UST faculty affirms: Corona earned summa honors

GMA News

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 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 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

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UST pilloried, defended online over Corona Ph.D

By David Dizon

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona’s doctorate in civil law summa cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas is raising an online firestorm.

This, after online journalists from published an article written by Marites Vitug saying Corona was given his doctorate degree despite overstaying in UST and without the required dissertation. (Disclosure: Vitug is a former editor in chief of

In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, UST denied it broke the rules to favor Corona. It said the Chief Justice passed all his subjects and delivered a “scholarly treatise” for his dissertation in a public lecture.

The university also invoked academic freedom as an autonomous higher educational institute (HEI), and said the UST consultant for graduate law programs had requested that the dissertation requirement be waived for Corona. However, it said the UST Graduate School Faculty Council turned this down.

“It imposed on the Chief Justice an equivalent requirement: to write a scholarly treatise on any subject related to his field, to be delivered in public and eventually published,” said UST.

“He dutifully fulfilled these in 2010. The quality and relevance of his paper, his answers to the questions raised during the public forum, and the eventual publication of his paper were all evaluated and for which he was given the necessary credits equivalent to a dissertation.

“Needless to say, since the university is an autonomous HEI, 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 said.

UST said it did not reply to Vitug’s query because it was at a loss on how to respond to “online journalism.” Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria said they have been asking UST for comment since October 2011 but received no reply.

“Does anyone claiming to be an online journalist given the same attention as one coming from the mainstream press?” the UST statement said. “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 ‘’ What’s that?

“Is that a legitimate news organization? What individuals and entities fund Newsbreak and Rappler? Do these outfits have editors? Who challenged Miss 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?”

‘A lecture enough for Ph.D’

In a statement posted on her Facebook account, Vitug said UST failed to answer 2 key points raised in her story: Corona’s lack of dissertation and that an overstaying resident is not qualified for honors.

“What UST is saying is that they can flout their own rules because they’re an ‘autonomous’ institution. There is no quarrel with academic freedom. UST should be clear with its rules and state in what instances do they give exemptions,” she said.

She added: “In the case of CJ Corona, a lecture was enough (instead of a dissertation) and the 5-year residency requirement, to qualify for honors, was disregarded. Now we know.”

On Monday, social networking sites were abuzz over UST response to Vitug’s story.

In her Facebook account, National Anti-Poverty Commission Assistant Secretary Lila Shahani noted: “I don’t know what rock UST has been living under. If they still don’t know the power and value of online journalism, I hardly know what to say. But I take even greater umbrage at their flouting of academic standards. Dissertations are very difficult (I should know — I’ve been working on mine, which is meant to be 400 pages long without the bibliography, for several years now).”

She added: “You don’t have to be brilliant to get a PhD, but you certainly have to have patience, stamina and intellectual rigor: ultimately, it’s a character building process. If you don’t want to be seen as a two-bit institution that is nothing more than a glorified diploma mill, you better make sure every human being you give a PhD to is forced to pass through the same hoops. This is not even about taking political sides. It’s about upholding academic standards. Very disappointing indeed.”

Ed Tadem, a professor of Asian Studies at University of the Philippines Diliman, meanwhile, said that the “treatise that Corona allegedly wrote sounds nothing more than a glorified term paper and cannot, by any stretch of the academic imagination, substitute for a dissertation.”

“Those of us who labored for years researching and writing a proper dissertation in order to earn an honest to goodness Ph.D. are deeply offended and outraged by UST’s short-cutting of universally accepted principles of graduate studies. [The Commission on Higher Education], if it is to be of any use, should step in and properly admonish UST for this flagrant abuse of academic freedom.”

Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, senior lecturer at Miriam College, said he had “never heard of a PhD degree without a dissertation.”

“But I have heard that some universities are granting PhD degree to a good research paper or published work in lieu of dissertation,” he said in a Facebook thread.

Lawyer Romel Regalado Bagares said he does not know of any student in UP who was awarded a PhD with a waiver of the requirement of a dissertation.

He also noted that Corona’s lack of a dissertation speaks about the integrity and credibility of UST as an academic institution for granting the degree.

“It was willing to risk its academic reputation for what? That is the question. How ironic that it did so at a time when it was marking its 400th year as an institution of higher education. I think if there is any group of people who should be most interested in the issues this controversy has raised, it is the alumni of UST, especially those who earned their PhDs the hard way. They should be the ones assiduously defending academic standards here,” he said.

‘UST on solid ground’

Some netizens, however, said UST was within its rights to grant the doctorate degree even without the required dissertation.

Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado of Notre Dame University noted that records would show both academic and public service of UST students and alumni stand out “even above the so called scholars ng bayan.”

Mercado said any university reaching accreditation 3 in grad school is an accomplishment, and that most publicly funded universities are deregulated not because of accreditation but by the powers granted by their charter.

He also said Corona earned his Ph.D by “doing the course work with excellent grades, passed the comprehensive with honors, wrote a scholarly paper, published the said paper and delivered the same in public lecture with high accolade.”

“Many universities are doing this now instead of writing dissertations that simply gather moss and cobwebs in the Grad school libraries… People know that there are but very few doctoral dissertations come out of the files of many graduates schools. Published and READ PHD Dissertations are more of an exceptions than the rule!” he said.

Nini Yarte, meanwhile, said universities abroad do grant Ph.Ds without dissertation so long as the required thesis is submitted, in consideration of the candidate’s extensive work/life experience.

“I was going for an online PhD program with Bedford University, and this was the first thing I asked them. They could give an exemption to dissertation so long as I submit my thesis, show proof of my work experience, and take a doctoral test. This is discussed prior to entering a PhD program in any university in the US, and even here. It also depends on what program you are entering and the relevance of your work experience to the program. It is an acknowledged fact that a person’s work experience is in many cases the equivalent of a PhD,” she said.

She added: “UST is on solid ground in the case of Corona. I could inquire from Harvard Kennedy School, and I am almost sure I would get the same response as Bedford University. As I said, credible universities put a premium on the work experience of doctoral candidates. Corona, I believe, has a law degree from Harvard. That plus his decades of experience in the justice system must have weighed heavily in UST’s decision to grant him the Phd without dissertation and the residency.” With ANC

3 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Mac Flores, Jr. says:

    It seems Ms. Vitug and her funder (including politically interested person/s) did not research well on the requirements of the school’s Ph.D. Program nor did they inquire from the Commission on Higher Education regarding minimum Doctorate degree requirements as well as the meaning of autonomous school.

    No offense to Ms. Vitus and her funder. They would know the requirements if they enrolled or earned a Master’s Degree or a Ph.D. in their line of field of interest.

    Earning a Ph.D. academically is already an accomplishment, what more if the candidate scored cumulative grades equivalent to summa, magna or cum laude.

    People in the government service/private enterprise and those who would like to run the government need to augment their basic skill and knowledge they learned after college years and experience (informal education) by way of continuing education.

    The saying in general is true: The more you are experienced and educated, the better for you and your country.

  2. PHILIP says:

    From what I have read from both sides, UST and Corona are birds of the same feather and deserve each other. They are both experts in twisting facts and rules to suit their own purposes. What a country!

  3. Mario says:

    Why do you think Corona needs bunch of top notch lawyers, including a former Justice to defend him in the impeachment trial when he alone can defend himself?

    He graduated Suma Cum Laude and earned the title of PhD. He is the Chief Justice. And yet, he still needs or accepted the services of these lawyers.

    Two things to consider here:

    1) He does not know what he is doing. He owed his overnight success in his career to Gloria Arroyo. His knowledge about the law is really minuscule.

    2) How can one defend himself when he cannot even figure out how to entangle the mess he is in. He does not have a clear mind, a clear conscience and a clear heart to make a convincing and satisfying argument on all the charges leveled against him.

    This is Corona. This is our Chief Justice. This is the proud alumni of UST!!!

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