Lawyer questions WVSU’s honorary degree to First Lady

First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (honoris causa) from the West Visayas State University-College of Law. (Photo from Mrs. Marcos’ FB page)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos recently received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (honoris causa) from the West Visayas State University-College of Law (WVSU-COL).

However, the conferment may have violated policies set by the Legal Education Board (LEB), according to a lawyer.

Atty. Josiah David Quising, co-convenor of Citizens Rights Watch Network, told Daily Guardian that the award violates Section 2 (a) and Section 5 of the LEB Memorandum Order No. 9 Series of 2017.

The memo outlines the rules and qualifications for awarding honorary degrees to individuals who have excelled in their fields through outstanding work and/or exemplary service to society.

According to the memo, a Doctor of Laws honoris causa can be conferred upon resolution by the Board of Trustees or the governing board of a legal education institution, with the approval of the LEB.

Section 2 (Authority to Confer) states that before approval, the “legal education institution must have existed as a higher education institution for at least 25 years.”

“I think it’s common knowledge that the WVSU-COL is only less than four years old. It’s already a violation of Section 2 of the memo. Again, WVSU has no authority to confer such an award to anyone,” Quising stressed.

WVSU, the first and only state university offering legal education in Western Visayas, started its Juris Doctor program in 2020.

Though the specific section can be vaguely interpreted, Quising maintained that the 25-year requirement applies to the College of Law itself and not WVSU in general, since the authority to confer always refers to the legal education institution.

“The qualification here is the legal education institution itself, which did not exist until 2020. WVSU is not a legal education institution before 2020. In my opinion, the higher education institution refers to it being a College of Law,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Section 5 of the memo states that “members of the faculty and staff of the awarding legal education institution are disqualified from being nominated for a Doctor of Laws honoris causa.”

Quising emphasized that even if WVSU-COL were qualified to confer the award, the First Lady is still not eligible due to her status as an incumbent faculty member of the college.

“Whether she is a part-time faculty or not, the memo does not make a distinction. It’s even on the website, which means that she is recognized as a member of the faculty, so she is really disqualified,” he added.

According to the WVSU-COL website, the First Lady is currently a part-time faculty member under the designation of Lecturer III. She joined the WVSU-COL faculty in August 2022.

Araneta-Marcos received the award during the COL Commencement Exercises on Saturday, June 8. The honorary degree was awarded by Commission on Higher Education Chairman Dr. J. Prospero “Popoy” E. De Vera, LEB Chairperson Jason Barlis, WVSU President Joselito Villaruz, and WVSU-COL Dean Atty. Pauline Grace Alfuente.


Quising stressed that the violation is not the First Lady’s fault, and the responsibility lies with WVSU-COL.

“It’s the law school that will have a problem with this since they are supposedly in violation of the LEB memo. It’s the LEB who will sanction if there are really violations,” he said.

Section 8 of the memo provides that a violation will be subjected to sanctions, including, but not limited to, the suspension of the privilege of granting honorary degrees for at least five years.

Daily Guardian has reached out to the LEB, the WVSU president, and the WVSU-COL for clarifications and comments but has yet to receive a response.

Quising also sent an inquiry to the LEB to clarify the policies and guidelines on the conferment of the award.