Are glory days of UP Law fading? | Inquirer Opinion

Are glory days of UP Law fading?

It’s an issue that has been bothering many alumni for years now: the persistent complaints against professors of the University of the Philippines College of Law who leave their students feeling shortchanged.

This is a public issue because taxpayer money subsidizes students and professors of the college. And the students involved are arguably the cream of the country’s aspiring lawyers. Indeed, many students wait for the results of the UP Law entrance exam before they consider applying to other law schools.

Any failure to make these top-notch students reach their full potential wastes public funds, and deprives the nation of future leaders equipped with all the needed intellectual and ethical faculties.

The complaints against UP law professors have been expressed in whispers for years, but they are now aired openly because of the wide perception that the university has been performing dismally in the bar examinations. The increasing rarity of UP law graduates in the top 10 list is cited as proof of the university’s decline in education quality.


I disagree with the idea that presence or absence in the top 10 list is the correct yardstick. Grading the essay answers of thousands of bar examinees in a span of a mere five months gives fortuitousness a big latitude of influence in the determination of who will make the list.

The more reliable benchmark is the number of a school’s graduates who pass the bar. In the latest bar results, UP had a 79.51-percent passing rate. While this is high compared to the national passing rate of 25.55 percent, the 27 UP students who failed, according to the grapevine, is a significant mortality number for an institution that claims to be the Philippines’ premier law school.

The big mortality rate becomes even more telling when it is compared to the performance of the other premier UP institution, the College of Medicine, which has a board passing rate of at least 97 percent.

Young UP law graduates invariably talk about the teachers who inspired them and who they despise. The majority are remembered as conscientious mentors, such as professors Gwen De Vera, Elizabeth Pangalangan, Victoria Avena and Dante Gatmaytan, to name a few.


But a disturbing number of professors are scorned and reviled because of their perennial absences, lack of competence in the subjects they teach, arbitrariness, unfinished syllabus, time-wasting trivialities, and outrageous eccentricities. It is deplorable that these professors teach subjects that are core foundations of legal education.

Students are also condemning the practice of assigning professors to teach subjects in which they have no experience or competence at all, just to satisfy minimum teaching load requirements, but without regard to the disastrous consequences for students who have to endure uninspired and shallow teaching.


But what has been most ruinous to the unique brand of UP law education is the removal of elective subjects and the confinement of teaching entirely to subjects oriented to the bar examinations.

What I cherish most from my UP law education is the training to think “out of the box,” which I learned from professors who drilled students to think beyond and even contrary to bar-examination-friendly answers.

In my 27 years as a trial lawyer, I have rarely encountered legal problems that are squarely answerable by the letters of the law, mimicking bar exam questions. In the real world, legal problems are always thickly intertwined with issues of politics, religion, cultural traditions, family dynamics, and emotion.

Students only ruin their own future when they bungle their studies. But professors who are incompetent or irresponsible ruin the future of many generations of students. If students are kicked out when they fail to live up to high academic standards, why are professors not required to live up to high teaching standards, and why are they not kicked out if they fail to do so?

It’s time for students, alumni, faculty and officers of UP to get their act together and closely scrutinize the performance of each professor in order to stop the glory days of the UP College of Law from fading into the dustbin of history.

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TAGS: Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, UP College of Law

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