UST statement on Corona’s degree

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Statement on the 'Rappler' online article by Marites Danguilan-Vitug published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 1, 2012 (New Year's Day and Solemnity of the Virgin Mary yet)

Statement on the ‘Rappler’ online article by Marites Danguilan-Vitug published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 1, 2012 (New Year’s Day and Solemnity of the Virgin Mary yet)

There is no truth to the allegation that the University of Santo Tomas broke its rules to favor Chief Justice Renato Corona who graduated with the degree of Doctor of Laws from the university.

The University of Santo Tomas is an autonomous higher educational institution since 2002. By virtue of CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) 52 series 2006 and CMO 08 series 2009 Article 3, an autonomous HEI is considered by CHED as having attained consistent exemplary academic excellence in the provision of education, research and extension services through existing quality assurance mechanisms as evaluated by CHED according to the following critera: (a) long tradition of integrity and untarnished reputation and (b) commitment to excellence (c) sustainability and viability of operations.

As an autonomous HEI, the University of Santo Tomas enjoys an institutional academic freedom to set its standards of quality and excellence and determine to whom it shall confer appropriate degrees. Additionally, as an autonomous HEI, the University of Santo Tomas has been deputized by CHED to implement the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) by virture of CMO 41 series 2007. By virtue of the ETEEAP, the University, in accordance with its policies, processes and procedures accepted by CHED, is authorized to grant academic degrees to individuals whose relevant work experiences, professional achievements and stature, as well as high-level, non-formal and informal training are deemed equivalent to the academic requirements for such degrees.

The acceptance by CHED of the policies, processes and procedures adopted by the University of Santo Tomas for implementing the ETEEAP has been affirmed when the UST Graduate School previously conferred a doctorate degree in Literature to Madame Naty Crame Rogers, a theater icon and a luminary in the field of letters. The UST Graduate School made due assessment of her competencies based on the Ph.D. in Literature program’s expected learning outcomes. Her professional achievements spanning more than half a century were evaluated and were judged as equivalent to the course requirements of the said program. In lieu of a dissertation which is a partial requirement for the conferment of the degree, she presented her published works for which she received corresponding credit units.

Chief Justice Renato Corona, considering his track record as a lawyer, as an academician (he obtained two Masteral degrees, one of which is from Harvard University) and as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could have easily applied for the degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Santo Tomas via the ETEEAP. But he did not. He painstakingly completed the 48 units course work in the Ph.D. in Law curriculum by regularly attending classes and fulfilling all the requirements in the subjects that he took. He also underwent the required written comprehensive examination and passed this with excellent results.

The Graduate School consultant for law programs requested the Faculty Council to waive the dissertation requirement. After all, she argued, a dissertation is not a sine qua non for the conferment of a graduate degree inasmuch as there are graduate programs in the university, approved by CHED, that follow a non-dissertation track.

The Graduate School Faculty Council refused to grant this request. Instead of waiving the dissertation requirement, it imposed on the Chief Justice an equivalent requirement: to write a scholarly treatise on any subject related to his field, to be delivered in public, and eventually published. He dutifully fulfilled these in 2010. The quality and relevance of his paper, his answers to the questions raised during the public forum, and the eventual publication of his paper were all evaluated and for which he was given the necessary credits equivalent to a dissertation.

Needless to say, since the university is an autonomous HEI, the other issues raised (his residency, the academic honor he received) are moot because these come under the institutional academic freedom of the University of Santo Tomas.
As an autonomous university and no less than the cradle of higher education in the Philippines and the oldest university in Asia, the University of Santo Tomas knows the academic rules and sees to their proper observance. All of those who have received their degrees from the University, including six chief justices before Mister Corona and even jurists from other countries, know that.

We wish Marites Vitug and the Philippine Daily Inquirer have observed the rules on objectivity and fairness—for the former when she wrote her online article, and for the latter when it published her article virtually word for word in its New Year’s edition yet, even adopting her rather judgmental title as banner headline. Miss Vitug did not make a disclosure that she has had a run-in with the Supreme Court and may have an axe to grind against it. The Inquirer did not get the side of the University and rushed to print with the online article; it merely repeated Miss Vitug’s claim that the University didn’t respond to her queries.

The University didn’t reply to Miss Vitug’s questions because it was at a loss on how to respond to “online journalism.” Does anyone claiming to be an online journalist given the same attention as one coming from the mainstream press? We understand that while Miss Vitug used to be a print journalist, she’s part of an online magazine, Newsbreak, which has reportedly been subsumed into “” What’s that? Is that a legitimate news organization? What individuals and entities fund Newsbreak and Rappler? Do these outfits have editors? Who challenged Miss Vitug’s article before it went online so as to establish its accuracy, objectivity and fairness? Why was there no prior disclosure made? What gate-keeping measures does online journalism practice?

While we may have the highest respects for Miss Vitug and the Inquirer, we also would like to see that rules on fact-checking, objectivity and fairness are observed, so that no reputation, whether of an individual or an institution, is compromised. –

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