LEB: No violation in 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

The Legal Education Board (LEB) said West Visayas State University-College of Law (WVSU-COL) has not violated any of its policies in the conferment of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (honoris causa) to First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos.

The WVSU administration justified the move as a way of thanking Mrs. Marcos for facilitating the funds for a P800-million law school building in the university.

In a statement on Thursday, June 13, the LEB clarified the allegations that the conferment of the award had violated Section 2 (a) and Section 5 of the LEB Memorandum Order No. 9 Series of 2017.

Section 2 (a) of the memo states that before LEB approves the resolution by the Board of Trustees or the governing board of a legal education institution, the “legal education institution must have existed as a higher education institution for at least 25 years.”

“(WVSU) is compliant with Section 2(a) […] in that it has existed as a higher education institution for more than 25 years, specifically for 38 years,” it said.

The LEB stressed that the 25-year requirement mentioned in the section refers to the existence of the higher education institution, and not the legal education institution.

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.”

The LEB noted that the WVSU-COL is also compliant with the section “since the prohibition applies only to incumbent administrators, members of the faculty, and staff of the awarding institution.”

It emphasized that as per the submission of WVSU-COL to the LEB, the contract of service of the First Lady had “already expired at the time of her nomination and conferment,” which signifies that she is no longer an incumbent faculty member.

Based on the university’s website, Araneta-Marcos is still included in the list of faculty roster as a part-time faculty member under the designation of Lecturer III.

The LEB said it is “satisfied” with WVSU-COL’s compliance with the guidelines outlined in the memorandum.

“LEB concurs that Atty. Araneta-Marcos is deserving of the award in recognition of her dedication to public service and advocacy for legal education,” it stressed.

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.

The pioneer batch of WVSU’s law students, an adopted class of Araneta-Marcos, also graduated on Saturday.

The First Lady joined the WVSU-COL faculty in August 2022, her inclusion into WVSU’s faculty was met with outright disapproval from the students and members of the academic community.

Villaruz, however, noted that Araneta-Marcos is qualified and “has more than met [the] minimum requirement” of the university.

“We felt that the presence of Mrs. Marcos in the faculty […] provides more advantage for students in the learning process that they would have to pass through in this particular subject,” he added.

An P800-million twin four-story law building for WVSU started construction earlier this year.

Villaruz said the First Lady played a crucial role in securing the funds for the project.

“For the past years, we have had no capital outlay insertion in the budget… And for the first time, she facilitated the insertion of P400 million for the COL building with the help of Speaker Martin Romualdez,” he said.