SC urged to review constitutionality of legal education reform, PhilSAT
MANILA, Philippines —”Who are we to say that this student is not fit for law school,” a Supreme Court Associate Justice asked the Legal Education Board (LEB).
During the oral argument on Tuesday, petitioners from law schools and aspiring law students want the Court to strike down Republic Act 7662 or the Legal Education Reform Act or the law that created the LEB as unconstitutional.
The same law was the basis for the memorandum that required the conduct of Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhilSAT), the centralized entrance examination for aspiring law students.
“Would you consider retreating from this policy?” Associate Justice Marvic Leonen asked LEB Chairman Emerson Aguende. “You should have a scientific study to back yourself up…You cannot operate on the basis of anectodal references.”
Leonen further explained that while the SC is mandated by law to regulate the legal profession, it does not cover law education.
“Admission to law practice refers only to admission to the Bar but does not cover admission to legal education,” the magistrate pointed out.
He added that while admission to law school is a right, admission to law practice after passing the Bar is a privilege.
Leonen suggested that PhilSAT may have also infringed academic freedom since it took away the freedom of law schools to choose their students.
He pointed out that Article 14, Section 5 and paragraph 2 of the Constitution pertains to “who to admit, who may teach, what can be taught and how and who to admit to study.”
“It is only embedded or within schools of higher learning,” the justice said. He further asked if the constitution should cover the admission to any level of education, including primary or elementary education.
Former Ateneo de Manila School of Law Dean Sedfrey Candelaria agreed that there should be a “continuum,” but it should only cover the preparation “into the practice of the law.”
“It is possible that the PhilSAT is unconstitutional not because of the authority that granted it but because intrinsically, it may affect academic freedom,” Leonen said.
On the other hand, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio told LEB that that they “cannot deprive citizen from going for an education.”
The Senior Magistrate said LEB’s charter does not give it the right to exclude students.
He said even setting up minimum standards for regulation “cannot conflict with academic freedom.
Aguende argued that PhilSAT applies only to people who are not yet part of the academic community.
“Still, it is the same. It affects his right to higher education,” Carpio said.
The high court wrapped up the oral argument and gave all the parties 20 days to submit their respective memoranda. /ee
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