Ignatius Michael D. Ingles, 29, was on his way to hear Mass when he learned that he did not only pass the tough bar exams but also, to his shock, topped them.
“I don’t think anyone in his right mind will expect to top the bar,” Ingles said a few hours after the Supreme Court announced the exams’ results.
For the third straight year, Ateneo de Manila University dominated the bar exams, with six of those who made it to the Top 10 coming from its law school.
Four of the other topnotchers were from the University of the Philippines (UP) and one was from Aquinas University.
Ingles, who graduated salutatorian, garnered a score of 85.64 percent, followed by fellow Atenean Catherine Beatrice O. King Kay, a valedictorian, who got 84.72 percent.
Others who made it to the Top 10 were April Carmela B. Lacson (UP, 84.48 percent); Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo (Ateneo, 84.10 percent); Maria Graciela D. Base and Jose Maria Angel P. Machuca, (UP and Ateneo, 83.99 percent); Patrick Henry D. Salazar (UP, 83.71 percent); Ralph Karlo B. Barcelona (Aquinas, 83.43 percent); Marvyn S. Llamas (Ateneo, 83.29 percent), Carlo Martin C. Li (Ateneo, 83.27 percent) and Francis Paolo P. Tiopanco (UP, 83.25 percent).
Lowest number of passers
Only 949 (17.76 percent) of the 5,343 examinees passed this year’s bar exams, the lowest number of passers in the last 13 years.
There were more bar passers in 2011, with 1,913 (31.95 percent) of the 5,987 examinees making it.
The second-lowest number of bar passers in the past 13 years was in 2002 when only 917 (19.68 percent) of the 4,659 examinees made it.
Passing rate lowered to 70
Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr., who chaired the 2012 committee on the bar exams, said the Supreme Court in a special en banc meeting on Wednesday decided to lower the passing grade from 75 to 70 percent. Among the passers was the son of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
Villarama noted that the original passing rate for the 2012 bar exams was just 6.76 percent, or 361 examinees. He said the high court lowered the passing grade because the passing percentage for labor and social legislation, criminal law and remedial law turned out to be low.
“The court, following history, and in the spirit of the Lenten season was quite liberal (on Wednesday),” Villarama said at a news conference at the Supreme Court.
Wednesday’s announcement of the results of the bar exams came sooner than the previous practice, with Villarama making the announcement before noon.
Unlike in the past when examinees trooped to the Supreme Court building in Manila to look for their names on the list of passers, only a number showed up.
Among the early birds was Charlene Mae C. Calingasan, who was No. 181 on the list of passers. Calingasan, who is from San Beda College, teared up when she found out she passed what she described as “very difficult” exams.
Villarama said Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio presided over the en banc meeting that deliberated on the 2012 bar exam results. Sereno inhibited from the meeting because her son, John Lorenzo, was an examinee.
Villarama said last year’s bar exams were tough given the low number of passers.
“The multiple choice questions (MCQs) have done us all in, so to speak,” he said, acknowledging that he himself found the 675 MCQs to be “confusing or appearing all correct” and that this “brought down the percentage of passers.”
He said the examinees did well in the essay portion, with the passing percentage being “doubly higher” than the MCQs’.
For the 2013 bar exams, to be chaired by Associate Justice Arturo Brion, the Supreme Court en banc has approved that 20 percent will be made up of MCQs and the rest, essay, according to Villarama.
Ingles said the mix of MCQs and essay made the exams tougher. “It was really tiring and time-pressured,” he said in a phone patch interview with reporters.
For her part, 26-year-old King Kay told the Inquirer that the questions in the exams were “quite unexpected” and that the essay was long and comprehensive.
King Kay, who works at the Romulo Mabanta, Buenaventura, Sayco and De Los Angeles law office, said she was at home when she heard the good news.
Having worked late the previous day, she decided to stay at home to await the news. She said family and friends congratulated her when they found out she took the second spot.
King Kay, a certified public accountant, said she was “super-happy” for her friend, Ingles, who took the top spot.
“It’s destiny,” she said of Ingles’ landing the top spot in the bar exams.
Sports law practice
Ingles, who used to play football for Ateneo, acknowledged that the last two Atenean topnotchers in the bar exams—2010’s Caesario Antonio “Ari” Singzon Jr. and 2011’s Raoul Angelo Atadero—had been his close friends since high school.
“When Ari topped the exam (in 2010), we pressured Anj. And when Anj topped it (the next year), they then pressured me,” he said.
“I am very happy the top bar passers are Ateneans and are my friends. We said to each other, ‘We were able to do a three-peat,’” he said.
Ingles, who is married and works in the Salvador and Perez law office, hopes to specialize in corporate law and wants to establish a sports law practice.