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The Emperor's Honorary Degree
By Elson T. Elizaga

In June 2008, the Mindanao Polytechnic State College (now Mindanao University of Science and Technology) gave an honorary degree in humanities to Cagayan de Oro vice-mayor Vicente Yap Emano. This is irregular because of several legal prohibitions:

Republic Act 8292, also known as the “Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997”, states that colleges and universities can “award honorary degrees upon persons … within the academic competence of the university or college ….”

The Mindanao Polytechnic State College (MUST) does not give degrees in humanities. The laws that create this institution restrict it to the teaching of science and technology. The English and communication subjects in MUST are taught for science and technology. One might think MUST has expertise in philosophy because of degrees like Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Mathematics, but this is more mathematics than philosophhy. It is not the study of the human condition, which is the heart of the humanities.

Presidential Decree 1431 shows the history of Mindanao Polytechnic State College. Section 1 of this document says: “The present Mindanao School of Arts and Trades located in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, is hereby converted into Don Mariano Marcos Memorial Polytechnic State College to take care of human resource development for industry, agriculture and forestry, and fishery and maritime studies through a network of satellite institutions throughout the region.”

The same decree, Section 2, states: “The purpose of the college shall be to provide higher vocational, professional, and technological instruction and training in trade, agriculture, fishery and maritime studies and to promote research, needed to support the industrialization program in Northern Mindanao.”

Moreover, and this is probably the most crucial, Section 4 paragraph b states that Don Mariano Marcos Memorial Polytechnic State College has the power and duty “To confer titles, bachelor's and master's degrees to successful candidates for graduation;”

PD 1431 does not give the school the right to confer doctorate degrees, including honorary degrees. Strangely, however, Mindanao Polytechnic State College offers three doctorate degrees in Technology Education, Educational Planning and Management, and in Mathematical Sciences.

Republic Act 7102 renamed Don Mariano Marcos Memorial Polytechnic State College into the Mindanao Polytechnic State College, but this act has no new set of laws that describes the purpose of the institution. So, its purpose as stated in PD 1431 remains the same.

Even if the Mindanao Polytechnic State College had legal rights to confer honorary degrees in humanities, the award it gave to Emano would still be dubious. In 2003, Emano destroyed a huge portion of the Huluga archaeological site to give way to a P500-million road project that had no Archaeological Impact Assessment.

As a result of protests by the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) and other groups, the Environmental Management Bureau of Cagayan de Oro ordered Emano to pay P50,000 for the damage of this invaluable cultural and ancestral site. Emano defended his action by saying that "The bridge is more important than heritage." As of this writing, Emano has not paid the penalty.

How am I able to come up with this information when I’m not a lawyer and I don’t have a Ph.D. degree?

Simple. I'm using a wireless product of science and technology.Black square indicates end of article.


Massive flash flood hit Cagayan de Oro on the night of December 16 and dawn of December 17. Days later, mayor Vicente Y. Emano sent 74 bodies of flood victims to the city dump in barangay Carmen, causing widespread outrage. Philippine president Benigno Aquino III said during a press conference that cases should be filed against people responsible for this act. Emano publicly admitted responsibility, but blamed the National Bureau of Investigation later.

As of November 9, 2012, the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) has not withdrawn the honorary doctorate degree it gave to Emano.


This article was published in Mindanao Goldstar Daily, July 10, 2008 and Mindanews. Expanded with note on Huluga and messages on May 25, 2009. | Mindanao Polytechnic State College became the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) on January 7, 2009. See list of courses in 2009. Links updated April 12, 2011. Further updated March 28, 2013 . Copyright © Elson T. Elizaga.