bar exams

UST student journalist is 2023 Bar top passer: ‘Hard work pays off’

Lian Buan

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UST student journalist is 2023 Bar top passer: ‘Hard work pays off’
(1st UPDATE) Bie was a staff writer of the college paper. In law school, he got top marks in criminal law, and graduated class valedictorian.

MANILA, Philippines – Ephraim Bie, a student journalist from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, is the No. 1 passer of the 2023 Bar examinations, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday, December 5.

Bie passed the Bar, considered the country’s most difficult licensure examinations, with the top grade 89.2625%.

“It’s been a frenzy, to be honest. I’m just elated right now and have not completely come to terms with the situation,” Bie told Rappler in a message.

Bie was preparing to go to UST where the faculty of civil law is preparing a celebration for him in campus premises in Manila.

“Happy to bring glory to UST and the Faculty of Civil Law as well. It’s been a long time coming,” said Bie.

The last Bar topnotcher to come from UST-Manila was Arlene Maneja who got a grade of 92.9% in 2002. Mae Diane Azores from sister school UST-Legazpi in Albay was No. 1 in the 2019 Bar examinations.

Bie graduated with a Journalism degree in 2015 from UST, where he was a writer for the Issues section of the college paper, The Flame. He graduated from the UST faculty of civil law as class valedictorian.

He is currently an underbar in the litigation department of a top firm, Divina Law, the firm of UST faculty of civil law Dean Nilo Divina. Litigation lawyers appear in court and should have a good grasp of criminal law.

His teacher, lawyer Klinton Torralba, said Bie was an excellent student of criminal law, although he is “quiet, and just listens attentively.”

“He did not only graduate as class valedictorian, he is also a magna cum laude. I learned from one of the respected criminal law professors in UST that Ephraim got 98% in criminal law. I believe he loves the subject,” said Torralba, who ranked No. 9 in the 2017 Bar Examinations.

Bie told Rappler he was not closing the door to a future in journalism. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in this journey so far, it’s to avoid closing doors as much as possible – so for journalism, we’ll see siguro (perhaps),” he said.

Bie said he did not expect to top the Bar, much less pass the 2023 examinations which registered a considerably low passing rate of 36.77%. Bie bested the 3,812 passers out of 10,387 examinees for 2023, where the average passing grade was 75%.

“I was actually bracing for the worst because I feel like my answers were super off tangent compared to the suggested answers,” said Bie.

Torralba said Bie “is a humble and unassuming student but brilliantly understands the law.”

“My other co-professors in UST noticed this as well. He eventually graduated as the class valedictorian and we all knew right then that UST had a fighting chance of reclaiming the top spot in the Bar exam,” said Torralba.

Bie was also the captain of the faculty of arts and letters’ quiz bee team, and in 2013, was awarded a creative writing fellowship from UST’s publication, The Varsitarian.

“He really had the makings of a bar topnotcher – good grasp of facts, a retentive memory, and writing skills,” said Felipe Salvosa II, head of UST’s journalism program.

“[My family and I] are just happy right now. We were raised to be hard workers so it’s always glad to see hard work paying off,” said Bie. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.