YES, it’s a bogus degree, at least based on the information so far available, unless Sen. Manuel Pacquiao and the University of Makati (UMak) that issued his degree explain otherwise.
In December 2019, Pacquiao was awarded by the UMak a bachelor of science degree in political science, after a year’s study (not three months) at that institution. UMak’s president at the time was Abigail Binay, also Makati’s mayor, after its longtime president Tomas Lopez passed away in February 2019.
UMak, however, is not authorized to issue the kind of bachelor’s degree that was given to the senator.
Under existing laws on education, the only way to skirt the four-year course (four years, because it humanly takes that long to complete the 120 to 130 college units required) for a bachelor’s degree is through the so-called Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP).
Authorized by President Ramos through Executive Order 330 in 1996, the ETEEAP allows working professionals who were not able to finish college education to earn a bachelor’s degree without going through the traditional four-year course.
Under this program, professionals with five or more years of working experience can use the knowledge, experiences and achievements obtained through their jobs to earn the units required for the college degree related to their particular field of work.
Because of its obvious potential for abuse, given the proliferation of “diploma mills” in the past, the ETEEAP is strictly supervised by the Commission on Higher Education with the EO requiring a technical secretariat “of highly competent individuals with recognized expertise in alternative learning systems and educational assessment.”
One of the most important features of the ETEEAP is that not just any university can issue degrees through the program. The CHEd has to authorize a university for doing so, after a strict application process by the institution. Not only does it authorize a university to issue degrees, but also for specific degrees. There are at present 96 such accredited universities, with 12 in the National Capital Region.
The UMak that purportedly issued Pacquiao’s Bachelor of Science in Political Science is not accredited by the CHEd to undertake the ETEEAP, and therefore has no authority to give Pacquiao a college degree.
There is only one university in the NCR authorized to issue a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science under the ETEEAP, and that is Polytechnic University of the Philippines; another university, New Era University, is authorized to confer a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
However, UMak vice president for academic affairs Elxyzur Ramos in 2019 told a newspaper when the university issued the degree to Pacquiao “the senator did not get his degree through the ETEEAP.” “Rather, he was enrolled under UMak’s own equivalency program for professionals patterned after ETEEAP in partnership with the Philippine Councilors League-Legislative Academy.”
But a GMA News article in 2019 quoted Pacquiao as saying “he was thankful for the ETEEAP of the Philippine Councilors League-Legislative Academy (PCCLA) which gives [a] chance to qualified Filipinos to attain college degree/diploma – Filipinos who wish to complete college through informal education.”
But under our laws, only the CHEd can authorize a university to undertake any such “equivalency program” of any kind, and it has not authorized UMak to do so.
It is almost hilarious the UMak vice president and Pacquiao invoke the legitimacy of its equivalency program by claiming it was in collaboration with the “Philippine Councilors League-Legislative Academy.” That league is simply the social association of municipal and city councilors in the country, now so wracked in infighting it doesn’t have a chairman or president at present. No matter its name, there is no registered, functioning academic institution called the “Philippine Councilors League-Legislative Academy.”
Under our existing laws, there are strict requirements for universities to issue bachelors’ degrees, such as completion of the 120-130 college units of study, which has a required sequence of completion, since over half of these are “general education courses” necessary for the other subjects focusing on political science. For example, an advanced course like “POLSC 131” cannot be undertaken without first passing POLSC 101.
UMak vice president Ramos claimed “to earn his degree, Pacquiao had to complete 10 modules for the different clusters of subjects.” He said while “it usually took a month for a student to finish each module, the senator completed all 10 modules in 16 months.”
If it was legitimate, was such a program consisting of modules also offered to other students?
Whatever that “module” innovation was, the CHEd has not authorized UMak to undertake such an equivalency program. Philippine college education, as in most countries, is still based on the college-units framework.
If CHEd allowed such “equivalency programs” as UMak claims, one can just imagine the stampede for colleges in the country offering programs which would allow students to finish a “college degree” in just one year, rather than four years. I cannot fathom why this UMak “vice president or academic affairs” seems to be totally ignorant of our education laws.
Contrast Pacquiao’s questionable “college degree” to the chemical engineering degree given to the business tycoon Lucio Tan in 2008. First, it was issued by the University of Santo Tomas, which is accredited by CHEd to undertake the ETEEAP, and specifically for chemical engineering. Secondly, there was a panel that interrogated him and approved his application, consisting of officers of the Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers, the head, former head and professors of UST’s chemical engineering department.
Was there such a UMak panel in the case of Pacquiao? If there was, it hasn’t been reported all, much less its composition. If there was such a panel, was it former Vice President Jejomar Binay who headed it, I wonder.
For Pacquiao to boast of his “college degree” and for UMak for issuing it is such a despicable insult to our educational system.
Pacquiao should resign immediately as senator if he cannot prove his degree is authentic, especially since as a legislator he had made an oath to defend the Constitution and follow the laws of the land. If it cannot prove it didn’t violate laws on issuing college degrees, the UMak, whose president is Makati Mayor Abigail Binay, should be closed by CHEd, and its vice president for academic affairs who claimed Pacquiao got a degree through ETEEAP fired.
There are some 3.4 million students, many of them poor, in our universities slogging away to complete a college degree in four years. Pacquiao got to get his questionable degree in one year. He should be ashamed of himself.
I put the headline of this article in the interrogative mood, not because I have doubts on my conclusions but only because I still have to get a response from Pacquiao on this matter, my query sent last Tuesday acknowledged to have been received by his office. I am also waiting for a reply on a freedom of information request I have filed asking the CHEd to explain how UMak got to give Pacquiao a college degree.
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Book orders: www.rigobertotiglao.com/debunked