Saturday, December 26, 2009

More on CHED

I once had a kindly superior who, when he wanted to give an admonition, would often preface it with the words “Without reference to the past and looking only to the future . . .”, and then he would drop his bomb. Let that be my preface too for what I am about to write, because, from the reactions I received on my article last week on the “martial law” tendencies of CHED, I gather that I may have stoked a hornet’s nest.

I begin with the structure of CHED as laid out in RA 7722, CHED’s charter. It is not a one man or one woman body. It is a Commission, a collegial body, consisting of a Chairman and four members.

The requirements for appointment to the Commission are fairly demanding. They should be “holders of earned doctorate(s), who have been actively engaged in higher education for at least ten (10) years, and must not have been candidates for elective positions in the elections immediately preceding their appointment. They shall be academicians known for their high degree of professionalism and integrity who have distinguished themselves as authorities in their chosen fields of learning. The members of the Commission shall belong to different academic specialization.”

As if this were not enough, Section 7 of RA 7722 also creates a Board of Adviser "which shall meet with the Commission at least once a year to assist it in aligning its policies and plans with the cultural, political and socioeconomic development needs of the nation and with the demands of world-class scholarship." The Board of Advisers consists of Department Secretaries, the President of the Federation of Accrediting Association of the Philippines (FAAP) and the President of the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE).

A collegial body makes decisions normally by a simple majority vote. What comes out of the body is the decision not just of one person but of the entire body. A decision of one person, not even of the Chairman, is not a decision at all. Thus, for instance, rules and regulations coming from the body should be, for their validity, collegial decisions.

I make this point because I have been asked if I meant to attribute the “martial law” tendency of CHED, about which I wrote last week, to any particular person. Because CHED is a collegial body I must assume that what I call “martial law” tendency is emanating from decisions of the entire collegial body. If true, considering the demanding qualifications for membership in CHED and considering further the importance of education for democracy, I find it disturbing. If not true, it is even more disturbing, because it would mean that the members are not doing their job. Bato bato sa langit, kung tamaan huwag magalit.

If one examines Section 8 of RA 7722 which contains an enumeration of the powers of CHED, one will see that the powers are given not to any one person but to the Commission as a body. CHED is not any one person's fiefdom. Not even the Chairman is given any special power except, as implicit in the title Chairman, the power to call for and preside in deliberations. Again I must assume therefore that every decree and memo emanating from CHED has been the product of careful deliberation by the Commissioners and, where needed, after consultation with the Board of Advisers mandated by Section 7 of RA 7722. Thus if there is a hue and cry from the rank and file in CHED, as I have been told there is, against what CHED has been doing, it should be addressed to and answered by the officialdom of CHED and not just by one person.

But let me also repeat, as I indicated in my column last week, that as far as private accrediting associations are concerned, CHED has no power whatsoever. Even RA 7722 merely says in Section 14, "Accreditation. - The Commission shall provide incentives to institutions of higher learning, public and private, whose programs are accredited or whose needs are for accreditation purposes." Any intrusion into private accrediting associations is illicit usurpation. If I were a school President, I would simply consign those emanations to my circular filing cabinet.

Finally, I have been trying to figure out where the Chairman and the Commissioners stand in the administrative scheme of the government. Section 6 of RA 7722 says: "The chairman and the commissioners shall have the rank of a Department Secretary and Undersecretary, respectively. They shall receive the compensation and other emoluments corresponding to those of a Department Secretary and Undersecretary, respectively, and shall be subject to the same disqualification."

I am not sure if this means that the Chairman is a Department Head like the other Department Secretaries. If he is, would the principle of "qualified political agency" apply to him? The principle says that the heads of departments are alter egos of the President and the acts performed by them in the ordinary course of their functions are presumed to be the acts of the President unless the President expressly reprobates them. The principle is a vehicle for incriminating the President. However, what makes me wonder if the principle is applicable to the Chairman is the fact that, as I have indicated above, the Chairman has no powers independent of those of the Commission. And certainly the Commission is not a department head.

I should probably leave it that way and refrain from involving the President in the memos and decrees of CHED. Meanwhile, a Blessed Christmas to all and a hassle free New Year!

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28 December 2009

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