WITH Fr. Rector Tamerlane Lana, O.P. winding down his second term, names of his possible successors have cropped up among the Dominican community.

Lana, who guided the University through multiple academic, political, and economic challenges, will bid farewell to the Thomasian community when his second term as Rector ends on April 30.

According to the UST General Statutes, any Filipino Dominican priest is qualified for rectorship as long as he holds a doctorate degree. Based on the rules, in the running are Dominican stalwarts Rodel Aligan, Ernesto Arceo, Jose Antonio Aureada, Vicente Cajilig, UST Vice Rector Juan Ponce, Romulo Rodriguez, Jose Ma. Tinoko, Isaias Tiongco, and even former Rectors Rolando de la Rosa and Norberto Castillo.

Lana, however, clarified that this is not the official and final list of candidates.

“Priests usually talk about the (possible) candidates with the needs of the University in mind,” Lana told the Varsitarian. “These talks, however, are all informal.”

Lana, who is the 93rd Rector of UST, is still qualified for a third consecutive term. But no rector in UST history has been reelected to a third term.

Guiding light

For the past eight years, the University has endured, under Lana’s leadership, critical moments in Philippine history—the second EDSA revolution that deposed President Joseph Estrada in 2001, the economic turmoil that ensued, the “Hello Garci” scandal that almost led to the impeachment of President Macapagal-Arroyo, and talks of charter change.

In his stint as Rector, Lana spearheaded the University expansion projects in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, General Santos City in Mindanao, and Sri Lanka. Thomasians also witnessed the rise of the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex (TARC), the University’s research arm, and recently, the Tan Yan Kee Student Center and Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy and Multi-Deck Car Park. He also led the proposal to establish UST as the Center for Contextualized Theology in Asia and the implementation of the University’s smoke-free campus campaign.

Lana’s term also gave birth to the creation of new innovations such as the e-Learning Access Program and online public access catalogue of the Central Library.

New courses were also implemented such as the College of Commerce’s Entrepreneurship, the College of Education’s Early Childhood Development, College of Science’s Applied Physics, College of Rehabilitation Science’s Sports Science, AB-BSE Social Science of the Faculty of Arts and Letters and the College of Education—a double learned men, having earned degrees in different fields.

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Aureada obtained his doctorate degree in Dogmatics, magna cum laude, at Angelicum in Rome in 1994. Arceo earned his doctorate degree in Philosophy, cum laude, in UST in 1990. Ponce, meanwhile, received a Ph.D. in Developmental Education, meritissimus, in UST in 1985.

The three also share their expertise and vast pool of knowledge to students of the Ecclesiastical Faculties. Aureada teaches Theology at the Faculty of Sacred Theology. Arceo teaches Special Questions in Ethics and Special Questions in Theodicy and Ponce, Educational Methodology—both at the Faculty of Philosophy.

Aside from these common denominators, Aureada, Arceo, and Ponce all boast of their own array of credentials that could spell the difference during the formal “elections.”

Aureada, together with Lana, is a member of the Episcopal Commission on the Doctrine of Faith (ECDF), a consultative body under the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines composed of experts in the sacred sciences and professors in theology. He spoke at the International Federation of Catholic Universities in Entebbe, Uganda in July 2003, and was part of the Philippine delegate to the Asia-Europe Meeting Interfaith Dialogue in Bali, Indonesia in 2005, together with Cajilig and Arceo.

Arceo, meanwhile, served as parochial vicar of the Santissimo Rosario Parish from 1984-1986, prior of the St. Thomas Aquinas Priory from 1995 to 1998, and prior provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines from 2000 to 2004. He is also a member of the Commission on Formation and Study and Promoter of the Dominican Confraternity of Priests and Bishops of the Dominican Province of the Philippines and a board member of the San Juan de Dios Educational Foundation, Inc., an organization run by the Daughters of Charity to help the nursing and health care of poor patients.

On the other hand, Ponce is the vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of the UST Hospital and chairman of various offices in the University—Manpower Committee, Faculty Tribunal, Retirement Board, CBA Management Panel, and Human Resource Operational Planning Committee. In addition, he is operations chair of the Total Quality Management project of UST and served as regent of the College of Education from 1999-2001 and director of Angelicum College in Quezon City from 1984-1989, a position which Lana also held.

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Dark horses

Aureada, Arceo, and Ponce may be the early favorites, but the selection of the other candidates is not to be overlooked especially since they have their own share of impressive credentials.

Aligan is the UST Vice Rector for Religious Affairs, the director of the Institute of Religion, and regent of the UST High School. He is also a member of the UST Academic Senate.

Cajilig is the regent of the College of Commerce and former director of the Center for Contextualized Theology and Applied Ethics, who is now headed by Fr. Pablo Tiong, O.P., from 2002-2005. He is also served as editor of Boletin Eclesiastico, the official publication of the Dominican community.

Both Cajilig and Aligan are also associate professors at the Faculty of Sacred Theology.

On the other hand, Rodriguez serves as regent of three different departments: College of Education, UST Education High School, and Elementary School. He is also an assistant professor at the Faculty of Canon Law.

Castillo, who served as UST Rector from 1984 to 1990, currently teaches at the Faculty of Philosophy. His rectorship saw the fall of the Ferdinand Marcos’ 20-year rule in 1986. Like Ponce and Lana, he has served as rector of Angelicum College. He was also one of the people who pushed for the creation of the TARC. He was a Varsitarian staff member during the late 1970s.

Tiongco and Tinoko are regents of the Faculty of Engineering and Conservatory of Music, respectively. They also teach at the Faculty of Canon Law.

Tinoko, along with Castillo and former UST Rector Fr. Frederick Fermin, O.P., was one of the top candidates for rectorship in 1986 when Castillo, who was eventually re-appointed, ended his first term.

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De la Rosa, probably the best known among the candidates, is currently a member of the UST Board of Trustees and Economic Council. He served both as UST rector and president of the Association of Catholic Universities of the Philippines from 1990-1998, and Commission on Higher Education (Ched) chairman from Oct. 15, 2004 to April 4, 2005. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, magna cum laude, from the Dominican House of Studies in 1977, masteral degree in Higher Religious Studies, summa cum laude, in UST in 1984, and doctorate degree in Philosophy in Higher Religious Studies, magna cum laude, and its ecclesiastical equivalent, Doctor of Sacred Theology, magna cum laude, from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium in 1988. He was also Witness editor of the Varsitarian during the early 1970s.

In the shadow of a giant

Although the nomination of candidates for the next UST Rector has yet to be made official, those who are qualified are already dealing with a lot of pressure from the Thomasian community.

“They should think hard if they really want to be the next Rector, because once they are nominated, they cannot object anymore,” Lana said.

He, however, did not disclose his personal choices.

“I can’t say. But (whoever gets chosen) must have the ample preparation and experience to handle the job well,” he said. “Of course I want the next Rector to maintain the success the University is enjoying right now.”

As Lana passes on his torch, he leaves behind a legacy of excellence and innovation.

But can his successor equal or even surpass his achievements?

The next Rector has big shoes to fill in as he his expected to further uphold core Thomasian values, enhance the University’s learning facilities, and enrich its research capabilities—things which Lana have attempted and pushed for his eight-year term.

But aside from these, there are also enormous and undone tasks such as improving the University’s faculty profile and strengthening its alumni relations. Jordan Mari S. de Leon and Paolo S. Mariano

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