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The University of Santo Tomas Graduate School says that even more than earning his doctorate degree, Chief Justice Renato Corona obtained grades that merited him his summa cum laude honors.
The Varsitarian, UST's school paper, reported Monday night that the Graduate School Faculty Council met last December 27 to review Corona's records which showed he met the residency requirement, and garnered a general weighted average meriting summa cum laude honors.
"The Council including the Law consultant gave him 1.0 for the Public Lecture and 1.0 for the legal treatise on Environmental Law that he delivered in public, and with his grade of 1.14 for academic subjects, the general average is 1.05 which is within the summa cum laude range," The Varsitarian quoted an email from Graduate School Dean Lilian Sison.
"In fact upon review of his record, the actual semesters he was enrolled in the program including the dissertation has a total of 7 years which is within the maximum residency requirement," Sison added.
This after the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a report Monday containing UST's statement that disputed an earlier article by veteran journalist Marites Vitug on the new online news outfit Rappler.com. Vitug wrote in her original article, also published by the Inquirer on January 1, that UST "may have broken its rules" in granting Corona a doctorate in civil law and qualifying him for honors.
"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 statement said.
'Where's the dissertation?'
Moreover, it added that the Chief Justice enrolled in and finished all requisite subjects, and for dissertation, delivered a "scholarly treatise" in a public lecture.
The lecture, the statement said, was an "equivalent requirement" for dissertation the Graduate School imposed on Corona even as the University consultant for graduate law programs had requested they waive the dissertation requirement.
Rappler came out with another report yesterday, claiming UST "acknowledged it bent its rules for Corona" when it revealed they opted not to consider Corona as part of the University's Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (Eteeap), which would have allowed UST 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.”
“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 said.
But Sison told The Varsitarian, "the dissertation was not totally waived."
She said the UST Graduate School had in fact already started implementing in some programs like Science and Education a system of asking its students to publish their dissertation as articles instead of manuscripts "which only gather dust in the library." Sison added this changing paradigm can improve UST's publication index, which she said is "the weakness of most universities in the Philippines."
"Now when it comes to rigor of the articles written, who determines this? The Council believes that the determination of rigor falls within the academic prerogative and freedom of the institution conferring the degree," Sison said, also according to The Varsitarian report.
The University has earlier pointed out that Vitug has had a run-in with Corona and the Supreme Court, which can affect the objectivity of the report carried by Rappler.
"The Council believes that no amount of defense will satisfy the detractors of CJ Corona, especially in a situation that is politically charged. They are really out to get him by all means," a quote from Sison in The Varsitarian read.
This story was yesterday's hot topic over the Internet, fueled by a discussion on the credibility of the Internet as a journalism medium when UST, in the PDI report, said it did not answer Vitug's inquiries because it was "at a loss on how to respond to online journalism."
The University drew flak from netizens for the remark, while others noted that UST may have just questioned Rappler.com as an organization and not the medium in general.
What is online journalism?
“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?” the statement said.
Reacting to the comment, Rappler, headed by former ABS-CBN News Chief Maria Ressa, published a statement on their website saying "online journalism is the future" and that as online journalists, they promise "uncompromised journalism that inspires smart conversations and ignites a thirst for change."
UST reiterates its side: "We conferred on him the degree in good faith," Sison told The Varsitarian, but points out, "who would think at that time that the chief justice would be impeached?" – KG, GMA News