2011 ended on a sad note for one of my colleagues in the office. Her husband, only 33 years old, drowned amid a surge of waves in a beach somewhere in Baler, Aurora on December 29. He had just celebrated his birthday five days before. And so, on the 2nd day of the new year, I spent the most part of the afternoon with my other colleagues at his wake.
Anyway, I was following (and entertaining myself) on Twitter yesterday two hot topics that made it to the headlines: UST’s supposed questionable granting of a Doctorate degree summa cum laude to Chief Justice Renato Corona; and Jinkee Pacquaio and Charice Pempengco’s respective magazine cover photos that were allegedly heavily edited (photoshopped).
The issue on UST and CJ Corona first came out on 22 December 2011 at Rappler.com–which, by the way, is an exciting emerging online journalism collaboration headed by Maria Ressa–although I first saw it in an online forum that I frequent. The timing seemed suspect, given that it was also the height of CJ Corona’s impeachment by the Congress. But as in any case, it got people talking. As I see it, UST was slow to react and didn’t seemed not too keen on responding to Rappler.com until the Philippine Daily Inquirer picked up the story and made it their banner on January 1, 2012. PDI’s issue the following day has UST’s response the following day. On Twitter, however, aside from the supposed missing dissertation and exceeding the maximum residency rule, people reacted when UST said that it didn’t reply to the article by Maritess Vitug because
“[Should] 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 www.rappler.com‘ What’s that?”
UST is invoking academic freedom as defense, meaning they are free to decide on the matters being questioned since they are an autonomous institution and they are free to confer doctorate degrees as they see fit. On the other hand, some of its defenders even go to the extent of saying that all of these were PNoy’s handiwork, a demolition job after the Congress got CJ Corona impeached with pressure from Malacañang. The issue is still current and I am sure that we will hear more of this in the coming days.
What do these all come down to for most of us ordinary citizens and outsiders?
Not much, I guess. UST will definitely get bad raps over this issue but it will be over soon as the impeachment trial at the Senate starts another drama. It will definitely never cease to function as an institution for basic education and higher learning. Some may question credibility and integrity but it’s UST’s to grapple with. They’ve been here for 400 years, we trust that they already know what to do.
But we have some brave journalists to thank for in bringing this out in the open, for challenging our institutions, and for inspiring critical-thinking and analyses. We need these voices to prop us when we tend to think that we no longer care.
As a side note, I was surprised to know that the Commission of Higher Education actually has an Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency Accreditation Program (ETEEAP). By virtue of the ETEEAP, any deputized institution of higher learning, in accordance with its policies, processes, and procedures accepted by CHED, is authorized to grant academic degrees to individuals whose relevant work experience, professional achievement and stature, as well as high-level, non-formal and informal training are deemed equivalent to the academic requirements for such degrees. That’s something new! Now I’d like to know which other universities or colleges have been granted that authority and who got entitled under the program.
On a lighter note, look at the pictures below.
2012 has just started and the circus, too!