Philippine Daily Inquirer
In its reaction to a Rappler story on the doctoral degree of Chief Justice Renato Corona (Inquirer, 1/1/11), the University of Santo Tomas decided to shoot the messenger and avoid the two key issues that Rappler editor at large Marites Dañguilan-Vitug raised in her story, which can be read on www.rappler.com.
Why did UST bend its rules and waive its dissertation requirements for Corona? Why was he given top honors, summa cum laude, when he had overstayed? He told Newsbreak in 2002 he was already attending classes at UST; he graduated only in April 2011.
Vitug stumbled upon the dissertation issue in June 2011, when she began her research on the sequel to her best-selling book on the Supreme Court, “Shadow of Doubt.” At the time, Newsbreak had not merged with Rappler. Newsbreak researcher Purple Romero, now a Rappler reporter, helped Vitug in her research. She sent at least a dozen letters to various UST officials and made various requests for interviews—to no avail.
It was only after the Inquirer published the story that UST decided to respond, denying it broke its rules but at the same time admitting it waived the dissertation requirements for Corona when he was awarded a doctorate in civil law. It’s academic freedom, it said.
This is not in any way connected with the impeachment process, as alleged by Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez. This is not about attacking UST and its views on online journalism. This is simply about accountability and integrity: of a chief justice, who happens to be Renato Corona; and UST, a university granted a higher education institution status.
The story was pursued, written and published to raise questions about possible excesses and abuses, complicity in the degradation of academic standards, and false claims about academic excellence.
—MARIA A. RESSA
CEO/editor in chief