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What You Need to Know About The 2019 Philippine Bar Exams Chairman Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe

December 4, 2018

It has been officially declared that the 2019 Bar Exams Chairman is Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe. So, we have compiled in this post, some things you might want to know about her.

Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe finished her pre-law course Magna Cum Laude – Bachelor of Science in Commerce major in Banking and Finance at St. Paul College of Manila. Then, she studied law at the Ateneo College of Law where she graduated as Class Valedictorian in 1976. She passed the Bar Exams the year after with a rating of 85.156%. She was a Metc Judge, an RTC Judge then appointed as an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals on March 9, 2004. 

She was an examiner in Mercantile Law in the 2007 Bar Exams. After the months of checking the bar exams notebooks, Justice Perlas-Bernabe shared her experience and thoughts about being an examiner:

Experiencing the Bar a Second Time

The Bar Examinations is the only national test given by the Supreme Court to all law graduates in the country to determine their passage to the practice of law. It is given annually on four consecutive Sundays of September, on the following subjects with the corresponding weights: First Sunday – Political and International Law (15%) and Labor and Social Legislation (10%); Second Sunday – Civil Law (15%) and Taxation (10%); Third Sunday – Mercantile Law (15%) and Criminal Law (10%); Fourth Sunday – Remedial Law (20%) and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (5%). Under the Rules of Court, a bar candidate may be deemed to have passed his examinations successfully if he has obtained a general average of 75% in all subjects, without falling below 50% in any subject.


I took the bar examinations – for the first and last time – in 1976 after having graduated in the same year from the Ateneo College of Law. That may already be decades ago but the grueling six-month period of arduous mental calisthenics is forever etched in my memory, easily retrievable by the mere mention of the bar. My constant prayer then was for the bar examiners to ask fair questions and to be reasonably considerate in correcting the papers. Little did I know that I would someday be one of those dreaded examiners, and that I myself would be subject to the crucible of the standards I had set for them when I was an examinee, and even more relentlessly. However, I was not prepared for the realization that to be a bar examiner is a feat far horrendous than the taking of the bar itself.


I had, at the outset, considered it my good fortune to have been handpicked by Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna, the Chairman of the 2007 Bar Examinations, as the examiner in Mercantile Law that year. It was such a rare opportunity, and I could only commit to giving it all my best. I then wasted no time gathering all my books and materials relative to the subject, going through their pages, making notes, and finally framing the required number of questions and answers, which I reviewed over and over on a laptop that never left my sight from start to finish. After printing a hard copy of the file and personally handing it over to the Chairman, I downloaded the file to my USB, erased all traces of the document from the computer including the garbage bin, and locked the USB in my vault. It was unquestionably my most valuable possession at that time.


The task of formulating the suggested questions would have been easier if I had the freedom to consult professors, colleagues, friends and staff. But this was well-nigh impossible if I were to adhere to the strictest confidentiality required of me. The fear of a leakage and the consequent scandal hung like Damocles’ sword over my head. I just had to keep everything to myself for my own peace of mind, and trusted no one, except my husband out of necessity and for sheer proximity.


I shunned social activities like the plague. I could not trust myself to lie through my teeth in the unlikely event that I get exposed, especially not to friends whose children were taking the bar that year. In the few times, however, that I was obligated to go and was found enmeshed in the usual hullabaloo about the bar, I was thankful that I was not a target of speculation. I was also not counted among my colleagues in court as one of the examiners probably because, by a simple process of elimination, I was the least likely candidate, being relatively new in the institution. It may also be because I had kept to the letter my regular duties in court and, thus, was always visible.


I would check some notebooks in the car while on the way and during lulls in the office. Yes, every minute counts if you had to finish a total of 5,627 booklets within a time frame of 22 weeks, which translated to 255 booklets a week, or 36 a day. I chewed negotiable instruments for breakfast, swallowed insurance policies for lunch, gnawed at stockholder’s appraisal rights for dinner, and picked on money laundering and maritime protest for merienda. With all my indigestion, I no longer trusted the clean bill given to me after a colonoscopy performed shortly before the bar examinations.


In checking the booklets, I was guided by the answers I submitted to the Bar Chairman, as well as the suggested answers formulated by the UP Law Center Training and Convention Division and the Philippine Association of Law Schools. After I corrected the first 200 booklets, I had to devise a point system, which, to a great extent, enabled me to be fair even in times of attitudinal disturbances brought about by the painful stretching of time and patience, and the concomitant lack of sleep. Retiring to bed at past midnight and waking up at 4:00 in the morning became a daily routine that, after many months, was bound to take its toll. Many of my friends and relatives remarked at how my positive aura had dwindled, to which I could only offer some lame excuse.


It may be an understatement, but I have said it, and I will say it again without fear of contradiction, that checking the examination booklets was a more agonizingly laborious experience than actually taking the bar. Much of my difficulty lay on the extra time spent deciphering handwriting and grammar. But, encouraged every time by the thought that my own children will be taking the bar in a couple of years or so, I would read an answer over and over again until I am able to make sense of it, and I can give the corresponding point with due consideration to the effort of the examinee, without compromising the standards set for the legal profession.


I had thought all along that law schools and review centers drill their examinees in answering questions, especially those they know nothing about. But I was sorely disappointed to read prayers of the Holy Rosary and pleas for mercy in between snippets of what appears to be poor paraphrases of commercial law doctrines. Some examinees negligently omitted answers to certain questions, or merely repeated the same answer to other questions. What was unacceptable, though, was that a good number of the examinees failed to answer correctly some very basic questions. I could not, for the life of me, fathom how a bar candidate could describe the Trust Fund Doctrine in Corporation Law as the amount of money deposited in the bank, which the beneficiary may withdraw only when he reaches the age of majority. The worst answer, however, which I had the misfortune to come across, equated Trust Receipt to a popular contraceptive for men. If it was meant as a joke, it was not funny.


My displeasure aside, I finally finished correcting the last booklet in the middle of February, 2008, at least two weeks ahead of schedule. The results were later released with a national passing percentage of 22% after some adjustments in the cut-off grade, which the Supreme Court deemed necessary. I was deeply relieved, not from the hard work but for the job well-done. I may have played only a bit part in the saga of the Philippine bar but it was not any less rewarding. I have perfected the art of time management – juggling between drafting decisions, engaging my children who are enrolled at the Ateneo Law School in stimulating discussions, attending to my 93-year old mother, and being a dutiful wife to my husband. To be a bar examiner is a tough job. But it can be done, as I and those before me have.

The Mercantile Law – Bar Exam Questions in 2007 

I.
(10%)

R issued a check for P1M which he used to pay S for killing his political enemy.

Can the check be considered a negotiable instrument?

Does S. have a cause of action against R in case of dishonor by the drawee bank?

If S negotiated the check to T, who accepted it in good faith and for value, may R be held secondarily liable by T?

Reason briefly in (a), (b) and (c).

II.
(10%)

Alex deposited goods for which Billy, warehouseman, issued a negotiable warehouse receipt wherein the goods were deliverable to Alex or order. Alex negotiated the receipt to Caloy. Thereafter, Dario, a creditor secured judgment against Alex and served notice of levy over the goods on the warehouseman.

To whom should the warehouseman deliver the goods upon demand?
Would you answer be the same if the warehouseman issued a non-negotiable warehouse receipt
III.
(5%)

Diana and Piolo are famous personalities in showbusiness who kept their love affair secret. They use a special instant messaging service which allows them to see one another’s typing on their own screen as each letter key is pressed. When Greg, the controller of the service facility, found out their identities, he kept a copy of all the messages Diana and Piolo sent each other and published them. Is Greg liable for copyright infringement? Reason briefly.

IV.
(10%)

Alfredo took out a policy to insure his commercial building against fire. The broker for the insurance company agreed to give a 15-day credit within which to pay the insurance premium. Upon delivery of the policy on May 15, 2006, Alfredo issued a postdated check payable on May 30, 2006. On May 28, 2006, a fire broke out and destroyed the building owned by Alfredo.

May Alfredo recover on the insurance policy?

Would your answer in (a) be the same if it was found that the proximate cause of the fire was an explosion and that fire was but the immediate cause of loss and there is no excepted peril under the policy?

If the fire was found to have been caused by Alfredo’s own negligence, can he still recover on the policy?

Reason briefly in (a), (b) and (c).

V.
(5%)

C contracted D to renovate his commercial building. D ordered construction materials from E and received delivery thereof. The following day, C went to F Bank to apply for a loan to pay the construction materials. As security for the loan, C was made to execute a trust receipt. One year later, after C failed to pay the balance on the loan, F Bank charged him with violation of the Trust Receipts Law.

What is a Trust Receipt?

Will the case against C prosper? Reason briefly.

VI.
(5%)

Discuss the trust fund doctrine

VII.
(10%)

In a stockholder’s meeting, S dissented from the corporate act converting preferred voting shares to non-voting shares. Thereafter, S submitted his certificates of stock for notation that his shares are dissenting. The next day, S transferred his shares to T to whom new certificates were issued. Now, T demands from the corporation the payment of the value of his shares.

What is the meaning of a stockholder’s appraisal right?

Can T exercise the right of appraisal? Reason briefly.

VIII.
(10%)

Due to growing financial difficulties, Z Bank was unable to finish construction of its 21-storey building on a prime lot located in Makati City. Inevitably, the Bangko Sentral ordered the closure of Z Bank and consequently placed it under receivership. In a bid to save the bank’s property investment, the President of Z Bank entered into a financing agreement with a group of investors for the completion of the construction of the 21-storey building in exchange for a ten year lease and the exclusive option to purchase the building.

Is the act of the President valid? Why or why not?

Will a suit to enforce the exclusive right of the investors to purchase the property prosper? Reason briefly.

IX.
(5%)

On December 4, 2003, RED Corporation executed a real estate mortgage in favor of BLUE Bank. RED Corporation defaulted in the payment of its loan. Consequently, on June 4, 2004, BLUE Bank extrajudicially foreclosed the property. Being the highest bidder in the auction sale conducted, the Bank was issued a Certificate of Sale which was registered on August 4, 2004.

Does RED Corporation still have the right to redeem the property as of September 14, 2007? Reason briefly.

X.
(5%)

Name at least five (5) predicate crimes to money laundering.

XI.
(10%)

Two vessels figured in a collision along the Straits of Guimaras resulting in considerable loss of cargo. The damaged vessels were safely conducted to the Port of Iloilo. Passenger A failed to file a maritime protest. B. a non-passenger but a shipper who suffered damage to his cargo, likewise did not file a maritime protest at all.

What is a maritime protest?

Can A and B successfully maintain an action to recover losses and damages arising from the collision? Reason briefly.

XII.
(5%)

Seeking to streamline its operations and to bail out its losing ventures, the stockholders of X Corporation unanimously adopted a proposal to sell substantially all of the machineries and equipment used in and out its manufacturing business and to sink the proceeds of the sale for the expansion of its cargo transport services.

Would the transaction be covered by the provisions of the Bulk Sales Law?

How would X Corporation effect a valid sale?

XIII.
(10%)

What are the preferred claims that shall be satisfied first from the assets of an insolvent corporation?

How shall the remaining non-preferred creditors share in the estate of the insolvent corporation above?

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