advertisement

School Ties

Members of the Senate serving in the 18th Congress have diverse and fascinating educational backgrounds. As a new session begins, GMA News Research dives deep into the academic histories of the men and women that will chart the course of legislation in our country.

By AGATHA GUIDABEN, GMA News Research

With Additional Reporting
By AMITA LEGASPI, GMA News

July 25, 2019
Traditional 'class picture' for the senators of the 18th Congress. JOSEPH VIDAL/PRIB

There are so many college graduates in the Philippines today that even fast-food restaurants can require degrees for certain entry-level jobs.

One institution that does not: the Philippine Senate. The 1987 Constitution does not require the country’s top elective officials to be college degree holders. Unlike many entry-level office jobs where applicants must be college graduates, the President, Vice President, Senator, or member of the House of Representatives must only possess the barest minimum qualification when it comes to education – that he/she must be able to read and write. In contrast, according to ad placements in Jobstreet.com, college degrees are being required for “sales clerk,” “receptionist,” “customer service representative,” and other positions that are often a fresh graduate’s first job.

Indeed, the 18th Congress has the dubious distinction of having four non-college graduates, tied for the most in the modern era. The 15th and 16th Congresses also had four.

Newly elected senators Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid, and Imee Marcos join incumbent senator Manny Pacquiao as the four members of the 24-person Senate who did not graduate from college. Actors Revilla and Lapid and boxer Pacquiao have all had lucrative careers that began even before college age, while the claim of Marcos, the daughter of former president Ferdinand Marcos, that she graduated from the prestigious Princeton University has been shown to be false.

At the same time, this Senate can boast of having a PhD holder: former PNP chief and first-time senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, who was awarded a doctorate in 2006 in Development Administration from the University of Southeastern Philippines, a regional state university in Davao City.

The just concluded 17th Congress did not have any PhDs among their ranks.

Research by GMA News has shown that the Philippine Senate of the 18th Congress has a wide range of educational attainment, with the expected dominance of law degree holders. One senator, Nancy Binay, earned an undergraduate degree in tourism, while another, Joel Villanueva, completed a certificate course that enables him to practice as a “barista” (he had previously graduated with a BS degree in Commerce from University of Santo Tomas).

GMA News Research reviewed all the senators’ claims of educational attainment as stated on their official websites or CVs, and fact-checked these by perusing documents or writing their schools.

NON-COLLEGE GRADUATES
Imee Marcos' educational background was a hot topic during the 2019 senatorial campaign.

Revilla and Lapid pursued showbiz careers after high school. They both served in the Senate for two terms, from 2004 to 2016.

Marcos attended Princeton University and the University of the Philippines’ College of Law, but both institutions have denied that they awarded her degrees.

Pacquiao had barely finished his elementary studies when he began carving a path out of poverty through boxing. But as a celebrity, boxing champion, and senator, he has apparently demonstrated a hunger for academic learning.

He earned his high school diploma by passing an accreditation and equivalency test, and was asked to be an ambassador for the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System in 2007. He took up business administration at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in 2008.

There have been non-college graduates in the Senate before, at least based on available profiles of senators since 1987. The last time there were as many as four senators who did not have college degrees were in the 15th and 16th Congresses, or from 2010 to 2016. They were senators Revilla, Lapid, Sergio Osmeña III, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Osmeña, who also served in the 10th to 13th Congresses, studied different courses in four higher education institutions but did not complete an undergraduate degree.

ELITE SCHOOLS

The top-ranked universities in the Philippines are well-represented in the Senate for the 18th Congress, with a total of 17 of the 24 members having attended University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University, and De La Salle University, for either their bachelor’s degree, post-bachelor’s degree, or both.

RALPH RECTO
36 academic units, Master of Public Administration, 1991

MIGZ ZUBIRI
- UPLB, BS Agribusiness Management, 1986-1990
- UP Open University, Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management, 2009-2011

FRANKLIN DRILON
- Bachelor of Arts, 1961-1965
- Bachelor of Laws, 1965-1969

SONNY ANGARA
- Bachelor of Laws, 1995-2000

NANCY BINAY
- BS Tourism, graduated 1997

PIA CAYETANO
- BA Economics, graduated 1985
- Bachelor of Laws, graduated 1991

RICHARD GORDON
- Bachelor of Laws, graduated 1975

IMEE MARCOS
- Bachelor of Laws, 1979-1983, did not obtain a degree

FRANCIS PANGILINAN
- BA English, Major in Comparative Literature, graduated 1986
- Bachelor of Laws, 1986-1993

KOKO PIMENTEL
- Bachelor of Laws, 1985–1990

GRACE POE
- UP Manila, BA Development Studies, 1986-1988 (transferred)

CYNTHIA VILLAR
- BS Business Administration

RICHARD GORDON
- AB History and Government, graduated 1966

RISA HONTIVEROS
- AB Social Sciences, 1983-1987

KOKO PIMENTEL
- Bachelor of Science, Major in Mathematics, 1981–1985

FRANCIS TOLENTINO
- AB Philosophy, 1976-1980
- Bachelor of Laws, 1980-1984

RALPH RECTO
- BS Commerce, Major in Business Management, graduated 1989

LEILA DE LIMA
- AB History and Political Science, 1976-1980

BONG GO
- Management

Marcos Jr., the younger brother of Sen. Imee Marcos, obtained a special diploma in social studies from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom in 1978. According to Oxford, a special diploma is not the same as a college degree.

The Senate has been known historically as the legislative chamber that has harbored intellectuals, such as Claro M. Recto, Raul Manglapus, Jovito Salonga and Jose Diokno. Yet the lack of a university degree did not prove to be a major handicap in advancing beyond the Senate for Joseph Estrada, who was the lone non-college degree holder in the first batch of post-EDSA I senators.

Estrada dropped out of Mapua Institute of Technology, and went on to a highly successful movie career. After the Senate, Estrada went on to become vice president and then president of the country, becoming the only Philippine chief executive other than Emilio Aguinaldo without a university degree (Aguinaldo only reached "bachillerato" or college preparatory). He returned to local politics as Manila mayor for two terms but failed in his reelection bid for a third term in the 2019 elections.

Francisco Tatad, who was a senator in the 9th to 11th Congresses, was also unable to graduate from college, but his communications prowess has long been well-known, catapulting him from newspaperman to a young information minister under President Ferdinand Marcos.

SIDEBAR

BATO'S DISSERTATION

Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa obtained his PhD in Development Administration from the University of Southeastern Philippines, a regional state university in Davao City. It took him eight years, from 1998 to 2006, to complete his doctoral degree.

Dela Rosa said he didn't go on leave to pursue higher education and this was the reason why it took him a while to finish.

"Hindi naman pwedeng palagi kang mag-absent sa iyong pagkapulis para maipagpatuloy mo ang pag-aaral mo," Dela Rosa told GMA News Online.

"So in between, kung may bakante, banat-banat sa dissertation. Kaya umabot ng almost five years (to finish his dissertation)," he added.

Was pursuing a doctorate difficult?

"Wala namang dissertation siguro na madali. 'Yung thesis mo lang sa masteral napakahirap na gawin 'yun, how much 'yung doctorate eh 'di mas mahirap 'yun," Dela Rosa said.

"Kaya nahirapan din pero gusto mong makuha eh 'di pagsikapan mo," he added.

He said his transcript of grades showed that he had grades of 1.5 and even 1.25 (the highest in this grading scale would be 1.0).

"Meron din 2.75," Dela Rosa said.

GMA News Research was able to reach through e-mail one of those who served as a member of Dela Rosa's Dissertation Advisory Committee when he was working for his doctorate at USEP.

Dr. Maricar Casquejo, now the regional director of Commission on Higher Education-Region 11 (Davao), recalled that Dela Rosa possessed the qualities of an "ideal" PhD student.

"He has the ability to clearly and forcefully articulate his ideas both in oral and in writing," Casquejo wrote. "He is humble enough to accept suggestions, which made his manuscript even better."

Dela Rosa submitted his dissertation entitled "Consequential Terrorism and Human Development in the Philippines" in partial fulfillment of his doctorate degree requirements in March 2006. GMA News Research found his hard-bound doctoral dissertation in the archives of the National Library.

After a review of data from the early 2000s, Dela Rosa, then the intelligence chief of Police Regional Office 11 in Davao, found a correlation between incidents of terrorism and poverty in various regions of the country, and recommended development interventions in addition to military action and law enforcement.

Dela Rosa posits that "consequential terrorism" — defined in his paper as the presence of terrorist organizations and the level of attacks/atrocities that they carry out — is influenced by economic and social factors. His dissertation analyzed statistics related to poverty, employment, education, and health vis-a-vis variables such as the membership strength of terrorist groups, the number of terrorist attack fatalities, and the number of incidents involving terrorist activities (e.g. kidnap for ransom incidents, skirmishes, ambushes, harassment incidents, and raids of police/military installations) in the country.

The direct or inverse correlation of these variables indicates a number of things, according to Dela Rosa’s dissertation:

  • The more people and farmers there are in a given community, the greater the membership of terrorist groups become, and the more harassment incidents perpetrated by terrorists against government forces and civilians occur. Dela Rosa however noted that employment in agriculture in itself is "not believed to foster terrorist tendencies"; rather, it is just an indicator of poverty, as farmers are among the poorest sectors in the country.
  • Impoverished people were more vulnerable to terrorist attacks; most of the casualties in terror attacks were poor people.
  • Poorer provinces see more ambush incidents and clashes between government troops and terrorist groups.
  • People whose educational needs are neglected were more likely to be enticed to join terrorist organizations.
  • More government allocations for health care and more doctor deployments to insurgency-affected areas would lead to fewer terror attack casualties.
  • More youth in schools means fewer potential terror recruits, hence fewer terrorist activities such as ambush operations.
  • More terrorist attacks tend to happen in provinces where terrorist organizations have a large membership base.

Dela Rosa recommended that the government's economic policies should focus on poverty alleviation and make job creation its top priority. He called for more spending on health care and social services, as well as more military and police offensives against the terrorist groups operating in the country. He identified these groups in an earlier section of his paper as the New People's Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Misuari Breakaway Group.

Dela Rosa’s dissertation is 158 pages long, inclusive of appendices which accounted for nearly half of the entire paper. Its four-page bibliography lists a mix of foreign and local sources, including a publication of Ibon Foundation and two editions of journalist Maria Ressa’s book, “Seeds of Terror.”

Aside from his dissertation advisers and family, Dela Rosa acknowledged the support of several police and non-uniformed personnel in his pursuit of his doctoral degree. Among them were members of the Police Regional Office 11 Regional Intelligence and Investigation Division, which was the unit he headed from October 2005 to August 2007.

Dela Rosa said he would consider himself an expert in the subject of his dissertation, adding he could use his findings if he got to chair the Senate Committee on Peace, Reunification and Reconciliation.

"I’ve been working on counter-terrorism my whole life, habang pulis ako sa Mindanao, so I consider myself as somehow an expert on that field," Dela Rosa said.

"Somehow lang ha. Hindi naman ako nagke-claim na ako ang pinakamagaling diyan. Somehow may alam ako sa field na 'yan dahil sa buong pagkapulis ko sa Mindanao, 'yun ang trabaho ko. Terrorism," he added.

The recommendations in his dissertation, with a heavy focus on peaceful interventions in addition to the usual military and police offensives, could come as a surprise to critics of Dela Rosa, who has come under fire for his role in the bloody war on drugs at the centerpiece of the Duterte administration, where he was the first police chief. Local and international human rights groups have criticized the death toll that has reached thousands in the controversial campaign.

Dela Rosa, however, sees no disconnect.

"Iba 'yun. 'Yung terrorism naman ang topic nu'n, hindi siya drugs," he said.

SENATE PhDs

While Dela Rosa has the most advanced degree among the current crop of senators, former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino has the longest list of higher education institutions he claims to have attended.

Tolentino's official profile shows he obtained his degrees in Philosophy and Law at the Ateneo de Manila University. In the US, he attended the Military College of South Carolina and obtained a graduate diploma in public administration at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He also holds two master's degrees: Master of National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines and Master of Laws specializing in Public International Law from the University of London.

Unlike Dela Rosa, Tolentino has not yet completed his doctoral degree. He stated in his profile that he is a “candidate” for the degree of Doctor of Judicial Science from Tulane University Law School.

Before Dela Rosa, the last senator with a doctorate degree was the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who obtained her Doctor of Juridical Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1976. She served as senator from 1995 to 2001 and 2004 to 2016.

Santiago served in the 12th Congress with the late Senator Rene Cayetano, who also had a PhD. Cayetano, the father of returning senator Pia Cayetano, obtained his Doctor of Laws from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA. The elder Cayetano died in office in 2003.

There were as many as four doctorate holders in the 10th Congress (1995 to 1998), with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (Economics, UP), Ernesto Herrera (Fiscal Studies, Lyceum of the Philippines), Leticia Ramos Shahani (Comparative Literature, University of Paris), and Alberto Romulo (Doctor of Laws, University of Madrid).

HIGHER EDUCATION

A number of senators in the 18th Congress pursued further studies after graduating from college.

FRANKLIN DRILON
University of the Philippines
- Bachelor of Laws, 1965-1969

SONNY ANGARA
University of the Philippines
- Bachelor of Laws, 1995-2000

PIA CAYETANO
University of the Philippines
- Bachelor of Laws, graduated 1991

LEILA DE LIMA
San Beda College
- Bachelor of Laws, 1980-1985

RICHARD GORDON
University of the Philippines
- Bachelor of Laws, graduated 1975

IMEE MARCOS
University of the Philippines
- Bachelor of Laws, 1979-1983, did not obtain a degree

KIKO PANGILINAN
University of the Philippines
- Bachelor of Laws, 1986-1993

KOKO PIMENTEL
University of the Philippines
- Bachelor of Laws, 1985–1990

FRANCIS TOLENTINO
Ateneo de Manila University
- Bachelor of Laws, 1980-1984

RALPH RECTO
University of the Philippines
- 36 academic units, Master of Public Administration, 1991

MIGZ ZUBIRI
University of the Philippines Open University
- Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management, 2009-2011

SONNY ANGARA
Harvard University - Harvard Law School
- Master of Laws, 2002-2003

RONALD DELA ROSA
University of Southeastern Philippines
- Master of Public Administration

PING LACSON
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila
- Master in Government Management, 1995-1996

KIKO PANGILINAN
Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government
- Master of Public Administration (Area of Concentration: Strategic Management), 1997-1998

FRANCIS TOLENTINO
National Defense College of the Philippines
- Master of National Security Administration (MNSA)
University of London
- Master of Laws specializing in Public International Law with merit
Tulane University Law School

CYNTHIA VILLAR
New York University
- Master of Business Administration

RONALD DELA ROSA
University of Southeastern Philippines
- PhD Development Administration

FRANCIS TOLENTINO
Tulane University Law School
- Doctor of Judicial Science (International Environment Law) candidate

LAWYERS AND MASTERS

A third of the 18th Congress senators possess law degrees. Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, Leila De Lima, Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon, Francis Pangilinan, Koko Pimentel, and Francis Tolentino obtained Bachelor of Laws degrees. Angara and Tolentino also hold a Master of Laws degree.

The University of the Philippines confirmed that Imee Marcos took courses under the Bachelor of Laws program at the UP College of Law from the first semester of 1979 up to the second semester of 1983. However, there is no record of her graduation.

Of those who have law degrees, three ranked among the top 10 examinees in the year they took the Bar: Drilon (ranked 3rd in the 1969 Bar Exams; 86.85%), de Lima (8th in the 1985 Bar Exams; 86.265%), and Pimentel (1st in the 1990 Bar Exams; 89.85%).

Law school is never a breeze, even for would-be senators. Pangilinan, for example, took seven years to finish his law degree at UP because of his early foray into politics.

Pangilinan, who enrolled in evening classes for working students, said he took leaves of absence for two years. "I was city councilor (in Quezon City) from 1988 to 1992," Pangilinan said.

The evening program for working students at the UP College of Law runs five years.

Meanwhile, seven senators of the 18th Congress obtained master's degrees — Angara, dela Rosa, Pangilinan, Tolentino, Panfilo Lacson, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Two are graduates of the Philippine Military Academy: Lacson and Dela Rosa. Both rose to become chief of the PNP.

Angara, Pangilinan, Villar, Grace Poe, Tito Sotto, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Ralph Recto studied abroad either to earn degrees or to take up short courses.

Among them, five attended Harvard University: Pangilinan (Master of Public Administration, Harvard Kennedy School of Government) and Angara (Master of Laws, Harvard Law School) went there for their master's degrees; Sotto and Recto enrolled in executive education programs at Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and Villanueva completed special studies at Harvard Extension School.

Pangilinan, Angara, Sotto, Recto, and Villanueva’s Harvard credentials were confirmed by Harvard University’s Public Affairs and Communication Office in e-mailed replies to GMA News Research’s requests for verification.

INTERNATIONAL TRAINING

Several senators in the 18th Congress have attended universities abroad for bachelor's degrees, post-graduate degrees, or training in short courses.

SHERWIN GATCHALIAN
Boston University
- Bachelor of Science Major in Finance and Operations Management, 1991-1995

GRACE POE
Boston College
- BA Political Science, 1991

SONNY ANGARA
Harvard University - Harvard Law School
- Master of Laws, 2002-2003

FRANCIS PANGILINAN
Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government
- Master of Public Administration (Area of Concentration: Strategic Management), 1997-1998

FRANCIS TOLENTINO
The Military College of South Carolina (Citadel)
University of London
- Master of Laws specializing in Public International Law with merit
Tulane University Law School
- Doctor of Judicial Science (International Environment Law) candidate

CYNTHIA VILLAR
New York University
- Master of Business Administration

TITO SOTTO
Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government
- Executive Program for Leaders in Development, June 2000

RALPH RECTO
Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government
- Course on Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage, 1997

GRACE POE
National University of Singapore - Lee Kuan Yew Policy Center
- Fellow

FRANCIS TOLENTINO
New York University - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
- Graduate Diploma in Public Administration

JOEL VILLANUEVA
Harvard University
- Special Studies in Business Administration, 1996-1998

COFFEE AND TOURISM
Joel Villanueva
Senator Joel Villanueva showed off his barista skills for Senate reporters on Valentine's Day in 2017. Villanueva took a course in preparing and serving espresso-based coffee drinks when he was the chairman of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). JOSEPH VIDAL/PRIB

Binay is the first to admit that a degree in Tourism isn't the most natural precursor to a career in politics.

While she first took up Economics when she entered UP in 1991, she is quick to add that Tourism was her "first love."

"Never ko pinangarap pumasok sa pulitika," Binay said, before quipping: "Housewife lang ang gusto ko."

Villanueva, meanwhile, is a certified barista, having obtained a Food and Beverage Services NC III certification in 2012. According to TESDA’s training regulations, a person with this qualification can mix cocktails and carry out related tasks in a coffee shop or bar.

The senator, who served as the head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, said he spent two to three hours after work for two months to train for his barista license. He took the course because he loved coffee and different coffee-based concoctions. "And it was the best way to promote TESDA and help raise the stature of the (technical-vocational) sector," Villanueva told GMA News Online.

"The training was worth 178 hours," he added.

Villanueva said it was a special class in which he only had three classmates, including TESDA's legal officer at the time. That, however, wasn't the end of it.

"Ang mas mabigat, just two years ago, nag-renew ako ng barista license. I underwent another assessment," Villanueva said. "Pasado naman."

—additional editing by Howie Severino, Jaemark Tordecilla, and Norman Bordadora, GMA News