UP grad and Inquirer scholar tops bar exams

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 01:21 AM May 04, 2016

THERE might be much to complain about in the Philippines, but 2015 bar topnotcher Rachel Angeli Miranda believes there is also as much good.


“I think we as a people can be better than we are. Sometimes, we see what’s bad in the news, but there’s also a lot of good coming out of this country,” said the 25-year-old University of the Philippines law graduate who said she was keen to do her share when the country casts its vote in the May 9 national elections.

“What’s important for me is that candidates should have the ability to respect the rule of law and at the same time respect the people they are serving,” Miranda said.


“They have to be able to respect the dignity of the people who put them there,” she added.

With a grade of 87.40, Miranda is at the top of 1,731 passers of the bar exams held at the University of Santo Tomas in November 2015. The passers made it out of 6,605 takers, pegging the passing rate at 26.21 percent, the highest since 2011.

Inquirer scholar

“I couldn’t believe it. I was just hoping to pass,” said Miranda, a Philippine Daily Inquirer scholar from 2008 to 2010, who briefly worked as editorial production assistant after she graduated from UP Diliman.

The Inquirer Journalism Scholarship provides financial aid to topnotch students with exceptional talent for writing. The scholarships are given every other year to at least five students starting on their third year in college. A total of 72 scholars have benefited from the program that started in 1993.

Set to become a full-fledged lawyer upon taking her oath on June 16, Miranda said the prospect was “a little scary.”  She added: “As a lawyer, it’s your duty to do well, to do better for society. There’s a pressure to contribute.”

Being raised by a pastor father and a doctor mother and having a UP background made her inclined toward human rights law and freedom of expression, her law specialization.


“When I was in journalism [school], we took up a media law class. That encouraged me to undertake further studies,” she said.

Last year, Miranda was part of the UP Law team that won the international rounds of the 8th Annual Price Media Law Moot Court Competition at Oxford University, the United Kingdom, a victory credited to the team’s mastery of human rights and freedom of expression law.

top-bar-0504Since January, Miranda has been an associate at the Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia (CMT), a law firm that includes former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. and former Ombudsman and Solicitor General Simeon Marcelo among its founding partners.

“We are extremely proud!,” CMT said on its official Twitter account.

Top 10 passers

Aside from Miranda, this year’s top 10 bar passers are: Athena Plaza (University of San Carlos or USC, 2nd place); Jayson Aguilar (UP, 3rd); Reginald Arceo (Ateneo de Manila University, 4th), Mandy Therese Anderson (Admu, 5th), Giselle Hernandez (UP, 6th place); Darniel Bustamante (San Beda College, 7th), Jecca Jacildo (USC, 8th place), Jericho Tiu (Admu, 8th); Soraya Laut (Xavier University, 8th), Jedd Brian Hernandez (UP, 9th place); Lara Carmela Fernando (SBC, 10th), and Ronel Buenaventura (Bulacan State University or Bulsu, 10th).

Lawyer Joan Largo, dean of the USC’s College of Law, said they were expecting Plaza to be in the top 10, as the only child of a retired policeman and a public school teacher had graduated summa cum laude in Business Administration major in Legal Management at USC, and was cum laude in law school.

“My father would tell me  ‘One day, you should become a lawyer so that you will be able to protect your family.’ That has been my inspiration,” Plaza recalled.

“To be top 2 is enough for me to thank the Lord. I think this would inspire more students, especially from what they call  ‘provincial schools,’ to aim for the highest position. I hope in the near future, a Carolinian will finally grab the top spot, Plaza said.

Best education

Her success affirms that the best education is really just here at USC, said Largo. “You don’t have to venture far. Excellence is right here at our doorstep,” she added.

Plaza bested the record set by USC alumnus, former Rep. Pablo Garcia who ranked third in the 1951 bar exams. Garcia’s rating, 91.5 percent, however remained the number to beat. USC has produced 20 bar takers in the top 10 since the university’s College of Law opened in 1937.

Bulsu graduate and 10th placer, Ronel Buenaventura, was the first Bulsu alumnus to make it in the top 10 since the college opened its law school in 2002.

“I am very happy to be part of Bulsu’s history. It shows that anything is possible,” Buenaventura said, adding that those coming from schools outside Metro Manila need not feel discriminated against.

“Success depends on the individual’s efforts,” said the Malolos City native who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s degree in psychology at UP Diliman.

Most prestigious

When he failed the UP law aptitude examination, Buenaventura enrolled at Bulsu law school and completed his studies in April last year.

The bar examinations are considered the most prestigious professional test on account of its difficulty, and is the only licensure exam not administered by the Professional Regulation Commission.

In a statement, Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said the high court was “considering proposals” to reform the bar exams, “including reducing the number of examinable subjects and possible regionalization.”

He said Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., chair of the 2016 bar examinations, has already held initial discussions with law school deans. “There is, as yet, no final decision by the court on this matter. However, Justice Velasco already met with the law school deans and any changes will be announced in due course,” Te said. With reports from Ador Vincent S.Mayol, Inquirer Visayas; Ron Lopez, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Inquirer Research

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