Student’s Freedom to Enroll in Review Center of Choice Protected by Law, Violation Thereof a Crime
Lex Adonis (not his real name), a law school graduate preparing to review for the tough bar examination, was in a quandary. His graduation credentials, necessary for his bar exam application, were being held hostage by his law school unless he came up with the ransom: the enrollment fee for the school-affiliated bar review center. Lex had another bar review center in mind but he felt as though he had no choice but to kowtow to his law school.
Thanks to a fairly recent law, R.A. No. 10609, law graduates like Lex need not be bamboozled into enrolling in a bar review center not of their choosing. R.A. No. 10609 or the “Protection of Students’ Right to Enroll in Review Centers Act of 2013,” was approved on 23 August 2013. This is a salutary law which recognizes and protects the right of students enrolled in courses requiring professional licensing examinations to freely choose their review center.
It cannot be gainsaid that R.A. 10609 applies to law students as well. The bar examination is the professional licensure examination for lawyers in the Philippines. The Legal Education Board had previously directed a law school to desist from the practice of requiring its law graduates to enroll in its in-house bar review center and had strongly censured the erring law school. It is certain that future transgressions of the law will be more strongly dealt with by the LEB.
“This law traces its roots from the manifold complaints we received from various graduating students who were forced by their schools to enroll in review classes as prerequisite for graduation,” said former Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, one of the law’s principal authors.
The former youth legislator recalled that during congressional hearings for the said law, it was revealed that many schools in Metro Manila engage in such practice to earn commissions from review centers. “It’s actually a long-standing profiteering scheme enforced by certain school officials and owners of review centers to guarantee profits,” Palatino said.
The law declares the following acts as unlawful and criminal: 1. Compelling students enrolled in courses requiring professional examinations to take review classes, which are not part of the curriculum, in a review center of the HEI’s (Higher Educational Institution’s) choice; 2. Making such review classes a prerequisite for graduation or completion of the course; 3. Forcing students to enroll in a review center of the school’s choice, and to pay the corresponding fees that include transportation and board and lodging; and
4. Withholding the transcript of scholastic records, diploma, certification or any essential document of the student to be used in support of the application for the professional licensure examinations so as to compel the students to attend in a review center of the HEI’s choice.
Any HEI official or employee, including deans, coordinators, advisers, professors and other concerned individuals found guilty of committing any of these unlawful acts shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of up to 6 years and a fine of ₱750,000.
Lex’s story had a happy ending. After he had advised the erring law school of R.A. 10609 and his intention to report the matter to the proper authorities, his graduation credentials were forthwith delivered to him. He reviewed in the bar review center of his choice and went on to successfully hurdle the bar exam. “Taking the bar is one of the most important challenges one will ever face,” Lex said. “It demands the best preparation a law graduate can have and it requires that his confidence should be at the highest level. You won’t get either one if you were dragooned into signing up with a bar review center you’re not comfortable with.”