Monday, January 25, 2010

CHED Dialogue REsumed

I received a letter from CHED dated 2 January 2010. It is signed by the Chairman and three Commissioners. I understand that a fourth Commissioner refused to sign the letter for reasons I understand perfectly. Nonetheless I must accept the majority vote as representative of the Commission’s collegial thinking. I propose to comment on three points mentioned in the letter.

1. Collegiality. The letter says: “While we admit that the Commission is a collegial body, such principle only applies to the policy making functions of the Commission.” Collegiality does not apply to “administrative matters, which are solely vested in the Chairman as the head of the instrumentality.” This, the letter says, is explicit in the Administrative Code.

My comments:

a. I still hope to be able to understand how administration and policy making can be surgically separated. My understanding is that the function of administration or management is precisely to carry out policy decisions. In my view, without the policy decisions there is nothing significant to administer. Thus, for instance, if an administrative order is issued saying that there should be CHED regional games or that regional directors should be shuffled, I would assume that these are in implementation of policy decisions made en banc.

b. It would be enlightening for everyone if the Commissioners can give examples of “administrative matters” which they have placed exclusively in the hands of the Chairman. I have the nagging suspicion that what might be involved here is unconscious dereliction of duty on the part of the Commissioners. If it is, it defeats collegiality. And to think that the Commissioners are all Ph.D holders!

c. The letter appeals to explicit exclusive authority of the Chairman found in the Administrative Code of 1987. I am fairly familiar with the 1987 Administrative Code but I must admit that, after combing the Code with my Mac’s search engine, I have not found the express provision referred to. In fact, CHED, unlike the case of other agencies, is not mentioned in the Code at all. CHED is governed by a special law, RA 7722.

I would be happy to be shown that I am wrong. But, the Commission’s view seems to contradict the Rules and Regulations implementing RA 7722 prepared by the duly authorized Transitory Body which says: “The Commission shall, in all cases, act as a collegial body. For purposes of a quorum, there shall be a majority of all the members or three commissioners present. The Chairman may vote to create or break a tie.”

d. This is not in the letter, but the lone dissenting Commissioner says that the Chairman now decides what are policy matters and what are administration matters. Is this true? If true, I suggest with due respect a contrary view: namely that deciding what matters belong to policy to be dealt with by the CHED en banc and what matters belong exclusively to the Chairman is itself a policy matter which should be decided en banc. I would be highly disappointed if the Commissioners supinely submit to the Chairman on this matter. After all, the powers of the Commission are expressly vested by RA 7722 in the Commission as a body and not just in the Chairman.

2. Advisory Body. A second point is about the Advisory Body mandated by RA 2277. Section 7 of RA 7722 says: “There shall be constituted a Board of Advisers 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 law further enumerates the department heads who should be members of the body. Added to them are the President of the Federation of Accrediting Association of the Philippines (FAAP) and the President of the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE).

About this matter the letter of the Commissioners says: “Currently, we are of the impression that there is no compelling reason to convene them for consultation with regard to transcendental policies [sic] which might require their assistance. However, rest assured that the Board will be convened once a year pursuant to law.”

My comment:

Since by law the annual convening of the Board of Advisers is mandatory, I am sure that school administrators will be elated by the assurance that the Board “will be convened once a year pursuant to law.”

3. Private Accreditation Bodies. I already wrote a full article on this two weeks ago in the Inquirer saying that CHED has no legal authority over private accrediting agencies. The latest on this, however, is that a draft of Guidelines for accreditation has been circulated. Is the Chairman trying to provoke a fight?

Incidentally, a columnist-lawyer attacked “virulent me” for criticizing the views of the CHED Chairman who in his judgment is a model of democratic behavior. I would have wished that the lawyer columnist had bothered to use his legal skills to analyze the legal issues and thereby offer some light on the matter.

Final comment:

Let me just say that I have been commenting on the work of CHED not as a school administrator but merely as one who has devoted a major portion of my professional life to education. Because I am not a school owner or a school administrator, if I should “go to war” and question before proper authorities what CHED is doing, my legal standing to question CHED might be challenged. But School administrators would certainly have the required jus standi. Alternatively, they might push for a public hearing in lieu of or preparatory to filing a case.

But then concerned school administrators might just want to wait things out until July 20, 2010 when, if matters are allowed to follow their normal course, there should be a change in the composition of the Commission under a new President! It would be an astonishing legal miracle if the current President were allowed to fill vacancies which will occur after her term.

25 January 2010

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