THOMASIANS will greet not only a new year in January 2008 but also likely, a new, yet old, rector.
The acting rector, Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, O.P., may have to stay on the job for at least four more years after being chosen by fellow Dominicans and University deans to serve a full term as rector.
Father De la Rosa, appointed acting UST rector by the Dominican master general last September to spearhead the review of the controversial spinoff and expansion of UST Hospital, won successive ballots conducted among UST Dominicans and members of the Academic Senate in accordance with the University’s General Statutes.
The former rector and chairman of the Commission on Higher Education – in whose tenure the University earned the most number of Centers of Excellence and Centers of Development among private universities in the country – topped the voting in both instances, followed by the regent of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P. and the dean of the Ecclesiastical Faculty of Philosophy, Fr. Enrico Gonzales, O.P.
“The documents have been sent to Fr. Hilario Singian, O.P., the vice chancellor of the University. Father Singian will transmit them to the Master General in Rome,” Fr. Isidro Abaño, O.P., UST secretary general, told the Varsitarian.
“The ball is now in the court of Father Singian.” Father Abaño said. “If he acts expeditiously, the documents will be in Rome by Thursday (November 15).”
From friar to rector
Article 10 of the General Statutes of UST states that a candidate for rector must be a member of the Orders of Preachers and a holder of a doctorate degree.
Under the Statutes, Dominican priests assigned to the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas in UST must nominate three candidates for rector. The friars place the names of their candidates in a ballot and the person who gets a majority of the vote, or one-half of the total members present plus one, becomes an official candidate.
The process is repeated until three names are chosen. In the event that no one gets a majority vote after three rounds, they choose the two names with the highest votes as candidates. The chosen candidates are required to accept their nominations obediently and with humility.
After the University vice chancellor (the prior provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province) approves the three candidates, he presents the names to the Academic Senate, which is composed of the vice chancellor, the vice rectors, deans, and the secretary general, for further scrutiny.
The vice chancellor then transmits the names to the University’s Board of Trustees, whose members are appointed by the Dominican Order.
Father De la Rosa topped the voting of the UST fathers last November 6 and the Academic Senate last November 12, followed by Fathers Aligan and Gonzales.
The UST Board of Trustees, which met last November 12 to deliberate on the candidates for rector, decided to simply endorse the results in that order, Father Abaño said.
The members of the Board of Trustees are Fr. Tamerlane Lana O.P., Fr. Honorato Castigador, O.P., Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner, O.P., Fr. Clarence Marquez, O.P., Fr. Manuel Roux, O.P., Fathers De la Rosa, Aligan, and Singian, and Father Abaño, who serves as secretary of the board.
Father De la Rosa did not attend the meeting while Father Aligan stepped out while the nominations were being discussed.
By tradition, the Master of the Order endorses the chosen candidate to the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries, for final evaluation. The council then declares the candidate as “nihil obstat,” Latin for “nothing obstructs” or “there is no obstacle” and gives the name back to the Master of the Order, who makes the official appointment. Beginning from the nominations, the whole process usually takes three to four months.
Father Abaño, however, said he does not expect a long confirmation process because Father De la Rosa is already known to the Sacred Congregation, having been a two-term UST rector.
This was unlike the case of the resigned rector, Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P., whose appointment took several months. Father Arceo was relatively unknown to the Vatican council, and his papers were delayed because the nomination arrived in Rome in summer, when all business at the Vatican stops for a customary break.
Father Abaño said the new rector could be installed in January 28, coinciding with the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Father De la Rosa, who has a masteral degree in Higher Religious Studies and a doctorate in Philosophy in Higher Religious Studies, and its ecclesiastical equivalent, Doctor of Sacred Theology, was elected in 1990 as UST rector and continued to a second term until 1998.
Among his contributions to the University during his eight years as UST rector was the establishment of the Center for Campus Ministry. Aside from the strengthening the spiritual formation of the Thomasian community, it was also during his term that the UST Archives, which houses historical manuscripts, scholastic records, books, and other artifacts, was renovated, and the Ed-Tech Center, supposed to integrate modern media into the academic programs of the University, was established.
But Father De la Rosa’s legacy in education did not end in UST. He became the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education from October 2004 to April 2005. He left the government post after only six months in the job amid heavy pressure against his drive to shut down poorly performing nursing schools.