WHAT IS it with the Pontifical University that makes people want to destroy its 401-year-old reputation?

Last June 18, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published an article, “UST Snubs ‘Sick Books’ Crusader’s Bid for Degree” on its front page. The headline itself cast the University an antagonistic light. But it’s not really a surprise, since responsible journalism is a rarity these days.

The story was about “sick books crusader” Antonio Calipjo Go’s row with UST after his bid for a journalism degree through the University’s Extended Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP), which seeks to award work experience with an academic degree, was turned down.

Go, who is the academic supervisor of Marian School of Quezon City, said in the report that he had written UST Faculty of Arts and Letters Dean Michael Vasco on Feb. 15, 2011 to “inquire” about the ETTEAP for Journalism program and whether he was qualified.

He said he didn’t get a reply from Vasco and wrote then UST Rector Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa on Aug. 17, 2011, after which he got a reply from Vasco on Aug. 26 saying his “application” had been turned down. Vasco purportedly added that other applicants “had humbled themselves and didn’t bask in their professional status.” Go, then wrote a letter to Vasco on Sept. 9, blasting him for being “bigoted, discriminatory, and oppressive.”

According to the report, Go “became furious when he read in a newspaper” on Jan. 1, 2012 that UST stretched its rules to grant the highest honors to impeached chief justice Renato Corona (who was later ousted).

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Apparently, that was the time Go went to the Inquirer to complain. Mind you, the “newspaper” that published the Corona Ph.D report had also been the Inquirer (we wonder why it didn’t disclose that) which went to town with the report without getting UST’s side.

No matter the debate on the Corona issue, UST has rightly claimed it has the prerogative to modify its academic rules. The Commission on Higher Education (Ched) agreed and declared that UST did not commit any academic infraction. The Go yarn was a follow-through of the Corona fracas. We wonder how a simple private matter could be suddenly catapulted to a national issue, and made a two-column front-page story of more than 8,000 characters!

And since it was written by the head of the Inquirer’s investigative team, we wonder how it could cheapen the tradition of investigative reporting for basically partisan ends. For an investigative report, the Inquirer dispatch couldn’t get its facts straight.

The Inquirer and Go basically are saying that if UST had given the doctorate to Corona, it should also have given the equivalency for Go. But their cases are different matters. Corona was a regular student in the doctorate in law program; he attended classes and got grades for his class performance and papers. Go finished only one semester of college and was applying for equivalency in journalism.

Corona had an undergraduate pre-law diploma, a law degree from Ateneo, and a master’s degree from Harvard when he enrolled in UST’s doctorate in law program. He was a government lawyer when he entered UST, with an accomplished record of private practice. When he became associate justice, he took a leave from his studies and later, before his residency expired, returned to school as chief justice. Instead of a dissertation, he was allowed to deliver a “scholarly treatise” and after doing so, he graduated class valedictorian, based on the grades he got for his treatise and for the courses he took up.

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Everything was transparent and above board.

As for Go, his reaction to Vasco should show his arrogance. If he really was determined to apply for ETEEAP, he should have done as anybody would do—go to UST himself and talk to appropriate people. But instead, he sent a letter and expected to be replied to immediately as if UST had nothing to do but answer the inquiries of anyone. Furthermore, he was applying for a journalism degree when he is not even a practitioner.

By publishing the two reports, the Inquirer basically was saying UST was wrong in granting Corona the degree and in not giving Go the equivalency. But Ched has upheld UST’s actions in both cases. How could Ched and the Inquirer argue against the oldest law school and the oldest graduate law program in Asia? How could they argue against the wisdom of a 401-year-old institution, the mother no less of higher education in Asia?

As far as accuracy, objectivity and fairness are concerned, the Inquirer report is a disaster. It didn’t even question how Go could call himself an “academic supervisor” when he does not have an undergraduate degree. Even those with a journalism or liberal arts degree cannot teach in basic education without 18 units of education. How can an “academic supervisor” be such to his underlings—the teachers he supervises—when he does not even have 18 units of education, much more a college diploma?

It’s almost scary how it is very easy to topple just about any institution with media lies. But the oldest University has survived wars, earthquakes, floods, warsthe twists and turns of history. Surely it will survive the blows of irresponsible journalism.

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