Not Just Access, Quality!

[Official Statement of COCOPEA against current legislative proposals to improve access to higher education without improving quality.]


The Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) views with grave concern the currently proposed allocation of some eight billion pesos annually purportedly to improve universal access to higher education, without giving due attention to quality improvement.

The draft legislation in the Senate Committee on Education Culture and the Arts chaired by Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino proposes to use eight billion pesos annually either to subsidize the higher education of those who can afford to pay for it themselves in quality State Universities and Colleges, like UP, or to subsidize higher education in SUCs that are still struggling to achieve conditions of genuine quality higher education for the students they already have. The former wastes taxpayers’ money; the latter wastes lives.

The COCOPEA urges the Senate Committee to heed the mandate of the Constitution: “The State shall establish, maintain and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of people and society” (Art. XIV, Sec 2[1]) through which “the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” and ”accessible to all” is protected and promoted (Art. XIV, Sec 1). In this system the “complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system” (Art. XIV, Sec 4[1]) are duly recognized.

This is the sentiment of educators both in private and in public higher educational institutions.[i]

The Ambisyon 2040 vision of the Duterte administration of general prosperity through social justice is consistent with the educational mandate of the Constitution to “inculcate” in our students “patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country” and “teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge and promote vocational efficiency” (Art. 14. Sec 3[2]). This vision must be supported by a robust Philippine educational system providing rational access to quality human and professional formation in implementation of a Philippine humanpower development plan.

Providing more access to poor quality institutions is like providing more access to MRTs and LRTs that don’t run, or like putting more refugees on boats that sink from overloading.


COCOPEA lauds allocating more taxpayers’ money for higher education. But in so doing it is imperative to:

  • Support the complete, adequate and integrated system of Philippine education;
  • Provide not only for access to higher education but for quality higher education;
  • Insist on quality assurance mechanisms that are consistent with the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network and the ASEAN Quality Reference Framework;
  • Strengthen the complementarity between public and private higher educational institutions by equitable distribution of government funding based on the absorptive capacity of the higher educational institutions and their ability to deliver quality higher education;
  • Based on this complementarity fund quality improvement both in public and private higher educational institutions;
  • Encourage the private sector to invest more in quality education based on the recognized indispensible role of the private sector in the Philippine economy (Article II, Sec. 20).

We thank our legislators for engaging COCOPEA in crafting meaningful educational legislation. We continue to be willing to work closely with them towards a complete adequate and integrated system of public and private education responsive to the needs of our people.


[Statement approved unanimously by the Presidents of the COCOPEA member associations , Dr Miguel Udtohan, ACSCU;  Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, CEAP; Prof. Dhanna Kerinna Rodas, PACU, Dr. Jose Paolo Campos, PAPSCU, and Dr. Horacio Montefrio, TVSA on Dec. 5, 2016.]


[i] These sentiments were articulated in a fruitful first-ever meeting of the COCOPEA with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) in Manila last November 22, 2016 under the encouragement of Sen. Bam Aquino and of CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12-13, 2017 in Davao.

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The Changing Educational Landscape: Challenges


[Address: Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) General Assembly 2016, Manila, November 10-11, 2016.]


The theme of our national convention is “The Changing Educational Landscape: the Reality and the Challenges.” The changing landscape is affecting all of us who are serious educators. I would like to share my personal reflections on this situation with you.

Changing Educational Landscape

Why is the educational landscape changing?

“Change is coming,” President Duterte promised us in his campaign. With his election, we know, change has come: the seriousness of the use of illegal drugs nationwide is being addressed with its costs and consequences stirring up controversy locally and internationally. A new independence in foreign policy is signaled in manifest greater friendship with China, Japan and ASEAN countries, greater independence from the United States and the Western world, and manifest openness to Russia. Startling progress has been achieved in waging peace between the Government of Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and between the Government of the Philippines and the Muslim Communities in the country, now encompassing not only the MILF but the MNLF. Dramatic progress has been achieved in favor of the environment, “our common home”, in the work that the administration through Sec. Gina Lopez has done, even as the economy continues to thrive. If you follow the surveys, the vast majority of the people have been satisfied, if not elated, by the changes. A minority has not. The loudest outcry has been against the so-called “extra-judicial killings” and the alleged violation of human rights. But this has not deterred the President from pursuing what he considers right for the Filipino people. We all know, some great elation, others with deep trepidation, “Change is here.”

The changing national landscape in the global world cannot not affect the educational landscape – even if President Duterte himself has not made dramatic policy announcements concerning education. He does not style himself as “an education president” as did his predecessor. In fact, we are relieved that he is no longer saying that mathematics education in the Philippines should be confined to business mathematics. But his actions and policy directions signal profound changes in the educational landscape. And this is not just because of his ill-mannered cursing in public, which God has told him to stop. Ultimately the changes in the educational landscape must come because of the values with which he inspires and propels his administration: “Love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished – these are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize as we commence our journey towards a better Philippines,” he said in his Inaugural Speech of 30 June 2016. “Enduring peace” he stated in his first SONA, 25 July “can be attained only if we meet the fundamental needs of every man, woman and child.” These are values of social justice; they are as profoundly humane as they are deeply Christian. Where we are still dominated by an oligarchy, these values necessitate nothing short of a social revolution. The envisioned future of the administration is: “By 2040, the PH shall be a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor; our peoples shall live long and healthy lives, be smart and innovative, and shall live in a high-trust society.” Within a quarter of a century, the economic structures which preserve an elite that wields power, wealth and influence for its private ends at the cost of the poor and the destruction of our common home shall have been dismantled, and a robust, intelligent and innovative middle class shall be installed. That challenge must necessarily change the educational landscape.

Secondly, The educational landscape is also changing because of ASEAN. Last year, during the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was adopted. It aims to “implement economic integration initiatives” to create a single market across ASEAN nations. Unto this end, regional economic integration includes: (1) a single market and production base, (2) a highly competitive economic region, (3) a region of fair economic development, and (4) a region fully integrated into the global economy. Cooperation unto these ends include human resource development; recognition of professional qualifications, the free movements of goods and services, among others.[1] This impacts immediately on the educational landscape: people trained professionally in our schools are trained not only for our market, but for ASEAN markets; they must be competent not only for local standards.

As much attention has been given to ASEAN as an economic community, less attention has been given to it as a security community and as a socio-cultural community. The ASEAN Vision 2020 sees its members as “outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity” with provisions on: peace and stability, being nuclear free, human development, sustainable development, being drug-free, environment, etc. Where the Philippines’ outward vision has been more western than Asian, where we have been plagued by war and conflict due to religious difference and social injustice, where human development is stunted by poverty and poor access by major portions of the population to quality education, where much of our development is based on an economy of reckless consumption and exploitation of unrenewable natural resources, where the victory of a controversial war on drugs is still outstanding, ASEAN affects the educational landscape in demanding critical thought and consequent transformational education both on the basic and higher education levels

Thirdly, the educational landscape in the Philippines is changing because education is increasingly regarded in the Philippines as the 1987 Constitution sees it: not as different isolated parts, but as a whole, a system. It is not just basic education apart from higher education apart from technical education and thinking about access as opposed to quality as opposed to modes of educational provision. The 1987 Constitution provides that the State shall “establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society” (Art. 14, Sec. 2, par. 1) recognizing “the complementary roles of the public and private institutions in the educational system” (Art. 14, sec 4). “System” is a demanding word. Parts are meaningful as they relate to the whole, and the whole is incomprehensible except in its relationship to its parts. The development of one part to the detriment of another part hurts the whole; the development of the whole involves the complementary development of the parts. Thinking systemically in the light of the Constitution, the development of the educational system in the Philippines for which the State is responsible cannot favor the development of the public schools over the private schools nor the private schools over the public; it cannot think of access without thinking of quality, not of quality without thinking of access; it cannot think of educational governance which fails to preserve the public and private schools with their respective advantages, nor fails to make these two types of schools work together to the shared common goal of optimum Philippine Education.

Fourthly, the educational landscape is changing because after the K-12 basic education reform, more attention is now being focused on higher education. There has been more attention given CHED, its accomplishments and shortcomings. Today there are a total of 1,934 HEIs in the country, 1,706 private (88%) and 228 public (12%). But there are 2.22 million students going to private schools (54%) and 1.88 million going to public schools (46%).[2] COCOPEA, representing private educations, has come out with its Roadmap for Philippine Higher Education.[3] Recently, there has been aggressive legislative push to increase access to higher education by making SUCs tuition-free. This drew widespread criticism and disagreement from such as CHED, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), including the CEAP, and, very significantly, the Philippine Association for State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).

Four Burning Issues

With all these changes in the educational landscape, four major issues are being tackled in the Philippines: access, complementarity, quality assurance, and governance.

Access. The Constitution states: “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education for at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all” (Art. 14 Sec 1). “Accessible to all”: does the State do this through SUCs or LCUs which charge tuition or do not charge tuition? Through private HEIs which charge tuition or do not charge tuition? Is accessibility enhanced or harmed if public education kills private education through such as free tuition or aggressive scholarship programs for public education alone – which would draw students populations away from the private schools.

Complementarity between Public and Private Schools. The issue here is what is the necessary complementarity between public and private schools that guarantees both universal accessibility and quality educations. The right the State must protect and promote is not only for accessibility for all but to quality education for all.

Quality Assurance: The key issues here: can we educators in the Philippines agree on a definition of quality, even if in the world there is no universally agreed-upon definition. How do we assure higher education quality evenly in SUCs, in LCUs, and in private HEIs.

Governance/Academic Freedom. The key issue here is how do you govern HEIs that are declared academically free? “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning,” the Constitution says (Article 14, Sec. 5, par. 2). “The State shall insure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercise and observance…” (RA 7722, Sec. 2) Isn’t the only appropriate governance for academically free HEIs self-governance? Secondly, how do you evenly govern HEIs when some HEIs, the SUCs, are created by law, others, the LCUs, are created by ordinance through the Local Government Code, and others operate through the recognition of CHED? How does the State govern the higher education system to promote accessibility and quality complementarily?

PAASCU’S Enduring Contribution to Philippine Education

PAASCU’s enduring contribution to Philippine Education is quality assurance. It has made this contribution through a culture of voluntary accreditation sustained by peers that assures quality, namely, that minimum academic standards are met, that academic excellence is recognized, that the mission and vision of the school is attained, and that the external stakeholders in the school are satisfied. It has done this in the Philippines in a manner that is respected and recognized internationally.

The data on PAASCU’s current membership and survey activities are in your kits.

Within the ASEAN context, which is changing the local educational landscape, PAASCU has helped shape quality assurance in ASEAN as a member of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN) whose mission is “to share information, to build capacity, and to establish the ASEAN Regional Quality Framework (AQAF). This Framework, it has been agreed, now consists of four thematic interrelated principles, namely, (1) the external quality assurance agency, (2) the external quality assurance processes, (3) the internal quality assurance, and (4) the national qualifications framework. PAASCU continues to work according to this AQAF. It is a quality assurance agency external to the school, using processes of quality assurance external to the school that check on its programs and its institutional status, that complements the school’s own internal processes of itself taking responsibility for quality with the Philippine National Qualifications Framework. Through adherence to and promotion of the AQAF, PAASCU supports a common reference point aligning quality assurance systems in ASEAN against which all quality assurance systems in ASEAN benchmark. In the process recognition of qualification throughout ASEAN is enabled and higher education among countries is harmonized. A Filipino employer will understand what the competencies of a graduate of BS Civil Engineering in Indonesia and in Singapore are through the degree he holds from an accredited school, just as an employer in Malaysia and Vietnam would know what the competencies of a graduate of an AB in English or Mathematics are from a accredited school in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, PAASCU continues in the Philippines uniquely to enjoy the respect and recognition of many international partners as listed in your kits. This year, PAASCU signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Accreditation Agency for Degree Programs in Engineering, Informatics, Natural Sciences and Mathematics (ASIIN) based in Germany.[4]

In the changing landscape of Philippine education, PAASCU continues to be a bastion of stable quality assurance enhanced by increasing international recognition and cooperation.


In this changing educational landscape where the national leadership is practically calling for a social and cultural revolution, where there is more consciousness of the system of quality education that the State must provide for all, where ASEAN is bringing us not only into a new economic community but into a new social and cultural identity, and where there is a new emphasis on higher education, ten days from now representatives from private sector higher education through COCOPEA and representatives from public sector higher education through PASUC shall meet here at the Century Park Sheraton. That in itself is hopeful change in the educational landscape! Normally the public and private HEIs don’t talk to each other. But they are now coming together in exercise of academic freedom and responsibility and are resolved to work out a “Framework of Complementarity between Public and Private Higher Education” for the common good of the Philippine educational system.

Towards articulating this Framework they will have five conversations.

The first is on “Providing Quality Education to the marginalized sector.” The concern is not only how public and private HEIs can complement each other in providing greater access to higher education for the marginalized sector, but the access must be to greater quality higher education. Providing the marginalized greater access to poor quality higher education is not only a waste of money. It is a waste of human lives.

Issues that must be tackled here include how higher education can in academic freedom contribute to the 2040 vision of a peaceful Philippines based on realized social justice within the rich, cultural socially-just community envisioned by ASEAN.

The second is on “Sustainability of Private and Public Higher Education.” Considering the constitutional mandate towards complementarity, how can public and private HEIs be sustained? After the K-12 experience of an 80% increase in salaries in the DepED, pulling teachers away from private schools, the powerful role of public money in sustaining not just the SUCs but the partnership of public and private schools in the system of Philippine education must be resolved.

The third is on leveling the playing field through Differentiated Markets. Can public and private schools cooperate more effectively by segmenting the market, e.g., the very poor students be handled the by the SUCs, and the financially-able students be handled by the private HEIs?

The fourth conversation concerns PAASCU most: Leveling the Playing Field between public and private schools through Quality Assurance. How can the quality of education in both private schools and state schools be assured, so that what is achieved in both these modes of the Philippine educational system can be recognized, compared, and, when warranted, supported for public funding. Here PAASCU would naturally advocate accreditation that is consistent with the AQAF as explained earlier whose principles are: an external quality assurance agency, external quality assurance processes, internal quality assurance culture, all consistent with the National Qualification framework.

The challenge is how both public and private HEIs can expand subscription to accreditation in the country. Our best recent figures from the Federation of Accrediting Associations of the Philippines (FAAP) show only a total of 546 accredited HEIs[5] out of CHED’s total of 1934 HEIs in the country. That is a good 28% of the HEIs, but only 28%.

Increasing accreditation within the Philippine educational system is an absolute imperative. The Constitution mandates the State not only to provide access to higher education for all, but to quality higher education (cf. Art XIV, Sec. 1).

Finally, the conversation on leveling the playing field through governance. This is not only a problem of governing academically free HEIs, it is also the challenge of fairly governing SUCs with their own legislated charters and private HEIs that are dependent on CHED for their permit to operate.

Bulwark of Stability

At this ungodly hour, you have been very patient. The educational landscape is certainly changing. As the earth quakes with values from the President that are sometimes startling, sometimes shocking, sometimes revolutionary, as our cities and countryside, our homes and gardens take on an increasingly ASEAN shape, as public and private schools take on together in unchartered territory the challenge of education within the Philippines and ASEAN, the bulwark that PAASCU is for stability in quality assurance with international recognition and respectability is of undeniable importance. You, our member schools, our accreditors, our commission members, our executive director have been that bulwark. You are the source of our energy and inspiration. Thank you for another exciting year. We look to the future with great optimism and hope.




[1] Pls see full article on ASEAN:

[2] cf: The figure for public HEIs excludes 454 satellite campuses.

[3] This includes a link to the original text.

[4] Akkreditierung für Studiengänge der Ingenieurwissenschaften, Informatik, Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik (ASIIN), now shortened to Akkreditierung Systeme und Institutionen, is a founding member of the European Network for the Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE) and a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). Cf:

[5] HEIs accredited by accrediting association according to FAAP are as follows: PAASCU, 222; PACUCOA (Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation), 167; ACSCU (Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities), 46; AACCUP (Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities in the Philippines), 111 or a total of 546. If the 454 SUC satellite campus are added to CHED’s total of HEIs, only 16.2% of 2388 HEIs would be accredited.   Data offered in are outdated.



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Rights-based and Faith-based Discipline in Higher Education

[Address: National Seminar on Student Discipline Administration in Higher Education sponsored by the Center for Certification and Accreditation of Student Services [CCASSI], Grand Convention Center, Cebu, Oct. 28, 2016.]
14894579_1489109277772796_1439769770_oThe topic that was assigned to me was intriguing: “Solving disciplinary cases through rights-based or faith-based approaches.”

Many, many years ago, when I was still young and full of hair, I went to Ateneo de Manila’s High School. It was a school that respected human rights and promoted the Catholic faith, certainly. But those of us who misbehaved were punished with what was then called, wack-wack – physical paddling by the Prefect of Discipline; those of us who misbehaved more seriously were given post – an hour of standing as still as a post in the late-afternoon sun. Looking back, I am not sure how disciplinary cases were “solved” by these punishments. Kids were punished and shamed at school for being naughty, as they were at home.   In this manner they learned to follow the rules. They took it in stride.   As did the majority of their parents, whose fathers had been brought up on the same discipline. Most of us in our class grew up to be rather respectable citizens. When we gather now as golden alumni, the gleeful reminiscing invariably recalls the daring antics of juvenile heroes that merited either wack-wack or post. We have a good laugh.

Now these corporal punishments are no longer practiced. Perhaps, rightly so. What was harmless wack-wack and post in our case, has in other cases been serious violence, psychological torture or emotional trauma. In our case it was Jesuit discipline; in other cases it was child abuse.
14858647_1489109424439448_507122773_oTherefore, the suggested topic: “solving disciplinary cases through rights-based or faith-based approaches.” “Rights-based” or “faith based”, I suppose, as opposed to authoritarian or tyrannical or retributive or arbitrary. But here I am not sure whether “solving” is an appropriate term for disciplinary cases, as if we were trying to balance a mathematical equation or solve a perplexing riddle. I’d also like to bring the mentioned “cases” to a more general level. With your indulgence, then, I’d like to speak simply in terms of rights-based and faith-based discipline in higher education, towards gaining insight into how these two approaches may affect the discipline of higher education.

We are therefore not just talking about Mario being caught cheating in a final exam, about Maria being pregnant out of wedlock, about Jose, the bully, having attacked a teacher in spitefulness, and about Cynthia using illegal drugs, and how to handle these cases.

Higher education itself requires a higher discipline.

I. Rights-based Discipline in the Context of Higher Education

In rights-based discipline, we are talking about discipline in the context of rights-based education.[1] Education, and, to the extent that one can desire and achieve it, higher education, is a human right. Our 1987 Constitution mandates the State to protect and promote this right: “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.” In this context, the Constitution mandates the State to establish a “complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society” (Secs. 1-2, Art. XIV).

This involves three interlinked and independent dimensions:

First, the right of access to education – the right of every child/student to education on the basis of equality of opportunity and without discrimination on any grounds.

Second, the right to quality education – the right to a quality education that enables him or her to fulfill his or her potential, realize opportunities for employment and develop life skills. If education is a right, it cannot be a right to bad education. The state fails when huge financial outlays for public higher education are legislated, but the quality of the education poor.

Third, the right to respect within the learning environment – the right of every child/student to respect for her or his inherent dignity and to have her or his universal human rights respected within the educational system.

a) In the case of student discipline, the third dimension of the human right to education is involved: the right to respect within the learning environment. This involves the following obligations for administrators and faculty:

  • Respect each student equally without discrimination on any grounds.
  • Teach respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • Give primary consideration to the best interests of the student who is yet a minor.
  • Respect the evolving capacities of the learner.
  • Respect the learners/students expressing their views on all matters of concern to them and have those views given due weight in accordance with the child’s age and maturity.
  • Respect the privacy of learners/students.
  • Take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the student’s dignity and all other rights of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Protect all children from all forms of physical violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligence.

In the administration of discipline in our schools, respect for students is essentially manifested through the observance of due process. This resonates positively with Sec. 1, Art. II of the Constitution, which says, “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” This entails the following:

  • The students must be informed in writing of the nature and cause of any accusation against them.
  • They shall have the right to answer the charges against them and with the assistance of counsel, if desired.
  • They shall be informed of the evidence against them.
  • They shall have the right to adduce evidence on their behalf.
  • The evidence must be duly considered by the investigating committee or official designated by the authorities to hear and decide the case. [2]

The right of the school to discipline is absorbed in the academic freedom under “what we teach.” Other rights-based approaches may include the imposition of a proportionate penalty; the principle of restorative justice, not retribution; the principle of non-discrimination.

Mario caught cheating may be penalized with failure of the exam or even of the course, but not expulsion. Jose, the bully, can be helped through his suspension to stop his bullying and respect authority. Maria can be helped through counseling to overcome the difficulties of her situation. Cynthia can be helped to get the treatment she needs to be freed of her addiction.

b) Certainly, however, in rights-based higher education, if it is at all to be achieved, the complex discipline that is required for quality higher education is as urgent as, if not more urgent than, the discipline required to solve particular cases of student misbehavior. This is the second dimension of rights-based education.

The community (universitas) of scholars and teachers came together originally in pursuit of truth in academic freedom. Its discipline alone was truth. It was unfettered by the interests of royalty or of religion.

Today, quality in higher education has a fourfold requirement:

  1. It involves the discipline self-imposed by the community of faculty, students, administrators and staff to achieve minimum academic standards, and even
  1. to excel in academic excellence, in vibrant exercise of its academic freedom and responsibility. This discipline distinguishes it from basic education. It covers not only competence in professional training, but a critical understanding of human nature and an ongoing articulation of the demands of the common good. In interaction with society and the world it expresses itself in academic innovativeness.
  1. It involves the discipline of the school to fulfill its self-imposed vision and mission. It is a higher educational institution. It may be qualified by a special commitment to the leadership elite, to the poor, to the Church, or to merchants. Part of this is discipline to do research consistent with its tertiary-level status and its vision and mission. Another part of this is to serve the community.
  1. It involves the discipline of the school to satisfy its stakeholders.

Since the principle stakeholder of the university is human society, and not merely such as the requirements of industry, commerce, entrepreneurship, and the like, the discipline required to discern and pursue the common good as a moral obligation is, in my opinion, among higher education’s most urgent concerns. Too often tertiary education has seen itself as a lackey to an uncriticized economy or to private, selfish interests. The result has been strong individuals and corporations, both national and foreign, but a dysfunctional and socially unjust society.

II. Faith-based Discipline in the Context of Higher Education

Is rights-based discipline, therefore, essentially different from faith based-discipline? There are many faiths and receptions of particular faiths that operate universities. Silliman University is an esteemed Christian Protestant university. Ateneo de Davao University operates in partnership with the Islamic University of Bandung, Indonesia. I will speak here only of my own Catholic faith as it expresses itself in the Catholic university.

a) Faith-based Student Discipline

Would Mario’s being caught cheating in a final exam, Maria’s pregnancy out of wedlock in a Catholic college, Jose’s bullying and assault on a teacher, and Cynthia’s using illegal drugs, be handled under faith-based discipline in the same way as under right’s based discipline?

I cannot speak for all Catholic HEIs. I think yes and no. Yes, insofar as the human rights of the offenders would be respected. No, in terms of the faith-based formative attitude in Catholic schools that is at the core of its discipline. Students in Catholic schools are being formed into the new persons they are called to be through baptism. They are in the process of putting off the old self and putting on the new in the service of the Kingdom of God.[3] They are instructed in knowledge for the mind, and formed in freedom for the Kingdom. The teachers and formators in Catholic schools are in the service of this process. It is not a process that they control. It is a process that they serve under the power of the Spirit.[4]

In this context, teachers as disciples of Jesus participate in the pastoral ministry of the Church. Their ultimate aim in discipline is not to effect conformity to external rules and socially regulative meanings, but conformity to the Spirit – a Spirit of compassion, love, freedom and renewal.

The respect for the person is maintained. Due process is still observed. But faith-based-discipline is pastoral. Teachers lead students to Jesus, the Door, the Good Shepherd.

Mario, therefore, through being failed may be led to see the contradiction between his cheating and his dignity as a child of God, the source of Truth, or as a brother of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Maria may be led, on the one hand, to repentence for her sin, but on the other hand, to free acceptance of the responsibility that is hers in giving birth to, loving and raising her child as a child of God; she may be led further to an encounter with God in the compassion of her community. Jose may be led to conversion by seeing Jesus bullied in the persons he bullied and violated. Cynthia, may be helped to be patient with herself as she struggles, knowing God wants her to be free of her addiction.

b) Faith-based University discipline.

Is the quality of faith-based university discipline the same as the rights-based university discipline?

I think, yes and no.

Yes, The discipline of the Catholic university is, first, that of the university. Proceeding from the heart of the Church it is – as other rights-based universities – a community of scholars and teachers who come together in the pursuit of truth in celebration of the joy of truth.[5] In its consecration to the cause of truth, it is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. But no, unlike other universities, “its privileged task is to unite existentially by intellectual effort…the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the font of truth, Jesus Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (Jn. 14:6) Its search is enlightened by belief, just as its belief is enlightened by faith.

What of minimum standards and academic excellence? The faith-based discipline for minimum academic standards and academic excellence is the same as rights-based education, except for religious education or theology whose regulative standards are set not by the state – which cannot preside over theology – but by the Church community. But the motivation for excellence in the academic disciplines in enhanced by its mission as a Catholic higher education institution.

What is the mission of the Catholic higher education institution? It shares in the mission of Catholic higher education. “The great mission of higher education is that the Christian mind may advance higher culture and that its students be prepared to shoulder society’s heavy burdens and witness to faith in the world” (ECE, 9). This is transformative education.[6] The Christian mind is that of the believer transformed continually by baptism into the new man; he is led by the power of the Holy Sprit through higher education towards the transformation of culture into the fullness of life that the Lord brings. From the perspective of of rights-based discipline, it is the rational pursuit of the good life for all. From the perspective of faith-based discipline, it is the pursuit of the Kingdom of God as it manifests itself in history through the Spirit. From the viewpoint of rights-based discipline, it is rationally necessary cooperation towards the common good. From the viewpoint of faith-based discipline, it is learned submission to the power of the Holy Spirit as he gathers humanity around the Savior, Jesus.

Who are the principle stakeholders of Catholic higher education? From the viewpoint of rights-based discipline it is families, civil society, the economy, but ultimately, human society. From the viewpoint of faith-based discipline, it is ultimately human society called to participate in the Kingdom of God through the power of the Spirit at work in the Church. The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom “of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:7). Righteousness through faith, however, is inseparable from the care of the poor and excluded, and actual service to the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters.[7] It is inseparable from social justice, which calls for solidarity with the common good. Catholic higher education serves the common good of all in union with the Church.

The faith-based discipline of the Catholic university assures the quality of its operation from its living faith life.

But first, university discipline

You have been very patient with me. The disciplinary problems within universities are not confined to individual cases of student misbehavior seeking solution. There is the discipline specific to a university which is too often neglected, overlooked, unnoticed. That is the collective discipline bourn by the whole university which makes the universities function qua universities and beneficial for society, moving their attention from specific goods to a shared common good in society. This collective discipline certainly impacts on student discipline, enriching his/her mind and shaping his/her commitments.

The principle problem that universities must address through their university discipline (their discipline of multiple disciplines working together in the pursuit of truth) is the problem of society as a whole, its dysfunctionality, its malaise, its sadness crying out mutely for solution. Pope Francis has described this poignantly as a world pervaded by consumerism, endangered by “the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”[8] Universities contribute to consumerism, whether it be wanton or controlled; they help shape the heart of contemporary man, whether he be compassionate or heartless; they help determine the pleasures that society enjoys and the displeasures it eschews; and they have much to do with conscience, blunting it or sharpening it – if they own the discipline that is properly theirs as universities.

Sadly, they don’t have to. They often don’t. They cop out. They remain on a level of glorified basic-education institutions, happy to be dictated on by government in terms of what they teach and how they teach it, squandering the academic freedom the Constitution guarantees them.[9] Or they are a higher-education hodgepodge of aging courses and increasing costs, frenetic activities and compulsive compliance with urgent requirements but with no soul, no thirst for truth, no passion for research, no time for reading, no ambition for innovation, no concern for the actual problems that plague society – just the same old soup, re-heated and re-served as twenty-five years ago, providing no nourishment, no pleasure, no gaudium de veritate for the soul. In these cases, are we then not complicit in the disciplinary problems of youth, their confusion, frustration, boredom, loss of meaning, directionlessness, their compulsion to escape reality?

The soul of the rights-based university discipline is the human being in human society. The soul of the Catholic faith-based university discipline is the human being in human society touched by the redeeming love of God through Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Both universities, if faithful to the discipline specific to higher education, seek truth passionately – even for human society today. Both universities impact profoundly on student discipline. Both universities are good for society. One, however, runs on the cunning of man, the other on the power of God. For the Catholic educator this is the awesome sword of his discipline, and the cutting edge of the Catholic university.

[1] Pls. confer:

[2] Pls. confer case of De la Salle University Inc, et. al. vs. the Court of Appeals, G. R. No. 127980, Dec. 19, 2007.

[3] “A Christian education does not merely strive for the maturing of the human person as just now described, but has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced to the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn no only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society,” Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis: Declaration on Christian Education, Oct. 28, 1965. Today is the 51st anniversary of this foundational document on Christian education in the Catholic Church.

[4] “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20). This is the power of the Holy Spirit. See also Eph. 3:14-19, esp. “…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (16).

[5] Confer: Ex Corde Ecclesiae [ECE]: Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities of John Paul II, par. 1.

[6] The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) describes its Catholic education in terms of transformative education. For a recent talk I gave on this, pls. confer:

[7] Confer James 2:14-17 “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action [for the poor] is dead.” Also: Mt. 25:31-46. Jesus identifies himself with the least of his brothers and sisters in society.

[8] Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Francis on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World, 2013.

[9] “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning” (par. 2, sec. 5, Art. XIV, 1987 Constitution.. Cf. also Sec 2, RA 7722 “The State shall protect, foster and promote the right of all citizens to affordable quality education and shall take appropriate steps to ensure that education shall be accessible to all. The State shall also ensure and protect academic freedom…” Also Sec. 13: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as limiting academic freedom of universities and colleges…” In the Philippines, academic freedom is higher education’s best kept secret.



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Towards Legislative Initiatives Benefitting PH Higher Education as a Whole

Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., Chair, COCOPEA, President, CEAP


During last Wednesday’s public hearing of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture (26 Oct. 2016), one of the important things that its chair, Sen. Bam Aquino, went out of his way to stress was that the proposed legislation to make education free in all State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) was only one of many interventions that the Senate was interested in in order to improve the quality of higher education in the country.

He said this in the face of reservations raised by many that making education free in SUCs would not really solve the problem of higher education in the country. Throwing more money at the SUCs to give more students access to SUCs may only mean grandly insuring that the poor have funded access to poor quality higher education.


Raising the Quality of Higher Education

Indeed, raising the quality of higher education, as urgent as this is, is not something that can be done by quick legislative fiat. No matter how much legislators may want to enjoy the benefits of a fully blossoming tree, it takes time for the sapling to grow, mature and be productive. The complex higher education reform project requires, as all higher-education administrators know, multiple interventions to improve faculty, facilities, laboratories, student performance, research, governance, etc., in order to achieve an appropriate culture of higher education necessary not only for higher degree courses but for an institutional culture of independent critical thought, effective instruction, robust research, innovativeness, leadership development as well as self- and socio-cultural transformation. This means working not only with policies but with people, their visions pertinent to the nature of higher education and their appropriate role(s) here, the balance between their private and professional lives, the even more delicate balance between compensation and inspiration, and their life-long commitments.

That is why, as the pros and cons for free tuition in SUCs were considered, I requested that Sen. Aquino already state what all the planned legislative interventions to improve higher education and access of the poor to it would be. Comprehending the whole, it would be easier to appreciate the part.

Such a manifestation would help clarify the attitude with which the legislators regard the private educational sector in their plans. Are they focusing mainly on the SUCs and not therefore on Philippine higher education as a whole? Are they looking at the private sector as partners or as sacrificial lambs? What is their view of the private educational sector: as mainly La Salle, Silliman, Ateneo, Sto. Tomas and St. Louie, whose demise is unimaginable, or as these and many other small schools whose existence is dispensable?

The view from the administrative offices of these private universities is of great vulnerability as costs rise, policies shift, and the educational landscape changes quickly. Perhaps it may be admitted: there is more private-sector fear of what government can do to their operations through legislative or executive fiat. The K-12 reform brought great upheaval in the private sector schools costing billions of pesos; despite active support and participation of the private sector in this reform, much in the government implementation disregarded many of the multi-sectoral agreements in planning. Traumatizing for the private schools was the sudden increase of teacher salaries in the government schools from P10,000 to P18,000; carefully cultivated salary scales of private schools based on the market were outdone by administrative fiat using the relatively unlimited power of taxpayers’ money. The effect of this was a migration of teachers from private schools to DepEd schools, salutary for the public schools but devastating for the private. Here, the painstaking plans of private schools administrators to develop faculty, help them with their teaching licenses, improve the performance of their instruction, and balance compensation with inspiration, were thwarted. No inspirational reference to mission could counter the argument of almost a doubled salary in public schools using taxes also paid by parents of private school students.


Valuing the Role of Private Higher Education

So as Sen. Bam Aquino assured us that providing free tuition was only one of many planned legislative interventions, we wondered what the others were, and how they would affect the operation of the private schools. Even as the demise of the private sector schools in general was unimaginable for Sen. Aquino, would the improvements in the SUCs mean salary upgrading from the General Appropriations Act that small schools could not compete with because the parents and clients of small private HEIs could not afford the tuition levels this would entail? This would in particular kill the small private HEIs in the service of the poor. They operate on the income private persons provide through tuition and fees. Were they now being sacrificed in the greater scheme of things with a shrug?

In the end, it is my conviction that not even the best of our private schools dependent on tuition can survive competition against SUCs with unlimited funding through tax payers’ public funds.   If this is the direction free tuition in higher education is signaling, confirm it, so that the private sector can invest its resources elsewhere

A realistic question therefore is: what are the limits of public funding available for free public higher education? Is it to be spent in the context of efforts to improve higher educational in the country in general or just that of the SUCs? Is it to be complemented by funding to support the free education of the poor in qualified private schools? Is it accompanied by credible interventions to improve the quality of higher education in general? What would this entail?


Wrong Signals?

In this context I voiced my reservations about the signal the legislation for free education in SUCs would give. Since there was no mandate in the Constitution that government should provide free higher education to all, was government in this legislation signaling that it was willing to take up cudgels for universal free higher education? Could this not be read in funding being made available for the free education of students in UP even though they are manifestly capable of paying this tuition or taking out an educational loan and paying for it later? Was the signal being given that government would take this course toward free higher education even if the participation of the private sector in educational provision would be adversely affected – first with the demise of the smaller schools, eventually with the demise of the bigger? This adverse impact on the private schools would increase as government would – necessarily! – improve the quality of its SUCs, causing the foreseeable migration of students from private to public schools. It would do this by offering compensation packages superior to anything the small schools could afford, thus inflating the cost of general educational compensation through use of taxpayers’ money and effectively placing qualified teachers out of the reach of the private sector. Was therefore the signal being given that government did not understand, was overlooking, or, worse, did not care about the impact of its policies on the private sector? Was it thus effectively discouraging the further operation of the private schools, and strongly discouraging robust private sector from further investments in private schools that would increase their number and quality? After all, all the high costs of free quality higher education could be taken over by government.

It was urgent then that the planned package of legislative interventions in the improvement of higher education as a whole be understood. The “whole” is the “complete, adequate and integrate system of education” – including higher education – that the Constitution mandates the State to provide recognizing the complementarity between public and private education.


Framework for the Complementary Roles of SUCs and private HEIs in the PH

I believe my remarks were well taken. At that point one of the very welcome interventions all around came from Dr. Ricardo E. Rotoras, President of the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) and concurrently President of COCOPEA’s public-sector counterpart, the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), calling attention to a paper he had submitted to the Committee entitled, “Re-Defining the Role of State Universities and Colleges in the Philippine Higher Educational System.” The paper is remarkable because it looks at the system of higher education in the Philippines, addresses the uneven playing field between public and private HEIs, and looks at the ASEAN integration as a window of opportunity to work towards the goal of an “even playing field.”

In this context he proposes a policy framework for the complementary roles of SUCs and Private HEIs in the Philippines. Just the proposal is already a significant contribution to the discussion of higher educational reform in the Philippines. The higher educational community should appreciate this breakthrough to begin a formal process aimed at achieving consensus between the public and private HEIs.

Dr. Rotoras’ proposal speaks of four Policy Framework principles:

  • The government provides full funding requirements to SUCs with clear mandate of providing quality education to the marginalized sector and offering differentiated that complements private HEIs
  • Private HEIs shall serve the greater mass of the higher education market; ensure sustainability and growth
  • A level playing field between private and public HEIs is defined in terms of differentiated markets and curricular programs
  • Regulations of SUCs are defined by their respective charters, while regulations of the private HEIs are defined by the State through the Commission on Higher Education.

Certainly these four points would already generate a wealth of discussion – like how is the playing field leveled for public and private HEIs not only in terms of market but in terms of quality. But they are an invitation to a dialogue between public and private HEIs on the complete, adequate and integrated system of higher education in the Philippines that would be respect the complementarity between the public and private contributions to the system ultimately serving the common higher-educational good.


Proposal to Move Forward

After the close of the hearing Sen. Bam Aquino, Commission Popoy de Vera, Dr. Rotoras and I were in agreement that the Senate, the CHED, the PASUC and the COCOPEA could co-convene soonest a dialogue towards coming to greater consensus on this long-overdue Framework.

This could also be the Framework that could suggest the package of holistic legislative initiatives that would advance the whole of the comprehensive, adequate and integrated system of higher education rather than just one of its parts to the detriment of other parts.




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Dialoguing with Sen. Bam Aquino on How to Improve PH Higher Education

In the Senate Hearing of the Committee on Education, Culture and the Arts, the Official Position of the COCOPEA was submitted by Atty. Joseph Estrada on the proposed free tuition in SUCs proposed by Sen. Bam Aquino, Sen. Win Gatchalian, and other senators:

To general questions posed by Sen. Bam Aquino outside of the hearing in the context of proposed legislative measures for higher educational enhancement,

Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., President of CEAP and Chair of COCOPEA

respectfully submitted to Sen. Aquino and the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture these responses for purposes of discussion on 26 October 2016.


How do we define higher education in the country?

Wikipedia defines higher education in the Philippines in the following manner.

The higher education in the Philippines is offered through various degree programs (commonly known as courses in the Philippines) by a wide selection of colleges and universities—also known as higher education institutions (HEIs). These are administered and regulated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).[1]

But this is wholly inadequate.

Programs or courses which lead to presumably higher degrees betray a circularity in this definition: higher education is higher because they confer higher degrees. Why are degrees “higher” in higher education and “lower” in basic education? Why is it misleading to define higher education in the Philippines as “administered and regulated by CHED?

Originally the notion of higher education is associated with the community (universitas) of scholars and teachers who come together in academic freedom in the pursuit of truth. They come together in self-constituted autonomy regulated only by the truth they pursue – the whole truth about man, nature and God. In this autonomy they are not constrained by the particular interests of royalty, religious confession, the nation, or the market. Indeed, once higher education is shackled by these interests, it is extinguished.

The pursuit of truth in academic freedom is the soul of higher education and its contemporary expression in research, instruction and service to the community.

Higher education institutions administer themselves in academic freedom under the reasonable regulation of government. They are not administered by CHED. This is at the core of higher education, recognized by the Constitution and guaranteed in law. In responsibility to truth, they provide their own quality assurance. The quality of a HEI is ascertained in its ability to achieve minimum academic standards, to demonstrate academic excellence, to implement its mission and vision, and to respond appropriately to its stakeholders.

No matter the complexity of the collection of academic programs and courses offered in HEIs today, the disciplined experience of a community of faculty and students, administrators and staff cooperating in academic freedom towards truth, its pursuit and communication, for the ultimate benefits that truth brings for individuals and society is at the heart of higher education. These benefits include the joy of truth, the upliftment of the human sprit in finding truth, and the creative transformation of the community according to the demands of truth. The reasonability of regulation is determined by reason seeking truth rather than the coercion of the State.

Basic education, where the State (DepEd) prescribes the courses and content required of all citizens, is a pre-requisite to higher education. But while basic education may occasion, or even warrant, higher education, it does not compel it. And while the rigors of particular learning sets may lead to specialized knowledge and skills (like literature, engineering, sociology, philosophy, leadership), what is essentially compelling in higher education is not any particular discipline but the critical pursuit of truth under the acquired discipline of higher education.

In the Philippines, where public and private education operate in complementarity, the State provides free public education.


Is Higher Education a Right?

Our Constitution states: “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all” (Sec. 1, Art. 14). It does this in the establishment, maintenance and support of “a complete, adequate and integrated system of education” (par. 1, Sec. 1, Art. 14) where “the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system” is recognized (par. 1 Sec. 4, Art 14).

It also states that “The State shall… establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school level.” (par. 2, sec 3, Art XIV).

While there is a right to quality education at all levels, including higher education, and while even higher education should be accessible to all, the State is mandated to provide free public education only on the elementary and high school levels. On other levels public education may not be free, even as it is complemented by private education, even when it may not charge.

Seen from another perspective: while there is a recognized right to free basic education through which a citizen can qualify for and earn higher education, and while there is a right to access higher education, there is no right to free higher education.


To whom should the government be providing with subsidy/free tuition for higher education? What are the qualifications? Do all HEIs have entrance exams?

From within the complete integrated and adequate system of education the State is mandated to provide, when public and private education complement each other, in giving free or reduced tuition in higher education, government should respect the following:

The mandate of the Constitution to social justice: “The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will insure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty…” (Sec. 9, Art. II). Cf. Also Sec. 1, Art. XIII.

The ends of education: The State Policy that “the State shall give priority to education, science, and technology, arts, culture and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development” (Sec. 17, Art. II), in a word, the common good. In higher education HEIs that excel through their programs and as whole-colleges or whole universities (institutionally) in promoting these goals (e.g. through effective transformative education) are more qualified that those that perform poorly or minimally.

The ends of the national economy according to the Constitution: The recognition that “the goals of the national economy are a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth…raising the quality of life for all especially the underprivileged” (Sec. 1: Art XII). This is quite different from a neo-liberal economy fueled by unbridled consumption and destructive of the environment, “our common home.”[2]

The respect for the private sector: In exercise of the principle of subsidiarity, and considering that “the State recognizes the indispensible role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and promotes incentives to needed investments” (Sec. 20, Art. II), the care not to undermine the operation of private schools through publicly-funded programs or policies one-sidedly favoring public schools.

Therefore free or reduced tuition should be given to those students possessing the following three characteristics:

  • They are eligible for the subsidy in social justice. They are needy. To give a subsidy to a student who can pay for his own tuition offends against subsidiarity and the need to develop independent and responsible citizens.
  • They are capable of the culture of higher education work in its general education and professional program and are committed to the common good. They have completed at least one year of college without failing marks or have passed senior high school and have a record of commitment to the common good.
  • They qualify for HEIs performing well in meeting the ends of education, whether public or private. These HEIs are qualified for subsidy/free-tuition recipients. To put government scholars in poor schools is not only a waste of money; it is a waste of lives, and a tragedy for the society that could otherwise benefit well from the good education of a capable student.


Do all HEIs have entrance examinations?

[I am unable to answer this for lack of data. Most of the schools I know do, but what exams are used and how much the entrance is exam is used to determine admission or to guide the student in performance is uneven.]


How do we assess our higher education institutions in terms of performance? How do we incentivize/reward performing HEIs? What do we do with underperforming HEIs? 

Accreditation. Accreditation that is guided by ASEAN standards assuring recognizability in different countries. This is guided by the Philippines Qualifications Framework (still EO 83 s 2012, but ought to be legislated!), third-party accreditors, academic learning outcomes and an institutional culture of quality.

HEI performance may be incentivized by support towards their continued improvement through personnel development, facilities improvement, research funding, laboratory creation or enhancement, outreach support, and funding which supports the higher education culture of the university.

Underperforming HEIs should be helped to perform within an reasonable agreed-upon date. If they don’t, they should be closed.


Assuming we are able to allocate the budget to make SUCs free to students who will qualify, should it be given directly to students or to the institutions?

 Vouchers should be given to students; institutional help should be given to institution.

As stated above, students are eligible for free tuition or tuition subsidy should they possess the following three qualifications:

  • They are eligible for the subsidy in social justice. They are needy. To give a subsidy to a student who can pay for his own tuition offends against subsidiarity and the need to develop independent and responsible citizens.
  • They are capable of the culture of higher education work in its general education and professional program and are committed to the common good. They have completed at least one year of college without failing marks or have passed senior high school and have a record of commitment to the common good.
  • They qualify for one of the HEIs, whether public or private, performing well in meeting the ends of education, namely, “to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development” (Sec. 17, Art. II), in a word, the common good. . These HEIs are qualified for subsidy/free-tuition recipients. To put government scholars in poor schools is not only a waste of money; it is a waste of lives, and a tragedy for the society that could otherwise benefit well from the good education of a capable student.


What is the best model for providing free/subsidized tuition? How much will it cost? 

 A voucher system.

 The SHS or the HEI, public or private, recommends candidate based on the three criteria for eligibility.

They are accepted on the regional level by CHED with the active participation of the private sector through COCOPEA.

Those accepted are given vouchers.

The voucher value is based of the per student cost of education in a state university classified on four levels of performance, the fourth being the highest. These state universities shall be associated with private universities similarly classified on four levels of performance. The value of free education in a SUC will determine the voucher value for a student who opts to go to a private HEI of the same category.

In the SUCs, however, the voucher value will be adjusted to avoid double payment by government for salaries, facilities, library, etc.

In private schools, the voucher value will be adjusted not to pay for religious education and theology. Otherwise, the voucher support education as a public product.


Where HEIs are performing relatively poorly (levels I and II today?), government interventions should target the improvement, not finance and reward the poor performance, e.g. through more scholarships. This would only deteriorate the institution further. The government intervention could support collaboration between universities, public and private, local and foreign, for the improvement of our universities. This is more urgent today that scholarship funding. Much can be done to increase the absorptive capacity of HEIs, public and private, for government scholars. This includes: support for degrees in higher education, both local and foreign, faculty exchange programs, visiting faculty, facilities improvement, library improvement, promotion of benchmarking, etc.

Collaboration is extremely urgent in developing a culture of research (as important as instruction is) in our universities. The long-term and painstaking development of researching personnel and the appropriate conditions for research (libraries, laboratories, data banks) need to be specified in funding for research. Accountability of grantees (e.g. in fulfilling service clauses) should be strict.

Collaboration is also extremely urgent in developing a system of independent and credible quality assurance to overcome the impasse of CMO 46 s. 2013. The quality assurance system should be designed to promote increasing quality rather than mere declaration of levels of accreditation.

The goal is to develop institutions that practice higher education as described above in academic freedom and responsibility. This includes supporting serious academic multi-disciplinary and documented discussions in the universities that tackle contemporary problems (e.g. the anti-drug campaign, foreign policy, judicial reform), inspire research and enrich instruction.

Practices where students are admitted to higher education despite lack of qualification in order to increase government income for the school is deplorable, wastes government money and the student’s time and effort, and should be abrogated.

I am unable at this time to determine the cost. But using 20 billion pesos annually for these ends is more appropriate than on free tuition for students without consideration of their capacity to pay for tuition and without consideration for the quality of the school.




















[2] cf. Francis, Laudato Si: Letter on the Care for Our Common Home, 2015.

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Official COCOPEA Position Paper on Proposed Free Tuition in SUCs (SBN 177)


COORDINATING COUNCIL OF PRIVATE EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS (COCOPEA),                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Petitioner,





The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.[1]

 The State shall:

 1.  Establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society.

 2.  Establish and maintain a system of scholarship grants, student loan programs, subsidies, and other incentives which shall be available to deserving students in both public and private schools, especially to the under-privileged.[2]

 The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions.[3]

 The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.[4]



When the constitution referred to the right of citizens to quality and accessible education; when it referred to its avowed mandate to provide a system of a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education, and when it committed to assigning the highest budgetary priority to educationit did not refer only to education delivered through the public educational institutions.

On the other hand, when the constitution referred to scholarships, grants, loans, subsidies, and other incentives to students, it expressly mandates that the same shall be made available to deserving students in both public and private educational institutions.

Thus, the constitution expressly declares the State’s recognition of the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the entire educational system.

The main thrust of this Position Paper is to present and explore other modes of operationalizing the constitutional mandates on education particularly in providing quality and accessible education to as many deserving higher education students as possible thereby optimizing the utilization of limited government resources.


On the Declaration of Policy of SBN 177.

Sec. 2 of SBN 177 provides:

SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared that accessible and quality education is an alienable right of the Filipino. Therefore, the State shall renew its constitutionally mandated duty to make education its top budgetary priority by providing free higher education for all students in state universities and colleges.

The first part of the policy statement appears to be a restatement of Section 1, Art. XIV, of the 1987 Constitution. However, it must be emphasized that the guarantee of the constitution is to provide quality education at all levels, including higher education, and ensure that such quality education is made accessible to all.

While the constitution mandates the establishment of free public education in the elementary and high school levels, there is no such mandate which pertains to free higher education. Indeed, the constitution recognizes the State’s financial limitations in providing a free public education in the university or college level.

SBN 177’s commitment to renew the constitutional mandate to assign to education the highest budgetary priority is noble. However, such use of budgetary allocation on education ought to be in a manner that is more efficient and optimized by reaching out to more qualified and deserving students rather than a one-size-fits-all financial subsidy to students in SUCs.


Limiting the subsidy to students in SUCs will entail more cost to the government.

It is acknowledged that with the limited government resources, it would not be possible to provide a free college education to all students in both public and private higher education institutions. On a narrow view, providing a free college education for students in the SUCs would appear to be more affordable to the government given that the current enrolment in the SUCs accounts to around 40% only of the total number of higher education students as 60% are in the PHEIs.

However, a close scrutiny of the circumstances would readily reveal that a subsidy granting free college education in the SUCs would result to a massive migration of students currently enrolled in the private HEIs to the State Colleges and Universities. In such eventuality, the government will have to allocate more budget and resources to accommodate the current population of SUC students including the significant number of transferees from the PHEIs to cover tuition, academic personnel, and physical infrastructures necessary. In the long term, a free higher education in the SUCs would not be sustainable and affordable to the government.


PHEIs adversely affected by the implementation of the K to 12 Program cannot afford another major adverse financial impact.

The implementation of K to 12 Program under R.A. 10533 is currently in the transition period which will end in SY 2020-2021. During the five-year transition period, there will be eight (8) enrollment years lost in college.

In 2011, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), through the initiatives of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), has commissioned a study[5] on the financial impact of the additional two years in high school starting in SY 2016-2017 to the existing private basic education and higher education institutions. The study shows that the net present value losses to the private education sector are approximated at Php 158 billion. Given that private education is estimated as a Php 150 billion sector annually, these losses are equivalent to completely closing down all private schools, colleges, and universities for one whole year.

In fact, it is this negative financial impact to PHEIs that was made the basis of the following significant mitigating measures and policies from the government, to wit:

1. Recognizing that there will be SUCs that will be unutilized during the K to 12 transition, Section 30.2 of the IRR of RA 10533 mandates the CHED and DBM to review the financing policy framework for State Universities and Colleges with the end in view of optimizing the use of government resources of education; and

2. The Senior High School Voucher System was adopted where the services of the private education institutions are engaged by DepEd in the delivery of the Senior High School Program by giving all qualified SHS Voucher recipients from both public and private schools, the freedom to choose where they wish to enroll in SHS, including the private higher educational.

Given the current scenario, the proposed free tuition subsidy for students in the SUCs would exacerbate the already challenging, if not terminal, state of private higher education institutions reeling from the adverse financial impact of the K to 12 transition due to the lack of college students which extends to eight (8) enrolment years from SY 2016-2017 until SY 2020-2021; displacement of faculty; and migration of faculty to DepEd schools.

The proposed free tuition subsidy to students in SUCs would likely result to more migration of faculty and students from the PHEIs to the SUCs.

And ultimately, private higher education will be in a danger of extinction and would have dire consequences to the government and the entire education sector. It is uncontroverted that private higher education complements the public higher education system where approximately 60% of the total higher education students are enrolled.

Thus, a free tuition subsidy to students in SUCs is inconsistent with the following education principles from various laws including the Constitution, no less:

  1. “The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions.” (Section 4 (1), Article XIV, 1987 Philippine Constitution)
  1. “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.” (Section 20, Article II, 1987 Philippine Constitution)
  1. “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State that the national government shall contribute to the financial support of educational programs pursuant to goals of education as declared in the Constitution. Towards this end, the government shall: Encourage and stimulate private support to education through, inter alia, fiscal and other assistance measures.” (Section 33 (2), Chapter 5, Batas Pambansa Blg. 232, or the Education Act of 1982)


Subsidy must be for the qualified and deserving students.

As opposed to a full free tuition subsidy to all students across the board, it appears that it would be more efficient to invest on poor and excellent students and expanding the subsidy to cover not only tuition but also the full cost of living allowance, books, and other incidental expense of students. This is calculated to improve the level of educational outcomes of higher education and increase the social relevance of its developmental functions.


 Subsidy must be made available to all students in both public and private higher educational institutions.

A subsidy that is available to students in both public and private educational institutions would be more equitable and consistent with the complementarity between public and private educational institutions. The subsidy to students may well be in the form of vouchers where they are given the power of choice where to enroll. This mode of subsidy to students has long been proven to be effective with the enactment of RA 6728 as amended RA 8545 otherwise known as the E-GASTPE Law, and the recent implementation of the Senior High School Voucher System under RA 10533 or the K to 12 Act.

The power to determine the qualified and deserving voucher recipients, the accreditation of participating higher education institutions, and the applicable voucher values may be delegated by the law to administrative bodies.

The power to make, alter or repeal laws is essentially lodged in our Legislature.  This is by virtue of the principle of separation of powers which ordains that each of the three branches of government, i.e., Legislative, Executive and Judiciary, has exclusive cognizance of and is supreme in matters falling within its own constitutionally allocated sphere.  However, in the face of the increasing complexity of modern life, delegation of legislative power to various specialized administrative agencies is allowed as an exception to this principle. Given the volume and variety of interactions in today’s society particularly on education, it is doubtful if the legislature can promulgate laws that will deal adequately with and respond promptly to the minutiae of everyday life.  Hence, the need to delegate to administrative bodies – the principal agencies tasked to execute laws in their highly specialized fields – the authority to promulgate rules and regulations to implement a given statute and effectuate its policies.

It is in this light that we recommend that the UNIFAST Board under RA 10687 or the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act, be delegated as the lead government agency charged with the over-all administrative function of managing the program of free higher education subsidy in the form of vouchers. The composition of the UNIFAST Board is as follows:

  1. The CHED Chairperson as ex officio Chairperson;
  2. The Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as ex officio Co-Chairperson;
  3. The TESDA Director-General as ex officio Co-Chairperson;
  4. The Secretary of the Department of Education (DepED) as ex officio member;
  5. A representative from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as ex officio member;
  6. A representative from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) as ex officio member; and
  7. A representative from the National Youth Commission (NYC) as ex officio


It is further submitted that the UNIFAST Board, in consultation with multi-sectoral representatives which includes the private education and industry sectors, be specifically tasked to:

  1. Identify the priority higher educational programs that will be covered by this Act;
  2. Provide the guidelines in the selection and accreditation of participating higher education institutions both public and private;
  3. Provide the guidelines or criteria for students to qualify for free higher education vouchers;
  4. Administer the Free Higher Education Voucher System; and
  5. To manage the Free Higher Education Fund.

Finally, that the social scientists and economists at the Philippine Institute for Developmental Studies, the COCOPEA, NEDA and other groups or agencies, be tasked to determine the appropriate higher education voucher value in consideration of the normative cost per student in an average quality higher education program.

WHEREFORE, premises considered it is most respectfully prayed that the foregoing Position Paper be admitted and noted for the best possible disposition of SB No. 177.


Respectfully Submitted.

26 October 2016.

Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA)



Estrada & Aquino Law

1702 Prestige Tower, F. Ortigas Jr. Road,

Ortigas Centre, Pasig City 1600


With our conformity:




Chairperson, COCOPEA President
President, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines



Phil. Assoc. of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities




President, Phil. Assoc. of Colleges and Universities



President, Assoc. of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ACSCU)
President, Tech-Voc Schools Association

of the Philippines







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

[2] Sec. 2 (1) and (3) supra.

[3] Sec. 4, (1) supra.

[4] Section 5 (5), supra.

[5] Don Brodeth, CFA, Taft Consulting Group, “The Effect of K to 12 on Cohort and Financial Flows, 2011”.


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Catholic Education in Tagum and the Common Good

14627910_1473142959369428_1448505696_n[Address to the Educators of the Diocesan Apostolate on Catholic Education in Tagum (DACET)]

When Fr. Tom Avila asked me to give this talk to the Educators of the Diocesan Apostolate on Catholic Education in Tagum (DACET), I readily agreed. I knew that just two weeks after the National Convention of the CEAP, there would be much from the convention that we could share with you on Catholic education in the Philippines. Since DACET is part of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS) and DACS is Region XI of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), what was of relevance to the educational leaders of the CEAP National Convention on its 75th anniversary may also be of interest to you.[1]

I am very happy that my first address as President of CEAP is here with you at St. Mary’s College of Tagum.

14741074_1473142949369429_1467502485_nAs we move toward 2021 with new fervor and new spirit, the common good is a concept that can give us fresh insight into the nature of our association; the common good also draws us to cooperate with others in society to achieve a larger common good. As far back as Aristotle this was known: An individual acts to achieve a good. A group of individuals cooperate to achieve a common good. In a political community, the most extensive form of cooperation, all cooperate to achieve the common good of all. The concept of the common good leads us to greater insight into ourselves as an organization, and challenges us to our role in achieving the common good of all.

We are filled with gratitude for more than 75 years of cooperation among our educators and educational institutions, big and small, all cooperating towards a common good: the advancement of Catholic education in the Philippines. Catholic education, in turn, impacts on society beyond the CEAP. It cooperates with other educators, public and private, sectarian and non-sectarian, and other organizations, public and private, in order to contribute to the common good of all.

Catholic education is delivered nationwide through a formidable array of schools, colleges and universities scattered throughout the Philippines. In the CEAP there are 1,476 member schools, 224 of them higher educational institutions, some of them among the most renowned universities in the Philippines.   But some 80 percent of them are mission schools in poor urban, rural and remote areas continuing courageously to operate. They operate despite the poverty of their students and despite a personnel policy of government which has proven improvident for us; they do so in order to bring the blessings of quality education, inspired by the Gospel message, to all, to as many Filipinos as possible, especially the poor.

The difficulty in delivering this public good ought to be recognized. Working with teachers to improve their competence is a difficult task, especially when school resources are low, often taking years of sacrifice and investment. The last administration decided to improve the roster of its public school teachers. But in doing so it used public money to advance their good, but not the common good of all teachers. Effectively, they pirated teachers from our schools. We have been hurt by this public policy which did not respect the common good, but we continue to maintain our educational service in the interest of the common good.

Anticipating the 75th anniversary we now celebrate, we resolved together at the 2011 National Convention in Davao to strengthen our cooperation in delivering Catholic education, remembering our 75-year-old journey with gratitude, renewing ourselves in fervor, and setting forth according to the demands of the faith. That is faith which ultimately determines the substance of what we teach; it is faith which impels us in our mission, gladdens us in achievements, comforts us in setbacks, encourages us in adversity, guides us into our future and gives us hope

Today, 2016, we look together to the next 25 years that shall bring us to the first century of our service. But we look especially to the next five years leading to the celebration of five centuries of Christianity in the Philippines. With Christian evangelization came Catholic education. With Catholic education comes the joy of serving the Gospel and the special challenges we meet as Catholic educators today.

Today we are challenged in two ways: first, to remain faithful to our God-given vocation and identity as Catholic educators; and second, as integral to this vocation and identity, to actually engage society and transform it according to the demands of the common good.  The common good is relevant to both challenges. We will reflect on this together.



Meanwhile, those challenges have taken on great urgency as the next five years will roughly coincide with the term of office of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. His democratic mandate was clear and substantial: some 16.5 million citizens elected him into office, some 6 million votes above his closest rival. He ran promising a war on drugs that he warned would be bloody. He promised to rid government of corruption. He promised to bring peace to Mindanao.  He promised care for the PH environment. He promised Federalism. As election day approached, he declared, “Change is coming. ..”

He was elected.

As we have all witnessed in the meantime, sometimes with elation, sometimes with trepidation, “change is here “– one of the first changes being that the President is dead serious about fulfilling his campaign promises. He has wasted no time. At 71, he is a driven man, saying to his people as he bows, “I am ready to serve my people,” but bowing to no one, not even to the President of the United States of America, as he pursues his declared agenda. He is resolute, not wishy washy; he is irreverent, not polished; he is shocking, not irenic. But he loves his people, and he shows it, ready, apparently, to sacrifice life and his Presidency “to march into hell for a heavenly cause.”

Change is here. Some of the change has elated us.

Finally, the drug menace which has addicted some 3M in the country, taken the lives of individuals, destroyed the lives of families and whole barangay communities is being addressed.

The war on drugs has involved 18,616 police operations conducted, 17,759 drug personalities arrested, 1,061,235 houses visited as of Sept 19. It has yielded 715,393 surrenderees, 53,091 being pushers; the menacing presence of drug addicts has begun to disappear in many communities of the poor; the awareness of the extent and depth of the drug menace has taken center stage.

The private sector, CSO’s and schools have begun to partner with government to complement the campaign to win the war on drugs.

People who have been involved in the drug trade – in the police force, the military, the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary – have been named, shamed and removed from their posts.

President Duterte is going after corruption in government with similar energy and resolve. The word is: corruption is incompatible with Duterte.

Freedom of Information Executive Order has evidenced the President’s seriousness about ridding the government of corruption and inefficiency. Deadlines for acting on citizens’ needs for service in government agencies have been set. Queuing of people in the streets have been decried; programs to eliminate them have been initiated.

A ceasefire has been reached between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP ending a half century of warfare. The MILF and the MNLF are working closely with government towards ending close to five centuries of warfare. The President has said the historical injustice done to Muslim Filipinos needs to be addressed and rectified. Government and Filipino Muslims tread a common path today towards a Bangsamoro homeland and Bangsamoro self-determination within the Philippine community.

The Duterte administration is powerfully addressing the concerns of the environment and its abuse over centuries. Longtime opposition to Government pertinent to large-scale mining is metamorphosing into people’s partnership with Government through the DENR in stopping illegal mines, illegal logging, the poisoning of our water, our air, our soil, our oceans.

The DENR has begun acting vigorously against mines established or operating illegally – especially in the ancestral domains of our indigenous peoples.  With the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), this includes the fraudulent acquisition of “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC).

The Congress has been maneuvering to bring about Federalism at least cost to the people through a Constituent Assembly.


But some of the change has deeply disturbed us.

I do not refer only to the often intemperate language of the President, which he himself admits.

But the war on drugs has claimed 1,152 police-related deaths and 2,073 deaths from what many describe as “extrajudicial killings” as of Sept 15.

No matter the good end for the law enforcers, are not the harsh means taken unjustifiable? Are not human rights violated? Is this not so even in shaming people publicly?

What if there is error? Error that involves taking of human life is utterly irreversible. Is government not involved in an untenable case of “the end justifying the needs?

Considering that the international community has given up on the war on drugs, have they not disqualified themselves from commenting on our war on drugs? On the other hand, is the Philippines not being unrealistic in thinking it can win this war even if only for its own society?

Freedom of information should be mandatory not only for the Executive branch of government, but for all branches of government. Beyond the current Executive Order on Freedom of Information, a law on Freedom of Information encompassing law must be passed to cover not only the executive but the legislative and judicial branches.

There is still a long way to go to achieve true and lasting peace through the peace processes with the CPP-NPA-NDFP, the MILF and the MNLF, and with the Lumad. It is especially important not to leave out the Lumad from the peace process.

There are relatively new players on the ground who declare allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) who are very violent. Consider the 15 soldiers killed and mutilated in Patikul; consider the raw carnage on innocent lives in the Roxas Night Market in Davao last Sept. 2. These groups do not have the approval of most other Filipino Muslim Community, but they court the allegiance of radicals through their declared “Jihad.”

The BIFF, allied with the ISIS, seems to be gaining support in Maguindanao, and the Maute Group (bandits led by Omar and Abdullah Maute) were able to liberate their companions in the Lanao del Sur provincial jail carrying the ISIS flags

On the environment, powerful economic interests still exercise dubiously legal rights to extract PH minerals until the 1995 PH Mining Act is finally repealed and a new Minerals Management Law enacted. Beyond this, we have a long way to go towards the self-change necessary to reform the unsustainable production mammoth which destroys our environment and causes poverty and exclusion, as Laudato Si points out.

The Constituent Assembly now being engineered to bring about Federalism affordably may not afford the people enough opportunity to discuss and evaluate different options. Hastily changing the 1987 Constitution through an administration passionately committed to social justice jeopardizes the invaluable provisions which make it a social justice constitution. Error may strengthen the hold of the elite on power and further disenfranchise the poor and excluded.

Therefore, in the light and darkness of the Duterte Administration, where reality does not present itself in lines of black and white, but in chiaruscuro hues of brightness and shadows – we are doubly challenged: (a) to remain faithful to our God-given vocation as Catholic institutions even when forces in the world may draw us away from this identity, and (b) to actually engage and transform society as integral to this vocation as Catholic educators and educational institutions, ultimately “to preach the Word, to be ready in season and out of season; to reprove, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).   It is on how we can meet these two challenges that this talk dwells.



We may admit that our fidelity to our common vocation as Catholic educators has been uneven. Sometimes, our Catholic schools sink to being just good schools, not Catholic. They may be renowned among loyal local patrons and esteemed world wide as quality schools, but not Catholic. We rejoice in large enrollments, we are dismayed when enrollment is low. We rejoice in large revenues, and panic when revenues fall short. We teach only courses that are marketable and make money, and drop courses that cost us money, even though they may benefit students or society. We treat our teachers as laborers, and our students as sources of income. We cost cut for the sake of cost cutting, and hold back money when spending it would advance the mission goals of the school. We hold back on cooperating with other CEAP schools for common goods, looking at CEAP only as a organization from which my school is to get something. We are certainly shy away from getting involved in issues of social injustice, labor malpractice, environmental degradation through mining or mono-crop farming, since such involvement may upset our benefactors, worry our parents, and discourage their contributions to our school. Often we relate to others only as functions for the particular good of our own school; wrapped in the demands of our private good, we ignore the common good. The demon’s “I will not serve!” takes the form of “I will not cooperate!” When this occurs, the catholicity of our schools is extinguished.

In responding to the first challenge, the challenge to renew, sustain, and grow in our vocation as Catholic educators, in celebration of our 75th anniversary, we now have a guide that is the loving product of cooperation between CEAP and the Phoenix Educational Foundation over the past three years: the Philippine Catholic Schools Standards for Basic Education (PCSSbe).   We celebrated its launching during National Convention, not just as a new handbook that we can add to our dusty library, but as a practical Road Map (pg. 7) towards ongoing growth and development in our common identity as Catholic schools. It immediately asks a disturbing question. If evangelization and Catholic education have been in the Philippines for close to 500 years, if we are celebrating our 75th year of existence as CEAP, and if the faith is truly inseparable from actual social transformation towards the “life in abundance, life to the full” (Jn 10:10) that Jesus brings, why does the Philippines “continue to grapple year after year with the consequences of massive poverty, injustice and violence, graft and corruption, migration, environmental degradation, family breakdown and deterioration of values?” (pg 4). The overall goal of the PCSSbe “is to help raise school-wide effectiveness, through establishment of standards, benchmarks and rubrics that identify the core characteristics of excellent and faith-based Catholic schools” (pg 5). It presents eight *defining characteristics of a Catholic school, without which we accept together a school cannot truthfully be called Catholic[2]. For example, the characteristic of being “centered on the person and mission of Jesus Christ.” Or the characteristic of being “engaged in the service of the Church and Society, with a preferential option for the poor.” The defining characteristics are manifest in the five *domains of the school: its Catholic Identity and Mission, its Leadership and Governance, its Learner Development, its Learning Environment, and its Operational Vitality. Then, fifteen *Standards for Catholic Schools are presented as “expectations of excellence or effectiveness that give a clear picture of where the Catholic school should be headed. *Benchmarks further “describe what must be done in order to attain the standards. These are further broken down in *Rubrics. For every benchmark, palpable “Sources of evidence” are offered. It is pointed out that all these parts presuppose and complement each other.

Under the Core Characteristic of Mission and Identity, and the Standard: “An excellent Catholic school is committed to the building of a civilization of love and is strengthened by a commitment that nurtures faith formation, integral development of persons, intercultural dialogue, academic formation, and humble service” (pg 18), I was delighted to find the Benchmarks, “The establishment and development of harmonious relationships with people of other cultures and religions is vital to the school’s Catholic identity and mission” (pg 20), and “The building of a culture of peace, justice, and charity is integral to the school’s Catholic identity and mission” (pg 21). When I was a child the Catholic Identity and Mission of my school required us not to interact with persons of other faiths, to shun these as pagans or heretics, and to appreciate that outside of the Catholic Church there was no salvation. The Standards of this Guide are of a different inspiration and fervor, cut in the spirit of Vatican II which clearly affirmed religious liberty: they urge us to embrace more fully our identity and mission so that we might be truly Catholic not for ourselves, but (kat holos) for all.

The PCCSbe contribute therefore to the cooperation among our schools to achieve the institutional common good of the CEAP, the advancement of Catholic basic education in the Philippines. They describe defining characteristics of Catholicity without which we would not be cooperating with each other as Catholic. They describe standards of excellence which pull us away from deficiency and mediocrity towards outstanding cooperation in basic education toward our common good, the advancement of Catholic education.  They invite the articulation of complementary Standards for Catholic higher education. Even here in Tagum relative to the DACS abnd the CEAP, we are invited in these Standards to assess the substance of our cooperation and appreciate more deeply our common good. We must be cooperating, not ignoring one another, not competing against one another, towards the common good of CEAP, the advancement of Catholic Education in the Philippines. That is what we are committed to. That is what we are about. As public state universities and colleges and local colleges and universities increase in number, as private sectarian and non-sectarian schools develop alongside our schools, we insist in these standards that the advancement of Catholic Education in the Philippines is a common good worth cooperating together for. For the shared common good of Catholic education, it is worth cooperating with other CEAP schools to ensure that our Catholic students come to a genuine personal encounter with Jesus Christ in our schools, that they are sensitized to the demands of social justice and the common good, that resources available to us are managed to advance our mission, and that taxpayers money is not allowed to destroy our schools. We are challenged to deepen our fidelity to our God-given vocation as Catholic educators and institutions.   We do so in re-appropriation of our mission to cooperate together towards our common institutional good: the development of Catholic Schools in the Philippines. We do so now in reflected appropriation of the PCSSbe, and eventually of the PCSShe, which articulate the defining characteristics, domains, benchmarks and rubrics of our cooperation in our schools. We do so freely, and thoughtfully, because of a shared insight that Catholic education is good not only for our students but also for our country.


That brings us to the second challenge of our 75th anniversary. We cooperate not only to advance our institutional common good as CEAP, but we cooperate further in order as Catholic schools to advance the common good of our society. We cooperate among ourselves and with others (b) to actually engage and transform the society in which we operate according to the demands of social justice and the common good.

This is integral to our vocation as Catholic educators and educational institutions.  Our ninth defining characteristic says we are “engaged in the service of the Church and Society with a Preferential Option for the Poor” (DC, 7); our tenth defining characteristic says furthermore we are “promoting Dialogue on Faith and Life and Culture.”

Amidst the diversity of faiths, discordant receptions of faiths, cultures, sub-cultures, ideologies and behaviors in our society which tend to divide it, to disrupt it, to disintegrate it, sometimes violently, we are called to transformative education. As Catholic educators and educational institutions we cooperate to transform ourselves and society according to “a deep sense of social justice” – social justice which calls for the common good of all in society.

In this context I would like to recommend a book to you recently written by my friend and Jesuit brother, Fr. Patrick Riordan, S.J, of Heythrop College, London, as he was visiting recently in Davao, entitled, “Philippine Common Goods: a good life for all.” For the philosophical concept of the common good that is a keystone of Catholic social teaching yet useful in dialogue with peoples of others faiths or no faiths, Fr. Riordan’s book is the best concise systematic synopsis of “the common good” enriched by Catholic tradition that I know, remarkable in his discussion of such issues as President Duterte’s reference to the separation of Church and State vs. the separation of God and the State, the conflict between China and the Philippines in the Spratley issue, the importance of the international community, the proposal of federalism or even a parliamentary form of government in the Philippines, extractive mining in Mindanao as it affects not only the environment by the communities of indigenous peoples, the war on drugs and extra-judicial killings, the current Philippine economy.

We went out of our way to publish this book so that it could be available at the National Convention. I am leaving three copies with you for your appreciation (one with my former seminarian, Fr. Rector Arnold Tiplaca, for his seminarians).[3] So I will not attempt to summarize it here. But I will draw on it to guide my suggestions on how we as Catholic schools, committed to transformative education, may contribute to the common good.

From the common good no one is excluded.   For the Christian, it is “life in abundance, the fullness of life” (Jn 10:10) that Jesus brings for all – the fullness of life based ultimately on the love and compassion of his Father.

It is the opposite of the truncated life: life diminished and demeaned by lack of basic needs, lack of joy, lack of celebration, lack of love, lack of genuine community.

What the Vatican Council proclaimed still holds true today: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts” (Gaudium et Spes, 1).   These joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties we carry in our schools, as we commit ourselves through transformative education to work against social injustice and cooperate towards the achievement of the common good.

The social injustice in our societies, local, national and global, bind all in our societies to undoing social injustice in the achievement of the common good. Pope St. John Paul II referred to this as the “duty of solidarity” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [SRS], 9)

Solidarity, according to St. John Paul II, “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all responsible for all” (SRS, 38).

The common good then is “the good of all and of each individual, because we are all responsible for all” that we achieve through shared cooperation.

But of what does the common good consist?

It is that set of circumstances to be achieved through cooperation through which each person and all persons flourish optimally as human beings in a given historical situation. It is a future goal which elicits collaboration today.

President Duterte outlined the contours of the common good for all in the Philippines in his inaugural address, for which he now elicits our collaboration. The common good entails a relentless fight against the drug menace in the country; the common good entails forging peace with the communist and leftist insurgents; the common good entails peace with our Muslim communities. Unto these ends, he seeks the cooperation of the police, the military, the politicians and even ourselves.

The common good, however, calls not only for active cooperation but for critical dialogue not only with supporters of the administration but also with its critics, not only with Christians but also with those in our society who do not recognize Jesus Christ and his teachings.   It demands the solidarity of all, including those who are different, “other,” the least and the excluded – the unwashed, the undernourished, the sick, the helpless.

The critical dialogue – for which our schools may take special responsibility – is crucial. A proposed vision of the common good may falsely represent the common good. There are two criteria for disqualifying a vision of the common good:

“First, if any persons or groups of persons are systematically excluded from enjoyment of the good for the sake of which we collaborate, then the proposal cannot represent the common good.” If the miners claim mining is for the common good but substantially exclude the Lumad, the farmers and all who depend on clean water in Mindanao from the benefits of mining it cannot be for the common good.

“Second, “if the good to be shared is recognizably deficient, in lacking some genuine aspect of human well being, then it can be rejected as a candidate for the common good of political cooperation.” If an economic system is built on the exploitation of laborers or on the deadly triad, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and gun smuggling, it cannot be for the common good.

Wishing now to renew ourselves in fervor and spirit as Catholic educators in Tagum, we may want to re-assess our determination to commit ourselves as Catholic educators and educational institutions to the common good.

In our teaching and formation, how do we instruct and form for solidarity, for free commitment to the common good? Certainly not by fostering in our students a desire for high-paying jobs, or stoking a desire to use their studies to go abroad, or by honing our students’ leadership skills without concomitant formation for the common good.

Forming leaders must involve alerting them to the demands of the common good, and involving them in dialogue and cooperative action which promote the common good – “in season and out of season.” This may take place already in basic education when students are already taught to cooperate in achievement of common goods. Students in class may be taught to cooperate with each other in helping restore a forest, or clean a polluted river, or in bringing about a green campus. In higher education it may take place in forming business students in their responsibilities for the common good. Business is not just about earning private profits, as important as these may be, but in creating new wealth and sustainable jobs which contribute to the common good.

In this context we may renew ourselves in our familiar JEEPGY programs, all of which contribute the common good:

Justice and Peace. Justice, esp. social justice, calls for the common good where no one is excluded and the dignity of every person recognized.   Justice is the ultimate foundation for peace.

We might ask:

  • How does our school form leaders for justice and peace? What is the concept of the peaceful society built on justice to which we form our students? What do we imagine by it? What is the idea of development we instill in them when we teach and form? What images come to mind when we envision this? Pope John Paul II said, “…modern underdevelopment is not only economic, but also cultural, political and human” (SRS, 15).  Do we inadvertently encourage in our students a commitment to what St. John Paul II refers to as “superdevelopment” – based on unbridled consumerism and crass materialism?
  • Justice includes correcting the historical injustice committed against Filipino Muslims. What has our school done to create more understanding between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines?
  • Have our schools contributed to correcting historic injustices? E.g the historical injustice done to the Filipino Muslim, or the historic injustice done in misrepresenting abuses during the Marcos dictatorship, or the historic injustice still done in depriving indigenous peoples of their ancestral domains.
  • Are we as concerned for lives destroyed through drugs as for lives taken through extra-judicial killings?
  • The Madaris Volunteer Program is a CEAP project now in collaboration with the ARMM. Would our school be willing to volunteer teachers or students to help improve education in the ARMM?

Ecological Integrity. In Laudato Si Pope Francis reminds us that the environment gifted us by our Creator is our common home, our common good. It is urgent and compelling that we cooperate to preserve this common good.

We might ask:

  • Are we helping our students internalize and own values of environmental responsibility?
  • Are we participating in any reforestation projects?
  • Are we involved in projects towards urban renewal, i.e., making our urban spaces more conducive to quality human living, including the preservation and promotion of green spaces?
  • Are we developing our campus into green campuses?
  • Are we willing as schools to stand up against individuals, politicians, and corporations that destroy the environment for private gain?

Engaged citizenship. This is citizenship which takes responsibility for and cooperates unto the common good. It does not passively leave the achievement of the common good to others.

We might ask:

  • What programs do we have in place to form our students as engaged citizens and worthy leaders for the common good?
  • What can our school or our qualified faculty do to complement police campaigns in the war on drugs?
  • How do we actually encourage our students to volunteer for cooperation with others for the common good?

Poverty alleviation. Because the common good demands that no persons be economically excluded from the benefits of society’s shared collaboration.

We might ask

  • How do we form our students to respect and love the poor?
  • How do we actually help poor people in our communities out of their poverty?
  • Do we form our business and commerce students to understand their responsibilities for the common good?
  • How is our school involved in livelihood development for the poor in our local communities?

Gender equality. Because the common good demands that each and every person, no matter one’s gender, be included

We might ask:

  • To what extent are our schools implementing policies that are in consonance with the provisions of the Magna Carta on women? (pregnancy, lactation stations)?
  • Are our campuses spaces where persons of different genders can experience acceptance, welcome and understanding?
  • Do we work against discrimination against members of the LGBT community?
  • Would we be willing to back legislation to curb discrimination in our society against members of the LGBT community?

Youth empowerment: Because youth, especially youth educated in our Catholic schools, must be enabled to own responsibility for the common good.

We might ask:

  • Do we encourage our youth to speak their mind?
  • Do we guide our youth towards service of the common good?
  • Is our palette of extra- and co-curricular activities such that commitment to the common good is fostered.
  • Do we challenge our students to volunteer for difficult activities that advocate the common good?


Beyond the JEEPGY program, in furtherance of the common good, we may wish to urgently add:

Inter- and Intra-Religious and Inter-cultural dialogue

We might ask:

  • Do we form our teachers and students to such a deep appropriation of their faith that they can deal easily with people of other faiths.
  • Do we form our teachers and students in religious freedom? In the importance of the secular sphere vs. secularism?
  • Do we have activities where our faculty and students can actually interact with and befriend people of other cultures and religions?
  • In our Catholic schools do we help our students value the rich diversity of religions and cultures present in the Philippines?
  • Would we be willing to volunteer for long-term immersion programs in Muslim Mindanao which help improve education there?

Educational Reform

We might ask:

  •  Are we willing to stand together to insist on the complementarity between public and private education?
  • Are we willing to fight together for equitable access to public funding for the operation of our Catholic schools?
  • Are we willing to insist in law that Catholic education is not only good for Catholics but for the common Good?


As Catholic educators of Tagum, what is the source of our new spirit, of our new fervor?

The ultimate source is he who calls us to be ourselves as Catholic educators, and to transform ourselves and our society according to the demands of the common good. Considering that this is the good life for all or the life that Jesus brings us “in abundance, or life to the full,” we understand it to be no mean good. It is rather that situation where we shall flourish optimally as human beings – having shared goods beyond basic material needs that respond to our human needs for joy, for loving, for creativity, for nurturing, for worshipping even in religious diversity. It is the common good for which we are willing to work together and with others to achieve, humbly but persistently, though our schools, through our teaching, our learning, our research, our community service and our cooperation.

If this is the case: nothing has changed. God still calls us to be Catholic educators, as he did 75 years ago. He inspires us in love and guarantees our success.

But if this is the case: everything has changed. He sends forth his Spirit of renewal filling us with new fervor and love as we meet the challenges of society under our new President Duterte in the context of an evolving globe.

If this is the case, that ultimately it is God who bids us through transformative education to the service of the common good, we have nothing to fear. “For if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31b). Certainly not the SUCs, the LCUs, the DepED, the CHED, the competition, not the enemies of our common good, not the global blood cartels, not even the bloody blasts of terrorists’ bombs. Ultimately, God’s love prevails: “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, can separate us for the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-38) who comes “to bring us life in abundance, life to the full” (Jn. 10:10).



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