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Sounding Board
CHEd attempts ‘martial law’ over school accreditation

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:08:00 12/20/2009

Filed Under: Schools, Martial Law, Education

THERE IS A RAGING CONTROVERSY AT THE moment between the chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and some presidents of private schools. A recent move of the CHEd chair attempts to take control of the running of private accrediting associations.

Private accreditation of schools has been in existence in the Philippines for more than 50 years. Accreditation is defined as ?a voluntary activity or process leading to the issuance of a certificate of accredited status by an organized body of educational institutions attesting to the quality or standards of a higher education institution or any of its educational programs, and to the effectiveness of the management and operations of the institution offering the program, as exceeding the minimum standards or criteria for government recognition as provided for in this Manual (of Regulations for Private Higher Education).? The Manual also says that accreditation ?shall be voluntary in nature.?

Fr. Antonio Samson, S.J., president of Ateneo de Davao University and president of Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities, briefly relates the history of accreditation in the Philippines:

?Originally in 1957 the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (Paascu) was founded as a private cooperative effort among its dozen or so founding member-schools to improve the quality of education with the help of voluntary accreditation. In time, the government, through its education agencies?Department of Education, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECS) , Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) and CHEd?recognized the valuable work of Paascu for improving the quality of education and extended to schools accredited by Paascu various privileges and grants, including levels of curricular and administrative deregulation to autonomous status. This has given Paascu a well-respected status in the country, as well as in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. After Paascu, other private accrediting agencies were also established . . .?

Recently, however, CHEd assumed the power to prescribe the governing policies, guidelines and requirements on accreditation, including such details it may deem essential such as standardized accreditation fees, the composition of accreditors, and other matters internal to the associations.

It is elementary constitutional law that the power of the state over private education is merely one of ?reasonable regulation.? Regulation is merely the power of a superior to ensure that inferiors are acting within valid laws. Regulation is contrasted with the power of control, which is the power of a superior to substitute his judgment for that of the inferior. CHEd possesses no power of control, yet its chair is attempting to exercise control.

It is also elementary constitutional law that individuals and groups have the right to form associations and that this right includes the prerogative of determining the direction of the association. CHEd now wants to crash into private accrediting associations and dictate what directions they should take and how they should operate.

CHEd claims to draw its power to impose its will on accrediting associations from Batas Bilang 232 and its implementing rules, as well as from Republic Act 7722 creating CHEd. This commission especially relies heavily on the detailed implementing rules of Batas Bilang 232. Are these rules valid?

It is elementary constitutional law that rules and regulations issued by administrative agencies are valid if three conditions are satisfied: (1) there is a law delegating the rule-making power; (2) the delegating law contains standards for the executive agency to follow; (3) the rules stay within the standards set by the delegating law.

What does Batas Bilang 232 say which the rules purport to implement? All it says is: ?Section 29. Voluntary Accreditation?The Ministry shall encourage programs of voluntary accreditation for institutions which desire to meet standards of quality over and above the minimum required for State recognition.? Where is the delegated power to make rules for private accrediting associations? Where are the standards for the agency to follow?

CHEd also relies on Sec. 8 of RA 7722, the law that gave it birth. Sec. 8(n) of the law authorizes CHEd to ?promulgate rules and regulations, and exercise such other functions as may be necessary to carry out effectively the purpose and objectives of this Act.?

This leads us to ask what the ?purpose and objectives of this Act? are. We find these in Sec. 2 which contains the policy CHEd is to follow: foster and promote affordable quality education; ensure and protect academic freedom; promote and foster continuing intellectual growth, research, effective leadership, promote high-level and middle-level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage.

If we look at the powers actually given to CHEd in Sec. 8, they have reference to CHEd?s interest in the academic programs of educational institutions. Nothing there refers to a power of CHEd over how private accreditation associations should be run. The whole law is a recognition of the function of CHEd enunciated in Batas Bilang 232 which is to ?encourage.?

In fact, prior to the current CHEd regime, CHEd maintained ?a policy environment, which enhances the private and voluntary nature of accreditation and protects its integrity . . . ? One naturally wonders what has brought about the current dictatorial tendency, and this over private associations which have done so much at no public cost to improve the quality of Philippine education.



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