investigation by the Bar Chairman, Pia Bersamin said “no it does not.”
She said it is not an issue of intellectual property because the questions are owned, technically, by the Supreme Court.
“It is a matter between the Bar Chairman and the examiner. The examiner is still unknown to the public, and his or her identity will be revealed only when the results of the bar exam are released,” she said.
Some lawyers think that it is a question of whether it is proper for the Bar Examiner – paid to craft the questions – to simply copy previous questions. It may also be a matter of the “copied” questions getting past the scrutiny of the Bar Chairman.
“It is a question of how the bar examiner represented his questions to the bar chair. I hope he or she did not claim that these were her or his questions,” said a source from the academe.
The Twitter user alleged it’s a case of plagiarism.
“Not really,” Legal Education Board Chairman Emerson Aquende told Rappler.
“It is not uncommon at all to repeat test questions or give similar test questions. That in fact is one of the things that review trainors try to predict in future bar exams,” Aquende said in a text message.
He added there were key differences in the requirement of the questions.
“Even though the parameters of the questions were very similar, the type of the questions were different since the 2017 question requires an essay answer while the old question was multiple choice. The 2017 question will require the examinee to explain the basis of his/her answer, while in the latter case, to only choose the correct answer,” he said.
Aquende said that the integrity of the examinations is what’s important. (READ: More ‘reasonable’ Bar exams resulted in high passing rate)
“What is important is that no one knew what will be asked before the test is administered,” he said.
“No cheating or leakage took place, no right was violated. It is not an intellectual property as it is a public professional qualifying exam,” Pia Bersamin added. Other critics countered however that with little variation in test questions, it would be easier to leak them, with leakers only instructing Bar examinees to study closely specific years of the Bar Exams.
Over 7,000 law students took this year’s examinations, following the 2016 Bar Examinations, which registered a decades-high 59.06% passing rate. – Rappler.com
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