CHEd upholds UST stand vs Go: Academic freedomBy Niña Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The University of Santo Tomas (UST), criticized for allegedly bending its rules to grant former Chief Justice Renato Corona a doctorate in law, has broad powers in the exercise of academic freedom, but officials of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) are unsure if these include ignoring inquiries about its programs.
Antonio Calipjo Go, a self-styled “sick books crusader” and college dropout, said the 400-year-old pontifical university, slammed the door in his face when he came knocking to ask for information about how he could possibly earn academic credits for a journalism degree for a lifetime of work as an advocate of quality education.
No, he wasn’t applying to get into UST’s Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program, or Eteeap, he was just inquiring when he wrote the university’s faculty of arts and letters twice last year and, later, its rector after his two letters went unanswered.
Julito Vitriolo, CHEd’s executive director, told the Inquirer a day after the newspaper published the complaint of Go, the academic supervisor of Marian School of Quezon City, that UST was an autonomous institution with enough leeway to reject or accept applications to its expanded tertiary program.
“The exercise of academic freedom is broad. The university has its own set of rules in evaluating the applicants,” Vitriolo said over the phone.
He said he was not certain though if the university had committed some violations when it ignored Go’s inquiry about the Eteeap, a comprehensive educational assessment program at the college level that recognizes, accredits and gives equivalencies to knowledge, skills, attitudes and values gained by individuals from their work.
No complaints so far
He said the CHEd had deputized 102 higher education institutions nationwide to implement the program, under which beneficiaries must be Filipinos who are at least high school graduates, have worked for at least five years in the field or industry related to the academic program desired and must also show proof of proficiency, capability and thorough knowledge.
Soc Fernandez of the CHEd’s Eteeap office said it had not yet received any complaints about the program.
“These deputized colleges and universities are not using the program as their diploma mill. They follow some guidelines,” she said. “If an applicant was rejected, maybe he was not qualified.”
Vitriolo said, however, that formal complaints about how the program was being implemented would be welcome.
Go has waged a relentless campaign against error-filled textbooks used in public schools, prompting the Department of Education to issue corrections and tighten screening procedures. Last year, Education Secretary Armin Luistro enlisted his help in raising the quality of education materials.
In a letter in February 2011 to Michael Vasco, dean of UST’s faculty of arts and letters, Go said he did not finish college because his family had fallen into “dire” circumstances and wanted to know how he could gain credits to enable him to earn a degree in journalism.
Norm for lesser mortals
“I feel that my work experience—my entire life for that matter—has somehow earned for me the right to be conferred the title of ‘college graduate,’” he said.
Six months later he received a letter from Vasco, after Go had written him a second letter and had fired a complaint to the UST rector, Rev. Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, that he had been ignored. Vasco said the faculty council had deliberated on his case and disapproved his application, although it was clear Go was simply asking for information.
In January, Go was incensed upon reading that UST had allegedly stretched its rules—a charge the university later denied—to grant Corona a doctorate in law, summa cum laude. Corona was fired as Chief Justice last month for fudging his asset declarations, following an impeachment trial in the Senate.
“It shows how UST treats lesser mortals like me, opting instead to pander to the demigods of Philippine politics who already have everything a man could hope for in life,” Go told the Inquirer.