Vice president, senator, diplomat and top govt lawyer among bar flunkers who made good
Vice President Leni Robredo failed the bar exams on her first try in 1992. Robredo, an economics graduate of the University of the Philippines, studied law at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City. Robredo, who passed the bar in 1997, shared her story during the commencement rites of Sacred Heart College in Lucena City in March. “Don’t lose hope. Learn to rise from failures,” she told the graduating class. “I studied to be a lawyer while I was raising my little girls,” said the widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, with whom she has three daughters: Aika, Tricia and Jillian. “I shuttled between Manila and Naga City, while reviewing for the bar. It was a very difficult time. I was juggling my responsibilities as a mother, a teacher and a student,” she recounted. In May this year, Robredo won a tightly contested battle for the second top post in the land with 14.4 million votes.
Claro M. Recto
The great nationalist Claro M. Recto took the bar in 1913 while still in his senior year at the University of Santo Tomas law school—and failed. He got a grade of 41 percent in Civil Procedure even as he scored 90 percent in Civil Law. The 1913 bar exams marked the first time that the test questions in Civil Procedure were in English, while the medium of instruction was Spanish at the Ateneo and UST when Recto was a student there. The examiner in Civil Procedure also noted that Recto’s handwriting was hardly legible. The bar flunker went back to UST and graduated class valedictorian. He retook the bar in 1914 and passed, though there was no record that he landed in the top ten. He earlier graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ateneo de Manila with a perfect grade of 1 in all his subjects, except for one where he got a 1.3. He got the highest honors (maxima cum laude) at the Ateneo.
Francisco Noel R. Fernandez
Francisco Noel R. Fernandez of the University of the Philippines flunked the bar in 1993 but came back to top the exams the following year. He told the Inquirer then: “I failed because I was overconfident. So the second time, I was more careful and I enrolled at the UP review school.’’ With his rare feat, UP broke Ateneo’s three-year run at No. 1. Fernandez was then training to become a diplomat at the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs. He was welcomed as incoming Deputy Chief of Mission at the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa last September.
Public Attorneys Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda Acosta failed the bar twice—in 1987 and 1988. On her third try in 1989, she ranked fourth. Acosta blamed poverty for twice failing the bar, saying her parents could not afford her tuition and other school requirements, forcing her to miss classes. This 1987 law graduate of the University of the East is among the 14 candidates vying for the seat of Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Perez, who retires on Dec. 14.
Compiled by Kate Pedroso and Minerva Generalao, Inquirer Research/rga
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