On Research and Competitiveness in Shared World

[Address to Student Research Convocation at the Islamic University of Bandung (UNISBA) where Memo of Understanding between UNISBA and ADDU is signed in Bandung, August 15, 2016]


Dear Dr. Taufiq Boesorie, Rector, Islamic University of Bandung, Dr. Rakhmat Teha, the Vice Rektor, the distinguished Deans, the Faculty and Students:

It is a great privilege for me to visit the Islamic University of Bandung (UNISBA) in the context of the emerging collaboration between the Ateneo de Davao University and UNISBA. It has been a singular pleasure enjoying the awesome beauty of the rice terraces on the way here from Jogjakarta, praying in the Masid Raya Bandung, visiting the Asia Africa Conference Center, appreciating the five principles of the Indonesian Pancasila, enjoying bandros and tahu borondong in the streets, buying batik in the marketplace, and experiencing the personal warmth and hospitality of Dr. and Mrs. Taufiq Boesorie at dinner last night and meeting their children and grandchildren in their beautiful home.

It is also in this context that I have been asked to share some thought on research and competiveness. Your university operates as an Islamic University; my university operates as a Catholic and Jesuit university. Our universities are different. But both of our universities share the same threefold commitment to truth. We exist to help our students to learn truth. We exist to share truth with the societies which we serve. We exist through research to discover truth. It is for this reason that both of our universities enjoy academic freedom. Beyond any constraints that may be imposed on us by religion, by the state, or even by the economy, we are free to discover truth, teach it, and share it for the benefit ultimately of humanity. This is our shared responsibility in freedom.

It can be said then that research is done by the university. Universities compete with each other as to which can produce the best research. Research is done by faculty within universities. They are teachers, but as their professional competence grows, they are also researchers; they are responsible not only to teach truth, but to discover new truth. Students too do research. They do research to learn how to do research. They do research even as students already to involve themselves in the university effort to discover truth. But they also do research in order to better themselves as human beings. And this is where we want to focus our reflections for this morning.

When students do research in our competitive world, they benefit greatly. They learn the disciplines of research – reading, data gathering, analysis based on data, thinking, developing theories, professional writing, preparing documentation, sharing views with peers, experts, stakeholders and the public, and learning from the dialogue that ensues. Growing in these disciplines, they grow as professionals, and so grow in competitiveness against persons who may not have these skills. Research opens professionals to better ways of exercising their profession, or to more efficient ways of creating wealth. Research leads manufacturers to products that are better than products of the past, and technicians to better ways of benefitting humanity. One who is disciplined in research therefore becomes a better doctor, lawyer, engineer, manager, and perhaps even a better politician – or statesman – in a world which is very fast and demanding under terms normally dictated on us by our regional ASEAN or global economies.

It is however in the required reflectiveness and disciplined thoughtfulness of research that we might consider the urgency of a new type of competitiveness that we must all engage in: the competition to find conditions of optimum flourishing for all in humanity in a shared common home that we call Mother Earth. For research tells us that if we continue exploiting the resources of our shared planet to feed our unbridled consumption and to intensify our competitiveness to produce for more and more consumption – normally by creating abundance and luxury for the privileged and poverty and misery for the excluded – we will kill its biodiversity, poison its fresh water, pollute its air, exhaust its minerals, destroy the planet and create a world of dehumanized and unhappy human beings.

In this context our universities may help our students compete not only to serve the daemons of an unsustainable consumption-driven world economy, but to maintain and advance the wisdom behind the admirable Pancasila of the Indonesian people on a world scale: there is one God we acknowledge and serve in a diversity of religions, there is but one humanity we must advance in justice and shared civilization, there is genuine nationality achievable in a family of nations; there is world democracy achievable through dialogue, mutual assistance and consensus building; there is social justice that can be served only by carefully preserving and equitably distributing the resources of the planet in protection of the weak and advancement ultimately of the common good.

This constitutes a huge research agenda not only for our young researchers but for our university communities which we might embrace in academic freedom and responsibility. I would be thrilled if UNISBA and Ateneo de Davao might truly collaborate in its pursuit. Let us collaborate to advance greater understanding between our peoples of diverse religions worshiping but one God; to understand how God can rule us even in the manner in which we use money; to understand the richness of our languages and cultures, and the importance of our indigenous spiritualities and heritages in helping us sustain our world and advance a sustainable shared human culture.

Let us not be satisfied with collaboration merely on paper. But let us continue to laugh and smile in shared friendship, so that through our collaboration, our children and children’s children may continue to appreciate the awesome beauty of the rice terraces, the ennoblement of shared worship in our mosques and churches, the wisdom of our national founders, the richness of our forests, rivers, lakes, wildlife, birds and flowers, and the invaluable joy of eating warm bandros and tahu borondong as we walk together on our streets.






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Giving Sustainability a Home at AJCUAP?


[Welcome Address: Annual Meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Asia Pacific (AJCU-AP), Sanata Dharma University, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, 11-12 August, 2016.]

As chair of AJCU-AP it is my privilege once again to welcome you to the annual meeting of our association. With Fr. Mark Raper, President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP), I thank Dr. Johannes Eka Priyatma, President of Sanata Dharma University and Fr. Sunu Hardiayanjta, Provincial of the Indonesian Province, for your warm welcome – enriched by the performances of the Grishada and the Cantus Firmus. Already now, I wish to greet and thank all the members of the SDU staff and the gracious volunteers who are doing so much to make our meeting pleasant and fruitful.

We come together, as we always do, in fellowship and shared mission in higher education. We rejoice in meeting one another again, and welcome those who are here for the first time.

Since our last meeting in Melbourne, which immediately followed the Melbourne Summit of Jesuit Higher Education, we have not only continued to operate our higher educational institutions in our different countries, but we have sought to collaborate with the global mission of the Society of Jesus through the various platforms that were presented during the Melbourne Summit. Among these platforms were the Jesuit Digital Network, the Healing Earth E-Textbook and the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins Platform. A Status Report, albeit incomplete, of our collaboration here appears in the booklet you have received. Another report describes the status of our ongoing collaboration in Service Learning which was handled in 2015 by Sogang University with the theme, “Social Engagement Based on Justice.”

Slowly we are learning that it belongs to the character of our AJCU-AP Colleges and Universities not only to collaborate with other Jesuit universities but also with other Jesuit apostolates.

This was experienced wonderfully in the just concluded three-day JCAP Sustainability for Human Life Conference also here in Sanata Dharma University – which was a celebration in collaboration of the JCAP Clusters of Reconciliation with Creation, Migration, Inter-Religious Dialogue, Higher Education, Basic Education, Spirituality and Formation coming together under the theme of Sustainability for Human Life. The actual pursuit of “Sustainability” was experienced variously among the poor, within families, in civil society organizations, in credit unions, in farmers’ cooperatives and the like. Its concept was examined against the backdrop of ASEAN’s unsustainable model of development; it was then examined in the light of a sustainable use of environmental resources  and a sustainable culture of human living which consumes those resources responsibly toward an optimum realization of human flourishing which excludes no person; it was examined in terms of how people today must convert themselves and their lifestyles to the demands of this sustainability, which themselves must be discussed and negotiated.

Towards the end of the seminar, it was noted and recognized that the pursuit of sustainability in these terms is the pursuit of the common good which we reflected on with Fr. Patrick Riordan in our last meeting in Melbourne.

It was also noted that while the JCAP Sustainability Conference was a wonderful experience of the Jesuit Conference from below, with Jesuit and lay collaborators experiencing one another horizontally in pursuing sustainability as a heuristic, that is, as a common good that needs to be further clarified and achieved through cooperation and negotiation, what the pursuit of sustainability at this point needs is a home. How can the insight, passion, resolve, and dedication to sustainability experienced in the JCAP conference find an institutional home – lest the commitment to sustainability itself not be sustained?

I believe the AJCU-AP ought offer itself to give this JCAP multi-sectoral apostolic movement towards sustainability a home. As universities we are Jesuit because we appropriate the Jesuit mission – the commitment to the faith, the promotion of justice, cultural sensitivity, inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation with creation.

In faith, we see the mandate to sustainability as a response to God’s love in his gift of creation  and to his compassion in working out our redemption from our sins, even from our sins against nature. In justice, we see sustainability as the call of social justice to the common good for all human beings sharing and preserving the same common home. In sensitivity to cultures and in interreligious dialogue, we see sustainability as a recognition of the multiplicity of cultures and religions sustaining and enriching each other in diversity or diminishing and destroying humanity in its absence. In reconciliation with creation we see sustainability as the condition that must be achieved for the preservation of the planet for future generations.

In this spirit, the Jesuit universities search or research for the theoretical and practical requirements of sustainability, instruct in this truth, and serve communities transformatively in its urgency. Being university in this sense, in Fr. Adolfo Nicolas’ sense of proyekto social, is today only possible through the active collaboration of the university with apostolic partners in faith, in the pursuit of social justice, the strengthening of human communities, in inter-religious dialogue, and in genuine commitment for the renewal of our common home.

In this context, AJCU-AP may wish to consider during this annual meeting whether it might offer itself as a home of the JCAP sustainability movement. We ought consider this well. For the urgency of the sustainability challenge will demand that the JCAP apostolic clusters rely on us for actual collaboration.   It will not do just to formulate and approve a resolution then abandon it in the year’s operations. We would have to consider whether we can really welcome them home to our colleges and universities in solidarity and shared commitment.

Considering the urgency of achieving a sustainable world and culture, perhaps it would be more than worth our taking up this question during this conference.

I am certain that the keynote address of Fr. Mark Raper shall not be irrelevant to this consideration.


Finally, before we begin our CEO sharing, let me announce – as I already announced last year – that my last term of service as chair of our Association comes to an end tomorrow. After talking to Fr. Mark and my Provincial, I will no longer stand for re-election. I have been very privileged over the last thirteen years to serve this association as its chair; we have moved from an old boys’ club to an association serious about collaboration on substantial issues; it is now time to pass the leadership to another.

Once again, welcome to you all! We look forward to a fruitful meeting.

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Notes on Gina and Digong at ADDU

Yesterday I left the Philippines with Datu Mussolini Lidasan and Vinci Bueza for Indonesia. In our Jesuit University of Sanata Dharma in Jogjakarta we shall attend both the “Sustainability of Life Conference” organized by the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, and the Annual Meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Asia Pacific. After that, we will follow up our partnership with the University of Bandung.

It is because of these meetings that I shall not be able to attend this year the activities of our annual fiesta in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption. I truly regret this. But I wish all in our ADDU community from the Grade School through to the Graduate and Law Schools our Lord’s blessings through our Lady during this happy fiesta! May all be gifted with profound joy! There is much for which we have to be grateful.

Especially for the recent visits of DENR Sec. Gina Lopez and no less than the President of the Philippines, our very own, Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.

For the success of this historic event, I cannot thank all in our community enough: the academic units, the administrators, the faculty, the iComms, the Samahan, the physical plant, the administrative associates, the agency workers, the caterers, the volunteers. So many came together and worked together to make it the success that it was. Very specially, I thank Atty. Romeo “Meong” Cabarde, chair of our UCEAC, especially for his challenging coordination with Sec. Gina, the DENR national and local officials, and with the many CSOs and representatives of Lumad communities, farmers and fisherfolk that made this day as rich as it was.

I am sure all have their own reflections on this event. Allow me simply to share mine.

My friendship with Gina Lopez began when I was still President of Ateneo de Naga. With environmentalist, Dr. Emelina “Lina” Regis, we fought for the closure of the Rapu-Rapu mines which had caused a major fish kill around the island. It was through Lina that I learned of the absolute incompatibility of large-scale mines with the Philippines’ island ecosystem. Our ally at that time was Gina Lopez. Already battling mining in Palawan, she was easy to win for the fight against Rapu-Rapu. Eventually, ADNU awarded Gina an honorary doctorate for her crusade for the environment.

When President Duterte appointed her Secretary of the DENR, I mixed my congratulations with an invitation to visit the ADDU. She readily agreed. That took place on August 4.

Much happened. I wish merely to focus on what made me especially happy. Suddenly it was not the people coming to the DENR with adversarial complaints about violations of mining companies; it was the DENR Secretary angry at what the mining companies had been doing to the people. It was the DENR Secretary “speaking her heart”: “I will always respect the law. But in my heart I know that mining does not belong in this island ecosystem. Look at the destruction the mining companies have caused!” “It is scandalous that the Mindanaoans are not enjoying the wealth of Mindanao!” “It is unacceptable that the wealthy from Manila and other countries are enriching themselves on the resources of Mindanao when there is so much poverty in Mindanao!” “I stand for social justice, and social justice means that Mindanaoans enjoy their own heritage in natural resources.” It was this energy coming from her heart that was making history that day. Mixing passion with anger, the DENR Secretary was making her DENR officials swear allegiance to the people, not to the mining companies; she was constraining them to swear never to take a bribe from the mining firms – not five million pesos, not ten, not fifty million pesos! – in order to remain free to serve the people, especially the poor. She called on the CSOs and representatives of the people to form a new arm of the DENR to create a partnership between the DENR and the people it is to serve. The follow day, at the more technical planning session at Garden Oasis in Obrero, the pact between the people and the government was further enfleshed, now, however, not only with the DENR Secretary, but with Agriculture Secretary Piñol and Health Secretary Ubial. The case was being made for the necessity of the DENR, the DA and the DOH to work together for the welfare of the people.

In all this, Sec. Gina kept shouting out three crucial questions: Do you love your God? Do your love your country? Do you love the people? When the answers from the crowd to all three questions were, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”, her challenge was: “Prove it.”

I remember when Ateneo de Naga University conferred on her an honorary doctorate for her work for the environment some ten years ago. Her graduation address was unforgettable. First, she challenged all to remember a secret. She whispered, “There is a God!” Second, she said that whether one was a Catholic, a Muslim, a Hindu, or an atheist, one must get in contact with that God. Third, she said each must find silence in one’s life; without silence the forces of the world tear one apart, till one no longer knows who he or she is. Finally, she said: “If one knows there is a God, is in touch with him and has found silence in life, how can one not appreciate the gift God has given us all in the environment?” Those statements were resonating in the questions that she was now challenging the assembly with. If you love God, country and people, how can you now not act to prove it?

Prove it. But it must come from your heart.


Our second guest in the afternoon of August 4 was President Digong. His visit was a surprise for the participants of “Oya Mindanao.” So when he entered, Martin Hall was thundering “Duterte! Duterte!” with excitement and delight. He spoke about many things: his owing his election only to the people, how conflicts would be resolved in favor of the people. He spoke of how mines must follow the highest standards in the world, but also of how the island ecosystem of the Philippines could not sustain many mines, even if they were operating at the highest standards. He spoke of his being a socialist, and of his dislike of people who amass huge fortunes without sharing the toil and hardship of the people. He spoke of the war on illegal drugs, and why he is angry about drugs. Time and again he had seen individuals destroyed and whole families destroyed with them. The 3 million affected by drugs impact negatively on their families and friends, bringing their curse onto the lives of parents, brothers and sisters. He said it would not stop his war on drugs until the entire apparatus of the drug trade is destroyed.

Beneath the crowds cheering, “Duterte!” was a man of silence aware of the gravity of the course of action he had entered into. “I hate to kill,” he has stated. “There is no country that can be built on killing its citizens.” But he has also said, “If I do not succeed in this war on drugs, neither will the next administration. The menace will only grow stronger till it can no longer be controlled, but will control us. Then we will have a country ruled by narcopolitics.”

Meanwhile, a huge tarp raised onto the cathedral in Bacolod has proclaimed: “Thou shalt not kill: Drugs kill. Poverty kills. Salvaging kills…”

That afternoon, despite the objections of the PSG, Gina Lopez convinced the President to visit ADDU’s Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption. He did, working his way gamely through the throng of hyperactive students each torn between wanting to be disciplined and polite and somehow grabbing a selfie with the President. But eventually we got to the silence of the chapel. He looked appreciatively at the murals from the life of Christ rendered in Tausug, then at the portrait of Sitti Maryam. “Truly something new,” he said smiling. He approached the sanctuary and looked at the Salubong: the procession of Mindanao’s IPs bathed in Resurrection light overcoming the darkness of the procession of Our Sorrowing Mother with its images of people caught in violence, drugs, corruption and the tragedy of Mamasapano. He looked at the statue of Our Lady in Maranao garb and at the great image of the Crucified Lord. For me, the high point of the day was when Digong, Gina, Romulo Valles and I, bowed before the altar, the tabernacle and the Crucifix in prayer.

He is a stickler, he said, for the separation of Church and state. But before his God as before his people, he bows in silence.

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On the Spirituality of St. Ignatius

[Homily: ADDU Chapel of the Assumption, Mass for participants of “A Night with St. Iggy”, Feast of St. Ignatius, July 31, 2016]

On the Feast of St. Ignatius, I would like to share something of Ignatian spirituality with you. I know that in “A Night with St. Iggy,” you’ve been up all night in vigil; keeping you awake just past 4:00 a.m. will be challenging. But what I have to say, I think, is important for people who are devoted to St. Ignatius, or for people who wish to encounter and serve God in a manner that might be described as “Ignatian.”  Ignatian spirituality is based largely on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Here, I hope to give you a summary impression of Ignatian spirituality in six points.

The first is to catch oneself existing, alive, living meaningfully unto an inborn purpose that involves God. That’s already a grace. Some of us are so busy with the “important” things of life that we hardly notice. So, the starting point is to be moved by the surprise of one’s existence and one’s relatedness to God. Appropriately grasped, one knows oneself “created to praise, reverence and serve God.” It is in fulfilling this purpose that one finds order – or disorder – in life. One even finds happiness or sadness, excitement about the challenge of life or alienation.

The second is to know oneself as a sinner. This is a contrast to the first point. But not just in a conceptual way: I have a concept of meaningfulness, and I act in infidelity to the concept. What is involved in the first point is not just a conceptual principle, but an existential reality. We are in fact ordered to happiness in knowing, loving and serving an existing God and all that God reveals himself to love and cherish. When we breach that order, we breach a basic relationship with God. We sin. Knowing oneself as a sinner is a grace. It is a profound grace. In our callousness, many of us sin and don’t even notice, don’t even care. Many of us are selfish, manipulative, or mean. We think only of ourselves; we manipulate our friends; we are mean to those who are weaker than us. We are envious of those who are successful around us, uncaring for those in need, and breach laws we know ought not be breached. For instance, the law, “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” We worship money. We worship fame.   We worship our celfons, our computers, our cars. Are these not “gods”? They claim more attention from us than our friends, our duties, our loved ones, our God. Or, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” We hardly have time to talk to our fathers and mothers. We obey them in the breach.   Or, “Thou shalt not steal.” But we cheat habitually, we take what is not rightly ours. Or, “Thou shalt not kill.” We think we can kill to fulfill a just end. We kill. Others kill. We turn the other way, as long as the killing achieves my ends and does not affect my loved ones. If I know myself as a sinner, a concomitant grace is to feel shame and confusion. That too is a grace. Many of us are shameless. We rationalize away all guilt, all sin.

The third is to know oneself before the Crucified Lord. This is the reason why I asked that we celebrate this Eucharist here in front of the great image of the Crucified Lord. Knowing oneself before the Crucified Lord is a great grace. It is a profound outcome of a pivotal mediation in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The great Crucifix in front of us is, of course, but an image. But it is an image of an overpowering manifestation of God’s love. God could have left me alienated and rotting in my sin. He did not. He worked to free me from sin, teach me of his Father’s Kingdom, bring me the fullness of life. But he was opposed, rejected, and nailed to a cross. The Crucifix is an image of great suffering. It is an image of the gravity of my sin. My sin put him on the cross. But it is also an image of great love. Because, crucified, the Lord loves, the Lord forgives. His love is greater than his suffering. And he is turned to me, gazing into my eyes, loving me and forgiving me. To know myself before this Crucified Lord is a great grace.   Because I also know myself in the manner I respond to that love. Some respond to his gaze, rightly, with deep personal guilt.  Yet others respond more profoundly with great relief, gratitude and peace. For the gaze of the Crucified Lord does not condemn, it forgives – no matter the gravity of my sin.

The fourth is to know oneself impelled to follow Jesus through discerned choices. Before the Crucified Lord, I ask, “If you have done this for me in love, Lord, what have I done for you? What am I doing for you? What ought I do for you.?” “Ought”, “impelled” – that remarkable combination of compulsion and freedom. This is the question that opens me to discipleship in freedom and love. In response to love that peeks on the Cross given in freedom and love. The Lord labors to establish God’s Kingdom, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” (Mt. 6:10); me too, I wish to labor with the Lord to establish God’s Kingdom. He labors to bring “life, life to the full: (Jn 10:10); I wish to labor with the Lord to establish life, life to the full. Being impelled to do this by a living God now means it cannot be postponed for a Kingdom in Heaven. The Kingdom of God must be established against the godless, the impious, the killers, the violent, the liars, the manipulative, the violent, the greedy, the rapists, the corrupt, the drug lords, the human traffickers, the gun smugglers, the destroyers of our common home. Here, it is clear. This is not an individual’s crusade against the evils of the world. It is rather a disciple’s necessary choice to subordinate his will to the redemptive will of his Lord, to will willing the will of the Lord, and to lead only in choosing to follow the Lord. Distinction here is not in great deeds achieved for the Lord, but in discerning the will of the Lord in the examination of inner motions of consolation and desolation, and in freely deciding to do the Lord’s will. This belongs to the free offering of the disciple: “Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty. Take all my will, my mind, my memory. All things I hold and all I own are thine. Thine was the gift. To thee I all resign. Do thou direct and govern all and sway. Do what Thy will. Command, and I obey. Only that grace, thy love on me bestow. These make me rich. All else will I forgo.”

 A condition and outcome of the fourth point is the fifth: to know oneself in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a great grace to know oneself intimately loved and appreciated in this relationship, just as it is a great grace to know Jesus intimately. It is a grace we beg for as we contemplate the mysteries of the Lord’s public life, his passion and death, and his resurrected life. It is a grace we pray for in seeking to intimately know the Lord’s sensitivities, values and will and how this impacts on me in meeting the challenges of every day life.

A final point is to know oneself finding God in all things. As a lover sees all through the prism of ones love, so to the disciple sees all through the prism of God’s love. In the redeeming, forgiving, accepting, empowering love of the Lord, God is in all, Love is in all, Hope is in all. I catch myself alive. I know myself loved. I need to respond. Not just in words, but in deeds.

Happy Feast of St. Ignatius!

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Human Rights and 1.3 M Victims of Illegal Drugs

I share the concern of pastors and human rights advocates for the lives of people being killed in the government’s “war on crime.” The life of an innocent person killed in a law-enforcement operation is an undeniable catastrophe; nothing can restore the loss.

Here, there is little consolation when it is suggested that law enforcers, from the President to the cop sent on a drug raid, be mindful of how God’s justice is divinely manifested in his mercy. In this world of ambivalence, mercy can be invoked for victims of security operations. But the same can be invoked for the hapless law enforcer commanded to fight illegal drug use – even at the cost of his life. It can be invoked for the politician who decides resolutely to rid Philippine society of a cancer that has too long been allowed to metastasize.

The context, of course, is 1.3 million Filipinos victimised by the illegal drug trade in the country. These too are human lives mercilessly led to addiction and trapped there by the unscrupulous; they exploit the weaknesses of our legal system and law enforcement to diminish and destroy these human lives with impunity. What does the face of a compassionate God look like when internationally syndicated drug lords protect their profits on the irreversible addictions of Filipinos with sophisticated organizations and heavily armed private armies?

It is easy for the established to lock out the victims of this unholy drug menace from their clean lives and sanitized concerns. We don’t tolerate them in our schools; we dismiss or expel them. We tolerate them in some of the in-gatherings of the wealthy and sophisticated, until, of course, they become a source of social embarrassment. Nationwide, out of 42,036 barangays in the country, 11,321 or 26.93% are affected by illegal drugs. One fourth of all the nation’s barangays is bad enough. But in the National Capital Region, where the concerned protests against casualties in the drive against illegal drugs has been loudest, 1,574 of the region’s 1,706 barangays or 92.26% are affected. How did the cancer grow so large? In the barangays, even when they have long become a source of discomfort, disorder and the disruption of countless families, they don’t go away. They are protected by “law”, law enforcers, profiting businessmen, policemen and politicians – and even willy nilly human rights advocates.

Personally, I am myself a human rights advocate. I do not believe extra-judicial death squads ought to be engaged in a war against crime. I am pained by the statistics of 358 killed in police operations, 140 killed by unidentified gunmen and 46 killed by salvaging since May 10, 2016. But I also feel that 1.3 million people in the Philippines and their loved ones need liberation from the exploitation of their human rights through illegal drugs – however difficult excising the social cancer of this magnitude may at this point be. In a recent post-election City-Wide Social Survey of Davao taken by my Ateneo de Davao University, respondents were asked what they thought of the Davao Death Squad. Sixty percent of them responded, “It will help solve criminality.” Of these, 68% were women. In the same survey, the respondents were asked, “Is there a fair justice system in the Philippines.” Sixty-eight percent responded: no. This also bothers me. Are people approving of a vigilante-style delivery of justice because they perceive the justice system is not delivering justice?

One may consider that in 2015, PDEA filed 30,282 drug cases. That same year, 1714 were acquitted, 685 dismissed, 631 convicted. PDEA doesn’t seem to have made a dent against the systems that victimize 1.3 million people in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, “The role of drug syndicates in the proliferation of illegal drugs is immense and indispensable in illicit drug trafficking business. They are the foundation of the illegal trade. In the Philippines, international drug trafficking organizations are identified to have been operating in the country. In addition to the African Drug Syndicates and Filipino-Chinese Drug Syndicates, a drug syndicate based in Sinaloa, Mexico, the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, was established to have been operating in the country. In 2013, various links between the said Mexican drug cartel and the Chinese Drug Syndicate were established on different occasions” (Kabiling, Genalyn (July 7, 2016). “Palace reveals Chinese triad involved in illegal drugs”Manila Bulletin. Retrieved July 8, 2016.)

I mourn the deaths of those who have lost their lives in the current drive against illegal drives. But I pray for our law enforcers. May the Filipino people and humanity win.



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Iftar on Leilatul Qadr, the Night of Power


[Address to the ADDU Muslim Community and the members of Salaam – reconstructed from my notes.]

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 4.15.23 PM

After the wonderful “opening salvo” dance of the Ateneo Sidlak Performing Arts Collective (ASPAC), which I appreciated very much for its ethnic richness, I would like to express how happy I am to be here at this Iftar – the breaking of fast after another long day of fasting during your Ramadan. With you I pray that all the graces of the Ramadan be yours, that through its fasting you be purified from your sins, that you identify more with your being Muslim, and that you find deeper joy in being part of your Umah. I pray this all the more as you celebrate Leilatul Qadr, the Night of Power, the sacred night during which you were blessed with the gift of God’s revelation, the gift of the noble Qur’an.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 4.15.36 PMIn God’s beneficence, may you all be blessed!

I pray for you despite the diversity of faiths in which we actually live. Religious diversity, I think, is one of God’s great mysteries. Allow me to tell you a very personal story. In my childhood there was a good Chinese lady from Hong Kong whom I called Ah Kui. I learned much from Ah Kui, who loved me very much. She taught me how to wash dishes, polish floors, and how to enjoy rice noodles. She also taught me much about prayer. She would get up every morning at 4:00 a.m., light a jaw stick, and pray to her God of Mercy, Kwan Yin.

As a young boy in our Catholic school run by the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I was taught in catechism class that the Catholic Church was the one true Church, and that those who did not belong to the Church would go to hell. The lesson made me fear for Ah Kui, whom I loved very much even though she was not a Catholic. One day, hoping to convert her to Catholicism, I told her of my concern. I told her that unless she would embrace Catholicism, she would end up in hell. Very gently, she replied: “Joel, you have your God, I have my God. You pray, serve, your God; I pray, serve, my God. In the end, same God!” I didn’t understand it then, and perhaps still do not understand it now, especially since it did not square with what the sisters were telling me in school. But, loving Ah Kui, I accepted it as true, feeling pain that what separated us could not be otherwise.

But, accepting it, I felt peace. This was not in my hands, but in God’s. As she was, Ah Kui was God’s gift.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 4.16.36 PMIt should be clear that religious diversity does not mean superficial religious relativism – which does not do justice to the religious experience. It is not the case that it really doesn’t matter what religion you have. It is not the case that you choose a religion as you choose between celphones in a mall or between cars in a display room. It does matter. Truth matters, even though in our human condition truth often escapes us. There is really but one God. There is only one God. But this God is always greater than our concepts of him; he is always more magnificent and more surprising than our attempts to reduce him to our limited understandings of him.

Religious diversity therefore is a matter of relgious mystery. For those who truly love and live their religion, there is pain in this diversity and regret that it cannot be otherwise. But there is also peace. Because this is a matter ultimately not in their hands. There is a mystery here greater than they.

We hold to religious freedom as is proclaimed by our faith and protected by our State. It is the freedom of each individual to choose his or her religion according to conscience. This is not arbitrariness, which is anchored neither in reason nor in insight into profound mystery. The is rather the religion through which one is led to God. Better, it is the religion through which God leads one to himself. It is less the religion which I choose in my freedom, but more the religion through which I am chosen by God in his freedom, and to which I freely commit myself in accepting his call.

Thus, knowing this is the one God’s action in our world, I don’t have to force the way God has chosen me (as Tboli, Teduray, Christian or Muslim) on others. For this is not my prerogative. I can freely accept that I am different from others, and they different from me. Knowing the one God calls all to himself in different ways, I can hope that God in in his compassion will lead us eventually together in unity and peace.

As President of this Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino university therefore, I invite the Muslim community to live its faith rooted in the divine revelation that you celebrate this Leilatul Qadr in diversty towards one God in peace – Salaam! This is not the peace of the graveyard, but the peace of mediated diversity. Rooted in your faith in Allah – in the radicality (rootedness) of your faith – share the implications of your faith with other Muslims (where diversity is too often tragically disrespected), non-Muslims (whose faiths your faith can enrich), the poor, the outcast, the excluded (on whom the Almighty looks with compassion), and the common good – the good which excludes no one and brings each and all to optimum human flourishing in a given historical situation. We share the common good with with the Lumad, the Muslims of differing receptions, the Hindus, the Sikhs, the agnostics, the atheists. Share with us and the Filipino community how Muslims are to live in freedom and peace with each other – despite diversty; how the Muslims are to live in Filipino communities with peoples of others faiths; how the historical injustices committed against the Muslim community in the Philippines are to be corrected; how the Muslims are to fight the lack of education in their communities; how the Muslims are to fight a traditionalism not essential to Islam that keeps the entrenched entrenched through holding others poor, uneducated and servile; how  the Muslims are to protect and preserve the environment (as in our forests, minerals and Liguasan Marsh); how the Muslims are to contribute their shared genius to a common Philippine good.

Thank you for your faith in one God – that contrasts with others’ idolatry of power and money. Thank you for your purificative fasting – that contrast with the others’ complacency and sensuality. Thank you for your care for the poor – that contrasts with others’ exploitation of the poor. Thank you for your prigrimage to the center of your faith – that contrasts with the stubbornness of others to remain closed in on themselves. May the lived pillars of your faith lead you and others to peace!


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A Roadmap for the Development of Higher Education in the Philippines

[Higher Education Leadership Forum Philippines (Manila, 28-29 June 2016)]

I would like to thank the organizers of this forum for inviting me to share my personal reflections on critical issues which affect Higher or Tertiary Education in the Philippines. I would like to do so in the framework the Roadmap for Philippine Tertiary Education of the Coordinating Council of Philippine Educational Associations (COCOPEA), the umbrella organization of five different private educational associations[1], uniting some 2,500 colleges, universities and technical-vocational institutions or Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines. This Roadmap was unanimously approved just last May 19, 2016 by the COCOPEA Board of Trustees. I was part of the committee which worked on it, complementing an earlier version of the Roadmap articulated by Dr. Don Brodeth.[2] Presenting the approved COCOPEA Roadmap manifests my personal thoughts, but also the collective thought of COCOPEA.

Higher Education Drift

While the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, who campaigned as an education president (2010-2016), was a period of great energy, renewal, achievement and excitement for basic education due to the substantially successful K-12 reform, it was a period of drift for higher education. Part of this was because the magnitude of the K-12 reform required the nation and its educators to focus on its demands: deciding on how the international deficit of two years would be remedied, establishing through law a two-year senior high school (SHS, Grades 11-12) after high school (Grades 1-10, now Junior High School), determining how to decongest and improve the old curriculum, how to insure greater survival of student cohorts, how to integrate erstwhile tertiary level courses ejected into SHS, how to make senior high school a general preparation for college while accepting that many students could opt to work immediately after graduation, how to establish SHSs appropriate to the cultures of our indigenous peoples, how to provide enough teachers and classrooms for SHS through partnership with the private sector, how to fund SHS, and how to manage the effects of SHS on the tertiary operation.

The general focus of educational policymakers and administrators was on SHS, or on the effect its introduction would have on HEIs, especially on stand-alone HEIs. It was not on tertiary education. Meanwhile CHED’s vision of being “a key leader and effective partner in transforming HEIs towards producing highly competent and productive professionals through dynamic, excellent, and client-oriented services” remained a mere vision, with competent and productive professionals being produced in the absence of or despite CHED’s “leadership and partnership;” they were also produced in the relative absence of “dynamic, excellent and client-oriented services”. In pursuit of its mission: “…to provide effective central policy direction and implement programs and mechanisms to ensure affordable quality higher education accessible to all” CHED’s apparent central policy direction, CM0 46 s. 2012, was confused, onerous, paralyzing and divisive. Part of this was its major attempt to link quality assurance with HEI typology and outcomes-based education, while there was no general consensus on what “quality” is, and therefore no consensus on the crucial importance in quality assurance of minimum standards, academic excellence, the implementation of the HEIs vision and mission, and the responsiveness of the HEI to its stakeholders.

In the discussions, outcomes-based education, outcomes-based quality assurance, learner outcomes and competencies were confused. For CHED, the major stakeholder of Philippine higher education was – apodictically – industry and the jobs market aligned with the economic goals of the Aquino administration, while many HEIs considered their major stakeholder not industry but society as a whole with its complex problems of moral degeneration, unbridled consumerism, economies that exclude and marginalize people, corruption, environmental destruction, religious extremism, and loss of cultural identities in a globalized world. CMO 46’s typologies were contentious in their requirements and the attempt at “outcomes-based quality assurance” – different from outcomes-based education – was an attempt at absurdity. For how assure the quality of outcomes if assurance is based on outcomes? Meanwhile, relative weights for program accreditation vs. Institutional Sustainability Assessment were contentious.

Officials’ admissions that at least the language of CMO 46 had to be altered to protect the guaranteed academic freedom of HEIs were ignored in actual policy, allowing the confusion and frustration to fester. Thus, the determination of autonomous and de-regulated schools based on CMO 46 was postponed and re-postponed in the confusion. The announcement of the new or renewed autonomous and de-regulated HEIs, which should have been made in 2014, was published only last month,[3] but now with no clarification from CHED as to why the autonomous or deregulated status for a few schools was effective for five years, but for the majority for three years, and for others for one year. The effect on many schools was demoralization. Over the years, the schools had spent valuable time, expense and energy trying to understand and comply with vague policies and non-transparent criteria; the outcome was a list of autonomous and deregulated schools whose criteria of selection and duration of validity were opaque, if not arbitrary.[4]

Meanwhile CHED’s mission to “implement programs and mechanisms to ensure affordable quality higher education accessible to all” relied on enhancing public provision of education through an increase in SUCs[5] and scholarship assistance focused on state-funded SUCs, rather than on private HEIs. This left huge sums of scholarship money unused, that is, large numbers of potential scholars unsupported.[6] The policy option to favor public schools in scholarship distribution exacerbated the unlevel playing field between public and private schools, where CHED’s “reasonable regulation” can close private schools which the State does not fund, but not public schools created by law which the State funds. Under the 1987 Constitution which considers the role of the private sector “indispensible” for development and recognizes the complementary roles between public and private schools within a system of education the State is mandated to provide, what little “leadership” CHED provided in supporting private HEIs and public private partnerships was either largely ineffective[7] or legally dubious.[8]

What contributed to the tertiary education drift was CHED’s lack of leadership in bringing about a clear consensus among academically free HEIs as to development of tertiary education in the Philippines. Where would higher education go? Conferences on policy directions involving public and private universities were convened by the private sector with a focus on industry needs, not by CHED with a focus on broader national needs. Today, Philippine Tertiary Education is marching in mark time: marching, but not clearly going anywhere. Meanwhile, in exercise of academic freedom, the community of HEIs, public and private, did not determine clear targets of how it could function in the service of truth, including not only the economy, but also such as the environment, the development of renewable energy, the effect of media on morality, and the historical injustice done over the centuries to Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao? Could it not have worked to achieve and deepen a shared understanding of academic freedom complemented by quality assurance? Could it not have worked to address the complementary roles of public and private schools in a State-provided system of education that must be accessible to all? Could it not have addressed the challenge of quality assurance according to ASEAN or international standards, and not have been confined to CMO 46? Could it not have reflected on how best to use available public funds for the development of a higher education system that necessarily includes the private sector? While the CHED is a body of academic peers designed to engage academically free HEIs in consensus building, its Chair shied away from direct dialogue and consensus building with HEI leaders and preferred to govern by fiat. Among so many educated educational leaders, CHED positions were necessarily contentious. They were introduced in a CHED culture of consultations that do not encourage study, thought and reflection, where criticism is unwelcome, and problems unresolved. The other commissioners, higher education peers, who could have catalyzed the dialogue among the educators, behaved like undersecretaries and obeyed the Chair. Meanwhile, the higher education community continued to operate largely tangential to the CHED bureaucracy, avoiding engagement lest actual HEI operations be disturbed. The less CHED interference, the better.

Ironically, because the CHED governed fundamentally by fiat, as in the determination of program content through the policies, standards and guidelines determined by the central Technical Working Groups, academically free HEIs throughout the country became increasingly, if not fully, dependent on the determinations of the Technical Working Committees, binding as “minimum standards” on all, despite the fact that in some cases these were not minimum but optimum standards determined by the educators of certain select HEIs mostly in the NCR. The increasing dependence progressively killed the academic freedom and eros to search for new truth, for better ways to discover truth, for more effective ways to teach truth in local situations, for improved ways of serving the community through truth. All the higher education institutions had to do was to wait for the program requirements promulgated by CHED based on the deliberation of the related TWG; initiative to innovate old programs and create new was killed. While the 1987 Constitution mandated “the enjoyment of academic freedom in all institutions of higher learning”[9] and RA 7722 mandated CHED to “ensure and protect academic freedom” and “promote its exercise and observance for the continuing intellectual growth, the advancement of learning and research, the development of responsible and effective leadership, the education of high-level and middle-level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage”[10] the whole relationship between CHED and the HEIs was not promoting but killing the exercise of academic freedom in the HEIs. It was not the HEIs exercising academic freedom, but the CHED; not the 2500 HEIs of the country, a rich resource for innovation and new learning, but the five Commissioners, or in some cases, the CHED Chair. Willy nilly, CHED usurped academic freedom from the HEIs.

Where the Roadmap leads. 

It is from the midst of this situation that the COCOPEA Roadmap emerges, a roadmap based on the Vision and Mission of COCOPEA. In its Vision statement, COCOPEA assumes “the strong and leading role of private education” in the Philippines “as vital to human development.” In its Mission statement, COCOPEA declares that it “advances, promotes and protects (1) Academic freedom; (2) Quality education; (3) the essential complementarity between public and private education; (4) the healthy governance of private higher educational institutions based on autonomous self-governance and reasonable government regulation; (5) personal development, social justice and the common good.

Against the higher educational drift, the marching in mark time, COCOPEA envisions a clear objective or goal based on principles of the 1987 Constitution and on its own vision and mission:

COCOPEA’s ultimate goal is a “complete, adequate and integrated system of quality higher education”[11] for ALL[12] in the Philippines. This is composed of public and private HEIs working in necessary and achieved complementarity[13] in the pursuit and in the communication of truth in academic freedom through:

  • instruction and formation of the human person;
  • research and innovation; and
  • service to the community.

COCOPEA believes that part of the complementarity between public and private education is the articulation of the constitutional recognition “of the indispensible role the private sector plays in development”[14] and nowhere is this more evident than in education.

COCOPEA also sees this higher education system to be governed autonomously (free from ephemeral [party] political interference, the control of stakeholder interests, the control of the economic elite) and supported appropriately by public funds and reasonable government regulation.

In this goal, one may appreciate six integrated parts: (1) the mandated system of education the State must provide for all; (2) within this system, the complementarity between public and private education; (3) academic freedom in pursuit of truth through instruction, research and service to the community complemented by quality assurance; (4) autonomous self-governance by the HEIs vested with academic freedom, not CHED; (5) the use of public funds to support this system, and finally (6) reasonable government regulation. It is to pursue this goal that COCOPEA articulates its Roadmap.

The Roadmap treats four major aspects of this goal. Each aspect is discussed. Each discussion leads to concrete action resolutions. In this presentation I will only choose points which I consider urgent agenda vs. current realities.

Advancing, promoting and protecting academic freedom and quality education 

COCOPEA stresses the constitutional guarantee of academic freedom enjoyed by all HEIs and the mandate of CHED to ensure and protect academic freedom and to promote its exercise and observance. This was discussed above.

The academic freedom of the HEIs – “institutional academic freedom” – includes “the right of an HEI to decide and adopt its objectives and determine how these objectives can best be obtained, free from outside coercion and interference”[15] That includes government coercion and interference.

It is in harmony with the jurisprudential understanding of academic freedom as the right of the institution to determine who may teach, whom may be taught, what is taught, how it is taught.[16]

More fundamentally, in its Roadmap goal, COCOPEA links academic freedom to the pursuit and communication of truth through instruction, research and service to the community.

It aligns itself therefore with the traditional finality of the university as the pursuit of truth in academic freedom, and therefore rejects the external subjugation of the university, the HEI, or the community of HEIs to the needs and objectives of a religious aggrupation like the Catholic Church or Islam, a political entity such as the nation[17], or a national or global concern like the interdependent economies of the nation or globe.

It recognizes that HEIs must proactively exercise this academic freedom, using its own community of professors, teachers, researchers and scholars to teach, discover and serve truth in stakeholder communities, and not be dependent on CHED to determine this for them. Beyond the notions a particular political administration may have of the needs of the economy, the HEIs are free to criticize the nature of those needs or the validity of the economic model in the interests of truth. The HEIs are free to reject obeisance to a notion of a “quality nation” externally and arbitrarily imposed.

Beyond the economy and the nation, the HEIs are free to pursue the truth of God, nature and the human being in human society. They are free to investigate the truth of religious freedom or coercion, environmental degradation, excessive and wasteful consumerism, social exclusion, moral degeneration, violence arising from religious exclusiveness and extremism. They are free to investigate social diversity and the planet based on the social and natural sciences, the first principles in the contemplation of being, and the meaning of revelation for our world today, if indeed revelation is an object and condition of faith. They are free to articulate the historical injustice done to the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples in Philippine history and to warn society of the consequences in climate change of failure to reduce carbon emissions. They are free to bring these investigations to bear on current society.

Academic freedom distinguishes higher education from basic education, and its institutional exercise is essential for quality higher education. Here, quality refers to the ability of the HEI to achieve minimum standards set by government, to distinguish itself in surpassing minimum standards to achieve academic excellence through learning, research and service outcomes, to implement its mission and vision declared in academic freedom, and to respond to its stakeholders.

Because academic freedom is linked to truth and quality education, in the interest of truth and quality, it implies quality assurance. In academic freedom, HEIs engage freely in quality assurance. Quality assurance on the level of both academic programs and institutions is their responsibility in academic freedom. COCOPEA states: “Academic freedom without quality assurance is reckless; however, quality assurance without academic freedom is empty.” Imposed quality assurance that kills academic freedom kills higher education. Externally imposed quality assurance that subjects HEIs to goals they do not freely embrace kills academic freedom.

In pursuit of academic freedom, COCOPEA commits itself, among others to: (1) Undertake, in consultation with other concerned sectors, a review of paralyzing governmental regulation or programs that violate institutional academic freedom and ensure that regulation sticks to minimum standards pursuant to the legal mandate granted to the CHED under RA 7722. (2) Take the lead in a national dialogue involving higher education leaders, academicians, education stakeholders, et al, towards achieving a collective understanding of “quality” in higher education.

Advancing, promoting and protecting the essential complementarity between public and private education.

The role of private education in the Philippines cannot be taken lightly. The Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST) of the Dominicans was established in 1611. The Ateneo de Manila and the Colegio de San Jose of the Jesuits were established in 1859 and 1601 respectively. The Protestant Silliman University was established in 1901.   All were operating and producing higher education graduates long before the State-run University of the Philippines was established in 1908.

CHED was established by law only in 1994.

Among the finest and most innovative of the nation’s HEIs are private. Many of these are operating in remote areas.

Today there are 1708 private HEIs operating in the PH as opposed to 227 public HEIs.

However, despite the greater number of private HEIs, the share of the public HEIs in higher education enrollment has been increasing.

Using available comparative figures between SY 2008-09 and SY 2014-15, the total enrollment increased from 2,627,799 to 3,911,796. The total enrollment in public HEIs increased from 984,245 to 1,684,088 or by 71%. For public schools therefore there was a marked increase in its share of the total enrollment from 37.5% to 44.2%. On the other hand, while the total enrollment in the private HEIs increased from 1,643,503 to 2,127,693, the percentage share for private HEIs decreased from 62.5% to 55.8%.

With the increasing clamor for access to higher education, Congress seems inclined to yield to the pressure of voters for more SUCs, despite CHEDs discouragement of new HEIs for reasons of quality.   Public funding and scholarship money has poured into SUCs to increase access, even as SUCs are now charging tuition, providing crippling state-funded competition to some private HEIs.

Funding for SUCs increased from P19,338,337,000 in 2008 to P35,934,625,000 in 2014 to P47,414,727,000 in 2016, an increase of 185% between 2008 and 2014 (for an increase in student population of only 71%), or of 245% between 2008 and today. Should the share of the public schools in the enrollment keep increasing, even forcing some private HEIs out of business, would government be able to afford it? Will the overall quality of the educational system increase or decrease with decreasing private sector share in the total enrollment? While some SUCs are excellent, a major problem of SUCs is their vulnerability to the meddling of party politicians and their lack of effective supervision from CHED due to their charters. While some private HEIs are excellent, their excellence seems to depend on charging high fees.

In this context, the COCOPEA Roadmap position is: “COCOPEA believes that the Philippine Government, in its responsibility to ‘protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels’[18] must view the private HEIs as indispensable partners to ensure that quality higher education is made ‘accessible to all’[19]. The Constitution recognizes the ‘complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system…”[20] even as the State ‘shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions.’[21] Moreover, the State “affirms the ‘indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.’[22]

On the basis of this indispensible partnership and complementarity, COCOPEA, among others, undertakes to advocate “that in all educational legislation the principle of ‘leveling the playing field’ for all public and private HEIs be heeded. Moreover the government regulatory framework on HEIs must exhibit this “level playing field.” Among many measures advocated in this context: “an increase of Public-Private Partnerships in favor of private HEIs, Educational Service Contracting for tertiary education, equality of compensation between public and private school teachers for similar disciplines, equity in distribution of state-funded scholarships between private and public schools., etc.”

Advancing the healthy governance of higher educational institutions based on autonomous self-governance and supported by public funds and reasonable regulation.

Since the 1987 Constitution mandates the enjoyment of academic freedom in HEIs, and the law mandates CHED to “ensure and protect academic freedom and to promote and exercise its observance” stating that “nothing in this Act shall be construed as limiting the academic freedom on universities and colleges”[23], HEIs cannot be governed by orders as the basic education schools are governed by the Secretary of Education, but must be self governing in the implicit autonomy of academic freedom limited only by its finality in truth and quality education, as discussed above.

The Roadmap states:

“COCOPEA believes that higher education (the complete, adequate and integrated system of higher education) governs itself. CHED as a collegial body [not only of commissioners but of higher education academic peers], supports and calls forth this self-governance per RA 7722 and promotes the complementarity between public and private education.

“CHED, as the government agency created pursuant to RA 7722, must understand that it is not “above” the higher education community. All universities, whether public (organized directly by the State) or private (organized by the private sector in contribution to the work of the State) are created by law and subject to the governance of the higher education community which the CHED serves. As such, CHED shall confine itself in academic regulation to minimum standards for programs and institutions after consultations with the higher education community. It shall set these minimum standards[24] and enforce them, whenever possible.

“However CHED can and should encourage awards and celebrate programs for outstanding academic instruction, research and service to the community. It can also shut down programs or institutions that do not achieve or follow minimum standards. Beyond minimum standards, all HEIs should be free to govern themselves – in academic freedom and quality assurance.”

“This understanding of ‘healthy governance’ fosters dialogue and consensus building on shared governance. ‘Healthy governance’ also connotes distribution of state funds for HEIs, whether public or private, accordance to evidenced quality or accessibility demands.”

In this context COCOPEA advocates, among others, “(1) the fulfillment by CHED of its mandates as articulated in RA 7722 [Sec.8], (2) the study of the Government regulatory framework relative to the over-regulation of private higher education; (3) the self governance in academic freedom and quality assurance by all HEIs”. A consensus on how must be achieved.

COCOPEA would represent the private sector.

Advancing, promoting and protecting advocacies on personal development, social justice, and the common good.

The final aspect of Roadmap goal is determined by the COCOPEA mission and pertains to shared content accepted in academic freedom: matters which pertain to the development of the person, to social justice and the common good.

The development of the person includes issues of human freedom, moral formation, the human individual, and human culture and society. Beyond commutative and distributive justice, COCOPEA focus on social justice. Social justice leads to the common good – that state where each person and every person thrives optimally as human beings within a given set of historical conditions.  Because of the depth or contentiousness of these foci, the are most fruitfully treated within the multi-disciplinarity of higher education institutions. Among the concrete topics listed in the Roadmap are:

  • Love for Philippine identity and national heritage.
  • Wealth creation and its equitable distribution.
  • Environmental conservation and protection.
  • Personal development (self-awareness, service to society, cultural sensitivity, leadership)
  • The common good
  • Conflict resolution (i.e., economic development vs. environment; public good vs. private good; human rights vs peace and order)
  • Religious inclusiveness and tolerance

Ladies and Gentlemen, if in this conference we are looking for where educational leadership pertinent to higher education in the Philippines is necessary, the COCOPEA Roadmap for Higher Education provides ample challenge for leadership. First, that the HEIs themselves, whether private or public, lead in academic freedom in setting the directions for Philippine higher education, and in this context determine what to teach, whom to teach, who may teach and how to teach. Second, that government truly promote and protect the enjoyment of academic freedom in each HEI and in all HEIs, focusing its activities on setting minimum standards for programs and institutions, and enforcing these. Third, that the private sector lead in achieving consensus on the demands of quality and quality assurance in Philippines. Fourth, that that the private sector and government lead in achieving genuine complementarity between public and private HEIs. Fifth, that the HEI community govern itself in the academic freedom granted HEIs by the Constitution. The HEIs must lead in establishing the structures of their self-governance, and that legislators lead in dismantling the ill-used, if not illegal customary powers of CHED through which it usurps the academic freedom of the HEIs. In this manner let the HEIs lead in providing the country critically needed resources in reliable and innovative instruction, research and service to the Philippine and human community.



[1] COCOPEA’s member associations with number of members: Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ACSCU, 210), Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP, 2340), Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU, 160), Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAPSCU, 120), Technical-Vocational School Association of the Philippines (TEVSAPHIL, 400)

[2] Submitted to the COCOPEA Board as commissioned by the same by Dr. Don Brodeth on Nov. 25, 2015.

[3] CMO 20 s. 2016

[4] In the last COCOPEA Board Meeting of May 19, 2016 it was reported that when the Commission saw the original list of only a few Autonomous and De-Regulated schools, it ordered the list increased.

[5] Despite CHED’s efforts to discourage new SUCs, their number increased from 205 in 2008-09 to 227 in 2014-15. In the same period the percentage of total enrollment in public schools increased from 37.5% to 44.2%, while the percentage of total enrollment in private schools decreased from 62.5% to 55.8%.

[6] The Commission on Audit (COA) report on CHED’s 2014 performance showed “internal control weaknesses in the administration of the CHED’s Student Funding Assistance Program (STUFAP). These affect the allocation of beneficiary slots, and the processing of claims and their release. Findings: (a) Allotments of 1.23 billion are unutilized. These delay the availment by students of the program in the CHED regional offices (CHEDROs). (b) The total slot allocation of 391,837 students is beyond the absorptive capacity of the CHEDROs to which they were downloaded. (c) For 703 grantees, there are excess, double or multiple payments of benefits totaling PHP 3,441,500. This reeks not only of inefficiency but of fraud. (d) The payment of benefits through cash advances by the cashier and other officials had a total unliquidated year-end balance of PHP 108,001,505 in CHEDROs I, V, and VI. Here there are no assurances that the grantees received their educational assistance.

[7] Whereas DepEd entered into public-private partnerships (PPPs) with private schools through Educational Service Contracting and the Voucher Program for public school gradates opting to study in SHSs, there is no such broad program for government and private tertiary education. Meanwhile, the COA report for 2014 on the Philippine California Advanced Research Institutes (PCARI) project shows only 0.28 percent of its 2.846 billion were used due to policy differences between CHED and the DOST.

[8] Cf. COA report for 2014, paragraphs 178, 182-184, 189-191

[9] Par. 2, Sec. 5, Article XIV

[10] Sec. 2, RA7722. cf. also Sec. 13 “Guarantee of Academic Freedom”: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as limiting the academic freedom of universities and colleges….”

[11] Adapted from par. 1. sec 2, art. XIV of the 1987 Constitution

[12] cf. par. 1. sec 1, art. XIV of the 1987 Constitution

[13] cf. par. 1. sec 4, art. XIV of the 1987 Constitution

[14] cf. sec 2, art. XIV of the 1987 Constitution

[15] cf. par 2, sec. 5, art. XIV of the 1987 Constitution, and Supreme Court of the Philippines, GR 183572)

[16] Cf. Enrique M. Fernando, “Academic Freedom as a Constitutional Right” written in the Philippine Law Journal, Vol. 52, No. 3-03: “Justice Frankfurter, with his extensive background in legal education as a former Professor of the Harvard Law School, referred to what he called the business of a university and thr four essential freedoms in the following language. ‘It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation, experiment and creation. It is an atmosphere in which there prevail ‘the four essential freedoms’ of a university: – to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study” (underscoring mine).

[17] Contentious, therefore, in CMO 46 s. 2013 is the apodictic determination by CHED that HEIs in the Philippines must “contribute to the building of a the quality nation…” (Art. 1. Sec 1) without even defining what a quality nation is. In a quality assurance document issued by CHED for all HEIs, public and private, the CHED determination was a cooptation of the right of HEIs to determine its relationship to the nation and to other aspects of truth, and so was a violation of academic freedom guaranteed to HEIs.   Academic freedom is vested in the HEIs, not in CHED.

[18] Sec. 1, Art. XIV, 1987 Philippine Constitution

[19] ibid.

[20] par. 1, Sec. 4, Art. XIV, 1987 Philippine Constitution

[21] ibid.

[22] Sec. 20, Art. 2., 1987 Philippine Constitution

[23] Sec. 13, RA 7722. Cf. also Sec. 2.

[24] Among the few clear powers of CHED: “set minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning recommended by panels of experts…” RA 7722, Sec. 8 (d).

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