WHILE UST has long been “Filipinized,” the assumption of Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. as the University’s 96th Rector consolidates the hold of Filipino Dominican friars on Asia’s oldest and only pontifical university.

Dagohoy, the seventh Filipino to hold the post, is the first incumbent prior of the Priory of St. Thomas in UST to be elected Rector Magnificus.

The Priory was originally under the Master of the Order of Preachers based in Rome, but was transferred to the Philippines following the Dominicans’ General Chapter in Caleruega, Spain in 1995. It was the first step to the turnover of UST to the Filipino Dominicans under a “climate of mutual understanding and of fraternal search for consensus.”

Department of History Chair Augusto de Viana said in an interview that Dagohoy’s appointment is a continuation of the Filipinization of UST.

Vice Chancellor Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P., the new head of the Filipino Dominicans, however noted that Dagohoy’s appointment was not unprecedented given the number of Filipino rectors the University already had.

“The decision of the Chapter of Rome to transfer the jurisdiction of UST to the Dominican Province of the Philippines is totally independent of the end of terms and elections of Rectors of UST,” the prior provincial of the Filipino Dominican province told the Varsitarian.

Since 1971, seven Filipino Dominicans have served as rectors: Fr. Leonardo Legaspi, O.P., Fr. Frederik Fermin, O.P., Fr. Norberto Castillo, O.P., Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P., Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P., and Dagohoy.

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Taking over

In 2013, jurisdiction over UST will be turned over to the Dominican Province of the Philippines from the Master General to achieve “subsidiarity” in governance.

This was approved by the General Chapter in Rome last September 2010, during which Fr. Bruno Cadoré, O.P. was elected Master General of the Order of Preachers and tasked to appoint a commission for the turnover of UST to the Filipino Dominicans.

“We commission the Master of the Order to appoint a commission to formulate the concrete measures required for the transfer of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Manila, to the jurisdiction of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, as stipulated in n. 120 of the AGC (Acts of the General Chapter) 1995 Caleruega, Spain. The work of this commission is to be completed and submitted to the Master and his council for approval and implementation by 2013,” said the 2010 Acts of the General Chapter of Rome.

But Timoner said the turnover does not mean UST Dominicans can defy the Master General, adding that the decision was not made by the Holy Rosary Province of the Spanish missionary Dominicans nor by the Dominican Province of the Philippines but by the entire Dominican Order.

“The transfer of jurisdiction is an act of obedience to the will of the recent General Chapter and to the Master who sees to it that the acts are faithfully carried out,” he said.

After the turnover, Cadoré remains Chancellor of UST but some matters will be delegated to the Vice Chancellor, reducing the tedious bureaucratic process inherent to a highly centralized organization such as UST, Timoner said.

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“The principle [of subsidiarity] holds that, as far as possible, important decisions must be made at the local level,” he said.

But the right to appoint the Rector of UST still remains with the Chancellor after he obtains the approval of the nominee from the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Catholic Education based in the Vatican.

Under the Vatican-approved statutes of UST, the Master of the Order is ex-officio Chancellor of the University, while the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province is ex-officio Vice Chancellor.

Tracing roots

In his book, Beginnings of the Filipino Dominicans, De la Rosa said the Filipinization movement of the Dominican Order began in 1951. Then Provincial Fr. Silvestre Sancho, O.P. was quoted that he had already foreseen the Filipino Dominicans’ subsequent takeover.

“It is but natural that [Dominican missionaries] have to leave the Philippines sooner or later, whether it is due to the imposition of the nationalist government, or to the establishment of an [indigenous] Dominican Province of the Philippines which we have to form there in time, and God wishes that this be done immediately,” Sancho said.

Another attempt at Filipinization occured in UST in 1969 through a concerted effort by all Filipino Dominicans, De la Rosa added.

Students staged demonstrations and demanded the Filipinization of the University administration, which was almost completely under the Spanish control.

Filipino Dominicans sought key positions in UST. However, the petitioners clarified that they were not conniving with the students, and even claimed that they were critical of the students’ extreme demand for the ouster of Spanish Dominicans.

In his book, I Walked with Twelve UST Rectors, former UST registrar Norberto de Ramos said the Filipinization of UST reached its peak when Legaspi became the first Filipino rector of UST in 1971. But Legaspi was later criticized for the supposedly slow process of appointing local Dominicans to key positions. Legaspi was later named auxiliary bishop of Manila and then archbishop of Nueva Caceres.

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When Fermin succeeded Legaspi in 1978, some campus leaders expressed doubt on the Filipinization drive due to his previous citizenship. Fermin was a native Dutch who became a naturalized Filipino in 1976.

De la Rosa said Filipino Dominicans in UST fought for the Filipinization not only of the University but also of the entire Province. It was eventually fulfilled when the Dominican Province of the Philippines was established on Dec. 8, 1971 with Fr. Rogelio Alarcon as its first prior provincial.

The University became common territory between the Holy Rosary Province of the Spaniards and the new Filipino province.

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