SPEECHES & INTERPELLATIONS

Speeches

CONCILIATE, COMPROMISE, COOPERATE IN REASON

Talk of Nene Pimentel before the national convention of the Association of Local Colleges and Universities at the University of Makati, October 20, 2010

           Dr. Tom Lopez, Officers and Representatives of the Association of Local Colleges and Universities, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

            Thank you for your kind invitation for me to speak at your national convention today.

Innovative

            As the principal author of the Local Government Code, I am extremely pleased at the innovative ways you, as educators, are trying to make quality education accessible to most of our people all over the land.

            In my growing up years in Mindanao, we only had a handful of named institutions of learning mostly private in the big cities of the island. Today, according to CHED there are 2,180 institutions of higher learning, many of them still of private ownership but a good number have been established and are run by local government educators not only in Mindanao but in the Visayas and Luzon.

Quality obligation

            To keep the higher institutions of learning not only viable but able to deliver quality education is your obligation.

            As educators, it follows that making education truly effective as a way of preparing our people to enhance the quality of their lives is your turf.

Political reality

            I know it is a difficult job especially because you have to deal with the political reality in your community. You might have been appointed by the local chief executive who no longer occupies the post now.

            You just have to live with it. When I was the mayor of Cagayan de Oro City in the 1980s, the Local Government Code was not yet in existence. But we had a school board of which I was the chair by decree of the martial law regime.

            But knowing that education is for educators not for politicians, I voluntarily gave way to the Division Superintendent of Schools to run the School Board on my behalf. He did quite well and we had no serious problems with our school obligations.

Hack it

            You, however, are not in Cagayan de Oro and the experience our Division Superintendent and I went through are not yours either.

            So, if you have problems with your local political executives, I guess you just have to hack it, that is, manage those problems as best you can. Use psychology, use PR, use your best talents to convince them that you are not a partisan agent of anyone but an educator of your people.

            You also have to deal properly, even gingerly, with the national government agency mandated to oversee higher education and that is the CHED.

Problem

            And that brings us to the problem that most, if not all, of you are facing. The issue takes the form of some fairly recent issuances of the Commission on Higher Education and the Professional Regulatory Commission.

            Specifically, we may raise the question: DO the PRC and CHED have the power to require Local Colleges and Universities to secure permits from CHED to operate “Board Programs” defined in CHED PRC Circular No. 1, dated May 14, Series of 2010?

            The joint circular was reiterated in PRC Memorandum Circular No. 2010 – 12, dated May 27, 2010.

Four laws

            THERE are, at least, four laws that directly impinge on the issue.

            1st, Republic Act 7160 the Local Government Code of 1991.

            2nd, Republic Act 7722, the Higher Education Act of 1994.

3rd, the Republic Act 7796, the Technical Education and      Skills Development Act of 1994, and

            4th, Republic Act 8981, the PRC Modernization Act of 2000.

Like gold mining

            But like mining for gold, we have to dig deep into the intricacies of the legal enactments and strip the provisions of dregs before we can use them to back up our position on the issue at hand.

            The first law in our list, the Local Government Code of 1991, provides a basis to contest the unilateral implementation of the Joint Memorandum Circular in question.

            The three other laws: the Higher Education Act, the Technical Education and Skills Development Act, and the Professional Regulation Modernization Act give grounds to push through with the circular.  BUT some of the provisions of the three laws may support our quest for fair and just treatment from CHED and the PRC – which, if I understand it right, is what the LCUs seek.

 CHED LAW

            Let’s start with Republic Act 7722, the "Higher Education Act of 1994". The Act declares it a policy for the State to:

            Protect, foster and promote  affordable quality education at all levels; and

            Make it accessible to all.

Local plans

            In simple terms, making quality education accessible to all  means that local development plans that sometimes include the creation and establishment of local colleges and universities must be taken into account by the CHED in preparing programs for national, regional or local implementation.

            It is pertinent to note that among the powers and functions of the CHED are two apparently contradictory provisions:

            (1) To formulate and recommend development plans, policies, priorities and programs on higher education and research.

            xxx

            (4) To set minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning recommended by panels of experts in the field and subject to public hearing, and enforce the same.

            In the first cited provision, CHED only has recommendatory powers regarding development plans and policies on higher education.

            But the second cited provision empowers CHED to set minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning.

            The powers “to recommend” and “to set” are fields apart .

            The saving grace as far as local colleges and universities as well privately established institutions of higher learning is that the setting of minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning must be recommended by panels of experts in the field and subject to public hearing before they may be enforced.

            In any case, the "Higher Education Act of 1994 does not deny the power of local governments to establish their own local colleges and universities.

            The Act, however, also provides that CHED shall have the power and function to (a) rationalize programs and institutions of higher learning, and (b) set policies, standards and guidelines for the creation of new ones as well as the conversion or elevation of schools to institutions of higher learning, … and the number of institutions of higher learning in the province or region wherein (the) creation, conversion or elevation is sought to be made.

            The provision no doubt is well-intentioned. And if implemented fairly with the national interest and local concerns harmonized, it would not unnecessarily intrude into the sphere of authority of local governments in putting up and running their own local colleges and universities.

Academic Freedom

            But once established, the institution that affords quality education that is accessible to all will enjoy academic freedom.

           The academic freedom is intended to lead to the development of responsible and effective leadership, the education of high-level and middle-level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage.

            Incidentally, the Constitution, itself, Section 5(2) of Article XIV of the Constitution guaranties all institutions of higher learning academic freedom. As a scholarly observer put it: “This institutional academic freedom includes the right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives, and how best to attain them free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public interest calls for some restraint. According to present jurisprudence, academic freedom encompasses the independence of an academic institution to determine for itself (1) who may teach, (2) what may be taught, (3) how it shall teach, and (4) who may be admitted to study.”

TESDA LAW

            Another law, the Technical Education and Skills Development Act of 1994 seems to restrict local government colleges and universities to “Technical Education".

            Technical education refers to the education process designed at post-secondary and lower tertiary levels, officially recognized as non-degree programs aimed at preparing technicians, para-professionals and other categories of middle-level workers.

            But when the TESDA law, itself, prescribes the means by which technicians, para-professionals and other categories of middle-level workers would get non-degree training, it expands the scale of education that may given to them. Aside from the merely “technological” and “related job skills training”, the law allows TESDA to go into a “broad range of general education, theoretical and scientific” for the benefit of their students.

            Teaching a “broad range of general education, theoretical (and) scientific” studies does not limit the local colleges and universities to “technological studies and related job skills training.”  As we shall see in slide 28  later, “theoretical and scientific studies” are not necessarily absorbed by “technological studies”.

            In passing, this requirement for Tesda to provide “broad general education” enables the children of poor families not only to get elementary and high school diplomas but also baccalaureate degrees.

PRC butts in

Now what about the Professional Regulatory Commission Modernization Act of 2000? Does it impact adversely on the inherent power of local governments to establish local colleges and universities?

The Act does not do so. But under Section 7 of the law, PRC does have the power to “administer, implement and enforce regulatory policies” of the government with respect to the regulation and licensing of the various professions and occupations;

            “xxx

            (and)

“(d) To administer and conduct the licensure examinations of the various regulatory boards in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the Commission.”

            These are provisions that deal with “those who have already finished their (professional) courses and are required to undergo “licensure examinations”.

            The PRC, however, must act in coordination with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED):

            (h) To prepare, adopt and issue the syllabi or tables of specifications of the subjects for examinations in consultation with the academe.

 

Board programs

 

            The joint circular we are discussing was issued by PRC and CHED and impacts on institutions of higher learning by delimiting their authority to run “Board Programs.”

 

            In the light of these legal enactments, are the local colleges and universities being placed completely under the control or supervision of the CHED in conjunction with the PRC?

 

            The answer is no. The Local Government Code has a lot of things to say on the issue.         

 

            The Local Government Code provides a scenario for the establishment of local colleges and universities without interference from agencies of the national government.

 

Fullest development

 

 

            The Code proclaims it as a policy of the State that “the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals.”

 

To “attain their fullest development as self reliant communities and make them more effective partners for the attainment of national goals” local government units need educated citizens – which means the presence of schools that provide “affordable quality education at all levels and accessible to all.”

      Those schools – if not created by the national government - are none other than local colleges and universities that are established by local governments.

The Code also mandates that:

            “Periodic consultations with appropriate local government units, non-governmental and people's organizations, and other concerned sectors of the community shall be made before any project or program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions.”

            I submit that the phrase “Any project or program” includes education.

            And

“xxx

            “Coordination of national government policies and programs ... within the territory of local governments.

 

The periodic consultations and coordination with local governments provided for in the Local Government Code favor locally-established colleges and universities in that they may not just be ordered around by national government agencies even in matters of education.

            We cite two more activities that local governments are mandated to do which could be met by local colleges and universities:

 

    • Enhancement of economic prosperity and social justice, and

 

    • Promotion of full employment among their residents.

 

            The enhancement of economic prosperity, social justice and full employment of their residents will be more readily achieved if quality and affordable education – not only technical or technological education - at all levels is accessible to all.

             To repeat, national government policies and programs that local governments are obligated to promote and enhance include education.

            Incidentally, the powers of local governments in the field of education are not limited only to those that are specifically mentioned in the Code such as the creation of vocational and technical schools.

            To  deliver things beneficial to their residents even if not specifically provided in the Local Government Code may be done by  local governments under the general welfare clause that is found in Section 16 of the Code.

            The General Welfare provision of the Code states thatEvery local government unit shall exercise:

(a) the powers expressly granted;

(b) those necessarily implied there from, as well as

(c) powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and

(d) Those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.  

            It therefore follows that education not only vocational or technological, primary or secondary but also tertiary may be provided for the residents of local government units as it will help promote their general welfare.

            In the words of the Code, local governments may (also) encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities.

            I suggest that the development of scientific capabilities is not necessarily subsumed under the promotion of “technological capabilities”.

            Medical studies, nursing, engineering, education and accountancy, for instance, are not limited merely to the development of “technological capabilities”.

            Knowledge of science, to say the least, and other pertinent disciplines, plays a major role in the pursuit of such professions.

            If doubt still lingers as to whether or not the Local Government Code has the power to delve into matters of higher education, the Code itself provides that

           

            “In case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower local government unit. Any fair and reasonable doubt as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the local government unit concerned.”

 

As for cities, they may deliver all the services and build facilities that the municipalities and provinces can do, and in addition thereto:


Support education mainly through the Local School Boards.

 

            In passing, let me mention that The Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila that was put up in 1965 as “the first institution of higher learning in the Philippines to be fully subsidized by a local government unit” is not a typical example of a local government university. The reason is that it was created by an Act of Congress (Republic Act 4196) that enabled the City of Manila to operate its own university.

 

After the enactment of the Local Government Code in 1991, local government units began to put up their own LCUs by enacting appropriate ordinances approved by their respective Sanggunians.

 The advantages of having LCUs as was indicated earlier are readily apparent.

 For aside from the legal issues, social and economic considerations should make CHED and the PRC pause in their seemingly common effort to ram their Joint Memorandum Circular down the throats of the ALCUs.

 That said, let me immediately add so that I am not misunderstood as advocating a complete defiance of what CHED and the PRC are trying to do. I recognize – and we should all do – the need of reasonable regulations to prevent the mushrooming of diploma mills masquerading as institutions of learning.

An item in a Manila newspaper in August of this year had it that from 2004 – 2008, 1,421,464 examinees took licensure examinations. 903,202 flunked. In 2009, 314,031 took licensure examinations. Less than half or 110,429 passed. And in the first half of this year, 68,104 failed in the examinations.

             If the dismal failure rates come from graduates of any such diploma mills among the LCUs, I suggest they either shape up or be phased out.

             There is room, then, for a harmonious resolution of what appears to be an imminent volatile conflict between CHED and the PRC, on the one hand, as agencies of the national government and the LCUs as creations of local governments, on the other.

 Conclusion:

 

 Although the lines appear to have been drawn, they are not written in stone.

            If the memorandum circular in question is brought before the courts, who knows what the decision will be. One thing is certain. It will exacerbate the tensions between CHED/PRC and the LCUs.

My suggestion, then, is for the LCUs to:

Insist on the need for consultations and coordination and public hearings on the matter by CHED & PRC with them, and

Then, comply with reasonable regulations that may come out of those conciliatory meetings.

Litigations are good for lawyers.

 CONCILIATION, COMPROMISE AND COOPERATION in reason are still the best means to resolve conflicts among people and institutions including CHED, PRC and the LCUs.

Thank you  for your kind patience.



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