By Rey Panaligan
The Philippine Law School Admission Test (Philsat) imposed by the Legal Education Board (LEB) as a requirement for students’ enrolment in law schools in the country is legal and constitutional, Solicitor General Jose C. Calida said.
During Tuesday’s (March 5) oral arguments at the Supreme Court (SC), Calida said LEB’s imposition of a uniform entrance test for law schools does not violate academic freedom under Section 5, Article IV of the Constitution.
Academic freedom “pertains to the independence of an academic institution to determine for itself who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall teach, and who may be admitted to study.”
The Constitution mandates that “academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.”
With his arguments, Calida asked the SC to dismiss the petitions which sought the abolition of LEB and Philsat.
On top of the abolition of LEB and Philsat, the petitioners – led by former Makati City regional trial court (RTC) judge Oscar Pimentel – also sought the transfer of the regulation of law schools to the SC.
Philsat examinations have been conducted by LEB in April 2017, September 2017, April 2018, and September 2018.
Based on LEB’s Memorandum No. 7, schoolyear 2017-2018 was the pilot year for Philsat but law schools were allowed to enroll students who took the examinations but did not pass the tests.
The memorandum issued in 2016 provided for mechanisms to a day’s aptitude test to gauge the academic potentials of an examinee who wants to enroll in law schools.
Calida said that LEB has the power to regulate law schools in the country under Republic Act No. 7662 that created the board.
Rebutting the petitioners’ arguments that the LEB regulations, like the Philsat, constitute undue delegation of the legislative power and an encroachment of the authority vested in SC, Calida said:
“RA 7662 only delegated the authority or discretion as to its execution” and that the law “clearly spelled out the parameters of the power entrusted to the LRD and assigned to it only the manner of enforcing the power.
“The regulation of law schools is not one of the powers conferred on the Court by Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution. It is not therefore correct to state that Congress encroached on a judicial function when it created the LEB through the LEB law.
“The LEB was created for the purpose of protecting public interest through the regulation of legal education in the Philippines. The conferment of the Board of regulatory authority over all law schools is meant to ensure quality education throughout the country,” he pointed out.