It was a bit of a surprising news when the Supreme Court scrapped the disbarment of the lawyer who was responsible for leaking the 2003 bar exam questions in Mercantile Law.
Instead, the court commuted the "death sentence" down to a seven-year suspension upon Danilo De Guzman (beginning 2004).
So the leaking-lawyer will re-join the bar by 2011, thanks to a compassionate high court.
While not a few may frown at this decision, there is wisdom in second chances.
Besides, respect should be accorded the court's verdict and vantage view that indeed, Atty. De Guzman truly belongs to the bar.
Let me recall the story of the leakage because it involved some cast that were friends of mine.
It was two of my former law school classmates that sparked a full-dress investigation into the bar leakage.
Cecilia Delgado-Carbajosa, my freshman classmate at the Ateneo de Manila Law School took the bar in 2003.
"BG", as Cecilia was called by classmates, finished her law studies at fellow Jesuit school Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro.
After taking the bar on the subject of Mercantile Law, she felt disturbed.
Cecilia, "BG", felt that something was wrong with the examination in mercantile law.
She recalled that previous to the examination, i.e., on Saturday afternoon, the eve of the examination, she received a copy of the test questions in that subject.
Cecilia did not pay attention to the test questions because no answers were provided.
Besides she was hard-pressed to finish her review of that subject, using other available bar review materials.
However, upon perusing the questions after the examinations, Cecilia noticed that many of them were the same questions that were asked in the just-concluded examination.
What Cecilia did was to confide this disturbing matter to another classmate of ours, Atty. Marlo Magdoza who at that time, was a law clerk at the office of then Associate Justice Jose Vitug, that year's chair of the bar examinations.
(Atty. Marlo is now a presiding judge in Manila)
Justice Jose Vitug requested Atty. Marlo to invite Cecilia to his office in the Supreme Court.
But Cecilia declined the invitation.
So, Justice Vitug suggested that Marlo invite Cecilia to meet them at Robinson's Place, Ermita.
Cecilia arrived at Robinson's Place at the appointed time and showed the test questions to Atty. Marlo and Justice Vitug's secretary Rose Kawada.
Rose obtained a xerox copy of the leaked questions and compared them with the bar questions in mercantile law.
On the back of the pages, she wrote, in her own hand, the differences she noted between the leaked questions and the bar examination questions.
Rose and Marlo delivered the copy of the leaked questions to Justice Vitug who compared them with the bar examination questions in mercantile law.
Justice Vitug found the leaked questions to be the exact same questions which the examiner in mercantile law, Attorney Marcial O. T. Balgos, had prepared and submitted to him as chairman of the Bar Examinations Committee.
However, not all of those questions were asked in the bar examination.
According to Justice Vitug, only 75% of the final bar questions were questions prepared by Atty. Balgos; 25% prepared by Justice Vitug himself, were included in the final bar examination.
The questions prepared by Justice Vitug were not among the leaked test questions.
These events, led to a full blown investigation by a committee formed by the Supreme Court.
It was found that the mercantile bar questions were obtained by Atty. Danilo De Guzman who was working in the law office of Atty. Marcial Balgos.
De Guzman downloaded the questions from Atty. Balgos' computer, and shared it with his fraternity brods at the MLQU.
De Guzman was a member of the Beta Sigma Lambda fraternity.
From there, the test questions spread like virus and tsismis.
The Supreme Court, after the investigation, resolved to disbar Atty. De Guzman and reprimanded Atty. Marcial O.T. Balgos.
The court also directed the NBI to conduct an investigation on the involvement of other persons like staff members of the law office of Atty. Balgos.
However, lately, after finding that De Guzman since then has somewhat redeemed himself, like working with the Peoples' Law Enforcement Board, the high court reduced his sentence to a seven-year suspension.
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