THE IRONY of the Philippines being a predominantly Christian country while being named as the most corrupt Asian country in the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy survey is not lost on Catholic educational institutions like UST.

Father Rector Ernesto Arceo, O.P. has created a Permanent Committee for the Advocacy of Honesty and Justice that will cultivate the values of truth and honesty so as to make Thomasians “agents of moral change” in the wider world outside.

Fr. Gerard Timoner, O.P., vice-rector for religious affairs and chair of the new committee, said the campaign will not only cover students, but the faculty, academic and non-academic personnel, administrators as well, and even alumni. But he pointed out that the campaign will strive to be positive in its approach.

“Our plan is to raise the consciousness of people, but we will do that in such a manner that we are not like a police force in the campus,” Timoner said.

“The committee’s function is to primarily advocate for honesty and justice and not to enforce sanctions on erring employees or students,” he added, adding that disciplinary matters and sanctions are already covered by the Student Handbook, Faculty Manual and other guidebooks.

Timoner said the committee envisions a day when there would be no more need for proctors during exams.

“It may sound utopian, but we dream of a ‘proctorless’ exam, where there will be no professor to oversee the examinations, yet students will still remain honest and brave enough to overcome cheating,” he said. “If that is achieved, then who will not be proud coming from UST and who will not want to hire Thomasian graduates who came from an honest institution?”

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During its meeting last June 5, the committee discussed the possibility of formulating a “Thomasian Honor Code” to which every student must swear.

In addition, the committee said it will review all circulars and rules by administrative bodies in UST to foster honesty and truth, such as rules on plagiarism and intellectual property.

Timoner said the campaign may affect alumni as well.

“This is a lifetime advocacy,” he explained. “Honesty and justice are not things that are confined within the walls of the University. These are moral virtues that every Thomasian should have and carry wherever he is.”

Members of the committee are Cristina Cabral, vice-rector for student affairs; Clarita Carillo, vice-rector for academic affairs; Fr. Clarence Marquez, O.P., Institute of Religion director; Fr. Ramon Salibay, O.P., Center for Campus Ministry director; Cecilia L. Bahrami-Hessari, Center for Human Resource Development director; and Lito Zulueta, Varsitarian publications adviser.

The student body is represented by Reyner Villaseñor, president of Central Student Council, and Ma. Luisa Villena, president of the Student Organizations Coordinating Council.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Arceo said that the University, being a Catholic institution, must mold its community to be honest and just.

“Since this is a Catholic university, it is very important that we are able to make an impact on society in terms of moral transformation,” Arceo said. “So that hopefully, when you graduate from the University, you will really do your profession with integrity, with concern to what is true and what is fair.”

“We do not know, but we may be graduating professionals that may eventually get involved in graft and corruption” Arceo added.

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During the annual UST Theology Week last April, speakers tackled the importance of Catholic education.

Arceo, one of the speakers, expressed alarm that despite their Catholic education, many leaders of Philippine society are perceived as corrupt.

The conference focused on the statement of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in the early 1990’s–that “many graduates of Catholic schools have contributed to the dismal economic and political imbalances existing in the country.” John Constantine G. Cordon

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