Jan. 2, 11:35 p.m. – The UST Graduate School has “affirmed” Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona’s academic record, echoing the University’s statement that no rules were broken in granting a doctor of laws to the country’s top magistrate.

In an e-mail, Dean Lilian Sison said the degree was granted “in good faith,” lamenting that no amount of explanation would suffice for the detractors of Corona, who has been impeached by congressional allies of President Benigno Aquino III. Corona is awaiting trial at the Senate.

Sison said a review of Corona’s record showed that he met the residency requirement of seven years, and that his general average merited summa cum laude honors.

The Graduate School Faculty Council met last Dec. 27, days after journalist Marites Vitug wrote an article on the online outfit Rappler.com claiming Corona got his doctorate without writing a dissertation, and that he was given honors despite overstaying. Dean Sison’s statement came after the Rappler story was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Jan. 1.

“During our Faculty Council meeting last Dec. 27, the Council affirmed Chief Justice Corona’s academic record. In fact upon review of his record, the actual semesters he was enrolled in the program including the
dissertation [had] a total of 7 years which [was] within the maximum residency requirement,” Sison said.

“As for the 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, she added.

The rule for Latin honors, Sison explained, is as follows: one-third for academic subjects, one-third for oral defense, and one-third for the written manuscript. “The Council believes that no rules were broken,” she said.

UST, in a statement last Jan. 1, said the Graduate School in fact turned down its law consultant’s request that the dissertation requirement be waived for Corona, who graduated last April.

“Instead of waiving the dissertation requirement, 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. 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,” the UST statement said.

Sison likewise said: “The dissertation was not totally waived.”

“In fact we already started in some programs like Science and Education where students are asked to publish their dissertation as articles (ranging from 2-4) rather than the traditional bound manuscripts which only gather dust in the library. This is a changing paradigm in dissertation writing and the appropriate way to improve the university’s publication index which is the weakness of most universities in the Philippines,” she said.

“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,” she added.

Sison said the Graduate School regretted that the faculty council’s action had caused “unpalatable” publicity for UST.

“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,” Sison said. “We conferred on him the degree in good faith, but who would think at that time that the chief justice would be impeached?”

UST said it did not immediately reply to Rappler as it was “at a loss” over how to deal with online news outfits.

“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?” the UST statement said.

The University urged media people “to be careful in searching for the truth.”

“While we may have the highest respects for Miss Vitug, we also would like to see that rules on fact-checking, objectivity and fairness are observed, so that no reputation, whether of an individual or an institution, is compromised,” it said. Nigel Bryant B. Evangelista


  1. Okay, dean sison explained it so well, but it still looks so cheap for the civil law program to accept a scholarly treatise instead of dissertation? She mentioned that in science they asked students to publish (2-4) articles in a peer-reviewed journal. I think it should be 2 articles in MSc and 4 for PhD. Isn’t it the dissertation is actually a compilation of these published articles? That’s why for me the equivalent requirement they gave to CJ is too low in standard. Imagine he only had 1 scholarly treatise (which looks like by the way a term paper) compared to masters student that are now being required to publish two.
    Another thing, those student in science program they usully published their research in a high impact factor ISI Journal, but for CJ SAAN? in Ad Veritatem? Is it refereed?
    I have a high respect to dean sison, she was my professor in research meth and I still remember what she taught us.
    It’s just not convincing that for a PhD in Civil Law, his scholarly treatise (credit equivalent to a dissertation) was just published in a grey journal.
    Hmmm. I smell siopao na SPECIAL. I hope the TREATMENT for graduate students are the same.

  2. As the 400 years celebration of UST’s founding winds down, this had to happen, its degree conferment process under scrutiny and the rest of the academic community, snickering. But might as well, for it gave the public, its alumni more so, with a glimpse how, by invoking academic freedom, the UST’s Graduate School conferred — in good faith — latin honors to the beleaguered Chief Justice R. Corona, whose personal and processional background are the subject of criticism. A case of good move for a “bad” product?

    What is really sad is that, good faith, while a defense, does not always mean, truthful or transparent. The inconsistencies that are not controverted make the good faith defense an incredible one, to the even more cynical members of the public, it becomes a badge that proclaim there has been some form of favor if not preferential treatment for the conferee, deserved or not. Poor damage control.

    It also did not help UST any when rather than answer the questions raised, it stalled, stonewalled, until it decided to cast doubts on the practitioners of online reporting, to the point of questioning its very legitimacy. It did not contravene the printed accounts of the researcher having been frustrated to get answers to her questions until she ended up being given the runaround. Worse, na-indian! What do we call one who says yes to doing something but not actually intent doing it?

    UST could have handled this better, by upholding veritas. As an institution of learning and molder of men’s minds and manners, it had the chance to avert this embarrassing situation but it chose to deliberately ignore the chroniclers of the time, who now have social media and technology as quick platform for information exchange and instant feedback. UST’s attempt to pit mainstream press against the new breed of tech-savvy journalists also backfired. Wrong move, checkmate!

    Now that the context of the issue has changed as an impeachment process gets underway involving CJ R. Corona, UST has a blackeye, for its poor issue handling and even worse damage control approach. It is publicly chastised. Its reputation slightly suspect. And,as its celebration capping the 400 years of its founding ends, it does so not just with a bang, but with this cheap scandal too.

    UST now sounds, acts and as it tries to hold its head high, looks defensive. And maybe, a bit tainted. Sayang!

  3. Fr. 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


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