The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) views with serious concern Resolution 2019-406 purportedly issued by the Legal Education Board (LEB), and posted on social media, that declares, inter alia, that the basic law degrees, whether Bachelor of Laws (Ll.B. or Juris Doctor (J.D.), shall be considered as equivalent to doctoral degrees in other non-law academic disciplines for purposes of appointment/employment, ranking and compensation.
The issuance of this Resolution has been interpreted by some to mean that individuals who have completed basic law degrees have been granted doctoral degrees.
While CHED recognizes that the LEB has authority in administering the legal education in the country, the provisions of Republic Act No. 7722 or the Higher Education Act are clear about the powers and duties of the Commission. One of which, under Section 8, is the power to lay down standards, policies and guidelines for programs in higher education. Consequent to this express grant of power is the power of the Commission to determine the requirements for the offering of graduate programs, e.g. a) that graduate programs shall be vertically structured; b) that for doctoral programs, there shall be at least three (3) full-time faculty who are doctoral degree holders and who have published works in refereed journal(s) in the discipline; and c) that dissertation is required for all doctoral programs (CMO No. 36, Series of 1998).
Furthermore, as crafted by experts and observed by all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) these past years, including those that are offering Master and Doctor of Laws, graduate education is regarded as an advanced program of study, which is focused on an interdisciplinary academic discipline or profession and involves certain objective options, e.g. a) rigorous evaluation of work and interaction with professors and peers; b) professional experience via internships, teaching and research, and c) production of original research or creative work (RCW). Guided by Republic Act No. 10968 or An Act Institutionalizing the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF), establishing the PQF-National Coordinating Council and Appropriating Funds Therefor, the Commission asserts that a doctoral degree holder should have the following competencies:
• Demonstration of highly advanced systematic knowledge and skills is highly specialized and/or complex interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary field of learning;
• Utilization of complex research/creative work and/or professional practice and/or the advancement of learning with full independence in individual work and/or teams of interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary setting;
• Application of more complex setting that demands leadership for research and creativity with strategic value added; and
• Application of significant level of expertise-based autonomy and accountability to professional leadership for innovation, research and/or development management in highly specialized or multi-disciplinary field.
A doctoral degree is, therefore, not determined solely by the number of units completed or the number of years in graduate school. The rigors of completing a regular doctorate program in any discipline in the Philippines and abroad, including ASEAN countries, are very different from that of a law degree. A PhD entails the creation of new knowledge in a field of specialization through a dissertation, which needs to be publicly presented and defended before a panel of PhD holders in a specific field of study. In many cases, it involves publication of one’s research in peer-reviewed academic journals to demonstrate contribution to advanced scholarship.
In a few countries like the United States, a J.D. (not an Ll.B.) is considered a professional doctorate, which is not necessarily equivalent to “other doctoral degrees in other non-law academic disciplines.” In other countries like Australia, it is classified as a master’s degree, while in Canada, a baccalaureate degree.
The grant of authority or equivalency to non-law academic disciplines of degrees programs, in this case, basic law degrees are within the powers and authority of the Commission. Considering that the said Resolution has only been issued recently by the Legal Education Board, CHED is open to sit down with the LEB to discuss issues attendant to this Resolution and find an acceptable solution to benefit all parties concerned.
All HEIs are therefore reminded that in respect to the requirements for offering graduate degrees, the classification of members of the teaching corps of all HEIs, the policies and standards of the CHED prevail. Furthermore, with respect to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), guidelines, classifications and promotions are made by their Board of Regents guided by regulations of the CHED, the Civil Service Commission, and the Department of Budget and Management.
J. PROSPERO E. DE VERA III, DPA
Commission on Higher Education