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On Corona’s claims of Ateneo honors

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Did he lie? Did he misrepresent? Was he negligent?

The Internet is abuzz with expressions of shock and disgust coming mostly from some graduates of the Ateneo de Manila University, alma mater of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona who is going through an impeachment trial.

“Corona lied about academic honors!” by Riziel Ann Cabreros is about Corona’s claims, as shown in his resumé, that he graduated with high honors from Ateneo grade school, high school, college and law school. But record checks proved otherwise. (Writer Cabreros works with ANC as a segment producer of “Pipol” and as a news writer. She is a researcher for journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug’s upcoming book on the Supreme Court, a much-awaited one, I must say.)

Cabreros asked: “Did Chief Justice Renato Corona embellish his academic achievements brandished on the website of the Supreme Court before it was altered just a few days ago? Given some inconsistencies with records seen by Rappler, he might have been, at the very least, negligent or had allowed false claims to be made about him. At the most, he himself could have misrepresented his own achievements.” (Rappler is an online news network.)

Cabreros wrote that in the resumé that Corona submitted to Malacañang in 1992, when he was assistant executive secretary for legal affairs of then President Fidel V. Ramos, he claimed that he finished grade school to law school in the Ateneo with honors. He made the same claims on the Supreme Court website as of March 9, 2012, Cabreros added.

Here were Corona’s claims in his resumé: That he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree “with honors as no. 5 in the class of 44 members.” That he finished his Bachelor of Arts course “with academic honors.” That he graduated from high school with “silver medal graduation honors,” and from grade school with “gold medal graduation honors.”

Cabreros declared: “Our investigation shows these are not true.” I could only mutter: “Patay kang bata ka!”

Outside of the grave charges against Corona at the impeachment trial, there have been other questions festering in the moonlight, foremost among them Corona’s midnight appointment by then outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (now in detention for a string of alleged nonbailable offenses), his fitness and credibility as Chief Justice, etc. Even the doctorate degree conferred upon him by the University of Santo Tomas was under a cloud of doubt because of waived requirements. Recent university students’ surveys on Corona, though pooh-poohed by his defenders, show poor ratings.

Now another school-related tempest is upon him. After reading Cabreros’ news report, Rene Santayana, Corona’s schoolmate at the Ateneo, wrote: “The point is … why lie about it? There are more than a hundred of us classmates—surely a large number will recall what really transpired in school? What a blatant display of arrogance and contempt! This I take personally because it touches me and it violates whatever small personal unsullied space I can still cling to in this life. I cannot stand idly by and allow myself to be made complicit in this.”

Cabreros cited Vitug’s book “Shadow of Doubt” (2010) where the latter wrote that university records “don’t reflect” Corona’s claims in his profile posted on the Supreme Court website.

Here are some info that Cabreros discovered and wrote about:

A college commencement program, dated April 19, 1970, indicates Corona graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Corona is nowhere in the college honors list, contrary to what is in his resumé and on the Supreme Court website. Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio and the late activists Edgar M. Jopson and Emmanuel F. Lacaba were among his batchmates in college. Jopson was the valedictorian of Corona’s high school batch.

Corona is not on the list of high school honor awardees. Corona graduated from Ateneo’s high school department on April 30, 1966 and was awarded a silver medal under the category of “Activity Awards.” This was for his involvement in the Science Club. But he was not on the elite list of those who graduated with honors, contrary to claims in his resumé and the Supreme Court website.

Corona graduated from grade school on March 22, 1962 with an “Honorable Mention” and not a “gold medal” as claimed in the Supreme Court website. His gold medal was for an “Academic Contest Award” in spelling (Filipino).

The new Supreme Court website says: “Chief Justice Corona had a sterling record as a student. He graduated with gold medal honors from the Ateneo de Manila grade school in 1962 and high school in 1966. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree, also with honors, from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1970. He was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2010.”

Cabreros said that Corona claimed, too, in his resumé that he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree “with honors as no. 5 in the class of 44 members.” There were 44 students in his batch.

Cabreros disputed this and wrote: “According to the law school’s commencement program, he graduated on March 31, 1974 with a Bachelor of Laws degree. He graduated with no honors. It was Arturo D. Brion, now an associate justice of the Supreme Court, who graduated valedictorian with a gold medal for academic excellence. Corona is not among those listed as having graduated with honors and distinctions in law school.”

So Mr. Santayana, like you, I also am offended because, yikes, Ateneo is also my alma mater. My heart beating wildly, I went over Ateneo’s sesquicentennial coffeetable book “To Give and Not Count the Cost: Ateneans Inspiring Ateneans 1859-2009,” which contains stories about 150 Ateneans written by 150 plus Ateneans. (I wrote about my teacher Fr. Jaime Bulatao SJ.) I was relieved to not find a write-up on Corona in it.

Send feedback to cerespd@gmail.com or www.ceresdoyo.com


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