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The University of Santo Tomas has denied allegations it bent the rules for now-impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in awarding him a degree of Doctor of Laws in April 2011.
"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," it said. It added Corona had enrolled in all requisite subjects for the doctorate and complied with academic requirements, including delivering a “scholarly treatise” for his dissertation in a public lecture.UST also said that even if it was authorized by the Commission on Higher Education to implement the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (Eteeap), it did not consider Corona’s doctorate as part of the Eteeap, adding the Chief Justice had a track record as a lawyer and academician.
The Eteaap allows universities to grant academic degrees to individuals “whose relevant work experiences, professional achievements and stature, as well as high-level, nonformal and informal training are deemed equivalent to the academic requirements for such degrees.” Corona has two master’s degrees, one of which was from Harvard University. UST awarded Corona with summa cum laude honors after he fulfilled all requirements “painstakingly,” which includes 48 units’ course work in the Ph.D. in Law curriculum. It said Corona regularly attended classes and passed the comprehensive examination “with excellent results.” The Inquirer also quoted the UST statement as saying the university's consultant for graduate law programs had requested that the dissertation requirement be waived for Corona, but the UST Graduate School Faculty Council turned this down. Instead, it imposed an "equivalent requirement" — to write a scholarly treatise on any subject related to his field, deliver it in public, and have it published. UST said Corona fulfilled these requirements in 2010. “Needless to say, since the university is an autonomous HEI [higher educational institution], 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,” the UST statement added. Contacted by GMA News Online, Vitug said UST's statement "basically says, we have rules but we can flout them, invoking academic freedom and autonomy." Vitug has written two books on the Supreme Court and says she is working on a third which will include coverage of Corona's impeachment.Vitug: "UST did not reply to questions"
The Rappler.com article had said UST may have broken its rules in granting Corona a doctorate in civil law and qualifying him for honors, "apparently to favor the country’s top judge." In her article, Vitug, also editor-at-large of rappler.com, said the UST Graduate School did not reply to questions and repeated requests for interviews. "When we asked the UST Graduate School for access to Corona’s dissertation, they gave us a copy of the March issue of Ad Veritatem, its multi-disciplinary research journal, wherein his lecture was published. For the full dissertation, they suggested that we ask the chief justice himself," she said in her article. Also, she said the UST law library does not have a copy of the dissertation and instead referred Rappler.com to the same journal where “an article based on his dissertation is available.” Vitug asks in her latest Facebook update, "Where is the dissertation?"UST: "At a loss on how to respond to online journalism'"
The Inquirer story quoted UST as saying it did not reply to a query by Rappler.com's Marites Vitug, who wrote the article, because it was “at a loss on how to respond to ‘online journalism." It said Vitug did not disclose she has had a run-in with Corona and the Supreme Court—a fact that may affect the objectivity of the rappler.com story. “Is anyone claiming to be an online journalist given the same attention as one coming from the mainstream press?” the Inquirer story quoted the statement as saying.“We understand that while Miss (sic) 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?" it said.
“Is that a legitimate news organization? What individuals and entities fund Newsbreak and Rappler? Do these outfits have editors? Who challenged Miss (sic) 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?” it added. Rappler.com chief executive officer and executive editor Maria Ressa told GMA News Online Monday it will soon send a statement regarding the matter. UST also chided the Inquirer for not getting its side before “it rushed to print Vitug’s online article virtually word for word and in its New Year’s edition yet, even adopting her rather judgmental title as banner headline.” The university said “the press should also take care not to shortcut its own rules,” and called for fact-checking, objectivity, and fairness. –KG/HS, GMA News