In the Know: The case of bar examinee Marcos Antonio Purisima

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The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—In March 2000, Supreme Court Associate Justice Fidel Purisima was relieved as chairman of the 1999 Bar Examination Committee for not disclosing to the court that his nephew, Marcos Antonio “Mark Anthony” Purisima, was among those who took the exam.

Mark Anthony is the son of Purisima’s elder brother, retired Manila Judge Amante Purisima.

Justice Purisima apologized to the court, but was censured by his peers, who also ordered the forfeiture of half of his P500,000 fee as chairman of the 1999 exam committee.

Sources said the Supreme Court accepted the apology, but not Purisima’s explanation that he did not know his nephew took the exam or had been planning to take it in 1999.

Due to public outrage and with some quarters calling the censure “a mere slap on the wrist,” Purisima’s case was later referred to a special commission composed of retired justices. The commission was tasked with conducting a separate investigation of the scandal.

The Supreme Court also ordered Purisima to comment on a petition brought by about 100 law students, asking the court to conduct an “impartial, thorough and speedy” probe of the circumstances surrounding the 1999 bar exam.

Purisima quietly retired in October 2000 without giving reporters copies of his comments on the petition.

Although Mark Anthony Purisima passed the 1999 exam, he was stricken off the list of new lawyers who were to take the oath in May that year.

The justices unanimously decided to disqualify him after discovering that he falsified a certification that he had taken the pre-bar review and refresher course required for candidates who had failed the exam more than three times.

But the court allowed him to take the lawyer’s oath in December 2002.—Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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