A LAW student from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Legazpi City topped last year’s bar exams, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.

Mae Diane M. Azores (91.05%) was one of the 2,103 who passed out of 7,685 examinees, or a passing rate of 27.36%, the high court said in statement.

Last year’s passing rate is higher than 22.07% in the 2018.

Landing at No. 2 was Princess Fatima T. Parahiman (89.5230%) from University of the East, followed by Myra M. Baranda (88.8250%) also from UST-Legazpi.

Also making it to the top 10 were Dawna Fya O. Bandiola from San Beda College-Alabang (88.34%), Jocelyn B. Fabello from Palawan State University (88.26%), Kenneth Glenn L. Manuel from UST (88.17%), Rhowee D. Buergo from Jose Rizal University (87.87%), Anton Luis A. Avila from Saint Louis University (87.58%), Jun Dexter H. Rojas from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (87.58%) and Bebelan A. Madera from University of St. La Salle (87.38%).

Bar chairwoman Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe said at a virtual briefing the Supreme Court justices had lowered the passing grade to 74% from 75%.

She cited the need for younger and technologically adept lawyers “to help different fronts of society as we meet the peculiar challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to the new normal.”

The Bar exams cover political and public international law, labor and social legislation, civil, taxation, mercantile, criminal and remedial law, and legal and judicial ethics.

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta said the passers should look back on this day “with a renewed sense of commitment towards upholding truth, fairness and justice within the legal profession.”

The Supreme Court postponed the 2020 Bar examinations due to the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened more than 8,000 people in the Philippines.

“This is to give the court ample time to determine the necessary adjustments and to make adequate preparations for the safe and orderly conduct of the examinations,” according to a bulletin signed by Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, who heads the 2020 Bar exams.

The new schedule will be announced in June and will likely be held sometime in 2021. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas