Sunday, September 25, 2011


At this juncture, it would be meet to recall the essential freedoms subsumed by Justice Felix Frankfurter in the term "academic freedom" cited in the case of Sweezy v. New Hampshire,[37] thus: (1) who may teach; (2) what may be taught; (3) how it shall be taught; and (4) who may be admitted to study.

Socrates, the "first of the great moralists of Greece," proud to claim the title "gadfly of the State," has deservedly earned for himself a respected place in the annals of history as a martyr to the cause of free intellectual inquiry. To Plato, this great teacher of his was the "best, the most sensible, and the most just man of his age." In 399 B.C., he willingly quaffed the goblet of hemlock as punishment for alleged "corruption" of the youth of Athens. He describes in his own words how this charge of "corruption," the forerunner of the concept of academic freedom, came about:

"Young men of the richer classes, who have not much to do, come about me of their own accord: they like to hear the pretenders examined, and they often imitate me, and examine others themselves; there are plenty of persons, as they soon discover, who think that they know something, but really know little or nothing; and then those who are examined by them, instead of being angry with themselves are angry with me. This confounded Socrates, they say; this villainous misleader of youth. And then if somebody asks them, Why, what evil does he practice or teach? they do not know, and cannot tell; but in order that they may not appear to be at a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all philosophers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the earth, and having no gods, and making the worse appear the better cause; for they do not like to confess that their pretense of knowledge has been detected -- which is the truth; and as they are numerous and ambitious and energetic, and are all in battle array and have persuasive tongues, they have filled your ears with their loud and inveterate calumnies.”[38]

Since Socrates, numberless individuals of the same heroic mold have similarly defied the stifling strictures of authority, whether State, Church, or various interest groups, to be able to give free rein to their ideas. Particularly odious were the insidious and blatant attempts at thought control during the time of the Inquisition until even the Medieval universities, renowned as intellectual centers in Europe, gradually lost their autonomy.

In time, such noble strivings, gathering libertarian encrustations along the way, were gradually crystallized in the cluster of freedoms which awaited the champions and martyrs of the dawning modern age. This was exemplified by the professors of the new German Universities in the 16th and 17th centuries such as the Universities of Leiden (1575), Helmst├Ądt (1574) and Heidelberg (1652). The movement back to freedom of inquiry gained adherents among the exponents of fundamental human rights of the 19th and 20th centuries. "Academic freedom", the term as it evolved to describe the emerging rights related to intellectual liberty, has traditionally been associated with freedom of thought, speech, expression and the press; in other words, with the right of individuals in university communities, such as professors, researchers and administrators, to investigate, pursue, discuss and, in the immortal words of Socrates, "to follow the argument wherever it may lead," free from internal and external interference or pressure.

But obviously, its optimum impact is best realized where the freedom is exercised judiciously and does not degenerate into unbridled license. Early cases on this individual aspect of academic freedom have stressed the need for assuring to such individuals a measure of independence through the guarantees of autonomy and security of tenure. The components of this aspect of academic freedom have been categorized under the areas of: (1) who may teach and (2) how to teach.

It is to be realized that this individual aspect of academic freedom could have developed only pari passu with its institutional counterpart. As corporate entities, educational institutions of higher learning are inherently endowed with the right to establish their policies, academic and otherwise, unhampered by external controls or pressure. In the Frankfurter formulation, this is articulated in the areas of: (1) what shall be taught, e.g., the curriculum and (2) who may be admitted to study.

In the Philippines, the Acts which were passed with the change of sovereignty from the Spanish to the American government, namely, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 made no mention of the rights now subsumed under the catch-all term of "academic freedom." This is most especially true with respect to the institutional aspect of the term. It had to await the drafting of the Philippine Constitutions to be recognized as deserving of legal protection.

The breakthrough for the concept itself was found in Section 5 of the 1935 Constitution which stated: "Universities established by the State shall enjoy academic freedom." The only State university at that time, being the University of the Philippines, the Charter was perceived by some as exhibiting rank favoritism for the said institution at the expense of the rest.

In an attempt to broaden the coverage of the provision, the 1973 Constitution provided in its Section 8 (2): "All institutions of higher learning shall enjoy academic freedom." In his interpretation of the provision, former U.P. President Vicente G. Sinco, who was also a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention, declared that it "definitely grants the right of academic freedom to the University as an institution as distinguished from the academic freedom of a university professor.”[39]

Has the right been carried over to the present Constitution? In an attempt to give an explicit definition with an expanded coverage, the Commissioners of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 came up with this formulation: "Academic freedom shall be enjoyed by students, by teachers, and by researchers." After protracted debate and ringing speeches, the final version which was none too different from the way it was couched in the previous two (2) Constitutions, as found in Article XIV, Section 5 (2) states: "Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning." In anticipation of the question as to whether and what aspects of academic freedom are included herein, ConCom Commissioner Adolfo S. Azcuna explained: "Since academic freedom is a dynamic concept, we want to expand the frontiers of freedom, especially in education, therefore, we shall leave it to the courts to develop further the parameters of academic freedom."[40]

More to the point, Commissioner Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon asked: "When we speak of the sentence 'academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning,' do we mean that academic freedom shall be enjoyed by the institution itself?" Azcuna replied: "Not only that, it also includes . . ." Gascon finished off the broken thought, - "the faculty and the students." Azcuna replied: "Yes."

Since Garcia v. Loyola School of Theology,[41] we have consistently upheld the salutary proposition that admission to an institution of higher learning is discretionary upon a school, the same being a privilege on the part of the student rather than a right. While under the Education Act of 1982, students have a right "to freely choose their field of study, subject to existing curricula and to continue their course therein up to graduation," such right is subject, as all rights are, to the established academic and disciplinary standards laid down by the academic institution.[42]

"For private schools have the right to establish reasonable rules and regulations for the admission, discipline and promotion of students. This right . . . extends as well to parents . . . as parents are under a social and moral (if not legal) obligation, individually and collectively, to assist and cooperate with the schools."[43]

Such rules are "incident to the very object of incorporation and indispensable to the successful management of the college. The rules may include those governing student discipline.”[44] Going a step further, the establishment of rules governing university-student relations, particularly those pertaining to student discipline, may be regarded as vital, not merely to the smooth and efficient operation of the institution, but to its very survival.

Within memory of the current generation is the eruption of militancy in the academic groves as collectively, the students demanded and plucked for themselves from the panoply of academic freedom their own rights encapsulized under the rubric of "right to education" forgetting that, in Hohfeldian terms, they have a concomitant duty, and that is, their duty to learn under the rules laid down by the school.

Considering that respondent students are proud to claim as their own a Christian school that includes Theology as part of its curriculum and assiduously strives to turn out individuals of unimpeachable morals and integrity in the mold of the founder of the order of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and their God-fearing forbears, their barbaric and ruthless acts are the more reprehensible. It must be borne in mind that universities are established, not merely to develop the intellect and skills of the studentry, but to inculcate lofty values, ideals and attitudes; nay, the development, or flowering if you will, of the total man.

In essence, education must ultimately be religious - not in the sense that the founders or charter members of the institution are sectarian or profess a religious ideology. Rather, a religious education, as the renowned philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, is "an education which inculcates duty and reverence.”[45] It appears that the particular brand of religious education offered by the Ateneo de Manila University has been lost on the respondent students.

Certainly, they do not deserve to claim such a venerable institution as the Ateneo de Manila University as their own a minute longer, for they may foreseeably cast a malevolent influence on the students currently enrolled, as well as those who come after them.

Quite applicable to this case is our pronouncement in Yap Chin Fah v. Court of Appeals that: "The maintenance of a morally conducive and orderly educational environment will be seriously imperiled if, under the circumstances of this case, Grace Christian is forced to admit petitioner's children and to reintegrate them to the student body."[46] Thus, the decision of petitioner university to expel them is but congruent with the gravity of their misdeeds. That there must be such a congruence between the offense committed and the sanction imposed was stressed in Malabanan v. Ramento.[47]

Having carefully reviewed the records and the procedure followed by petitioner university, we see no reason to reverse its decision founded on the following undisputed facts: that on February 8, 9 and 10, 1991, the Aquila Legis Fraternity conducted hazing activities; that respondent students were present at the hazing as auxiliaries, and that as a result of the hazing, Leonardo Villa died from serious physical injuries, while Bienvenido Marquez was hospitalized. In light of the vicious acts of respondent students upon those whom ironically they would claim as "brothers" after the initiation rites, how can we countenance the imposition of such nominal penalties as reprimand or even suspension? We, therefore, affirm petitioners' imposition of the penalty of dismissal upon respondent students. This finds authority and justification in Section 146 of the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools.[48]

[ G.R. No. 99327, May 27, 1993 ]

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