Doc­tor­ing lawyers

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion - BY: RHODERICK JOHN ABELLANOSA

The res­o­lu­tion of the Le­gal Ed­u­ca­tion Board (LEB) no. 2019-406 has trig­gered most aca­demics and lawyers to lay down their aces on the ta­ble or shall we say “pull their guns out.” FYI, the said res­o­lu­tion sets a “grad­u­ate level” equiv­a­lency to the ba­sic law de­gree, i.e. ei­ther Bach­e­lor of Laws (Ll.B.) or Ju­ris Doc­tor (J.D.). A re­lated in­ter­nal con­tro­versy among lawyers and “law peo­ple” erupted ear­lier when last year, the LEB is­sued a memo of­fi­cially declar­ing J.D. as the “uni­ver­sal ba­sic law course” thereby con­sid­er­ing those who were granted Ll.B. equiv­a­lent to those who ob­tained or will still ob­tain their J.D.

In spe­cific terms, the res­o­lu­tion 2019-406 pro­vides that the J.D. is equiv­a­lent to a doc­tor­ate de­gree in other non-law aca­demic dis­ci­plines for the pur­poses of “ap­point­ment/pro­mo­tion, rank­ing, and com­pen­sa­tion.” What does this mean? Well, LEB has not yet given us its of­fi­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion but we may take it to or­di­nar­ily mean that a per­son who ob­tained a law de­gree is like other doc­tor­ate de­gree hold­ers, say a State Univer­sity pro­fes­sor who has a Ph.D. in Eco­nomics, or a DepEd su­per­in­ten­dent who has a doc­tor­ate in Ed­u­ca­tion (Ed.D.). The way I see it, LEB is ob­vi­ously as­sert­ing that a law de­gree is “not in­fe­rior” but rather of the same level as a doc­tor­ate de­gree.

This in­ter­pre­ta­tion of LEB’s po­si­tion is best sup­ported by no less than the very ar­gu­ments of the res­o­lu­tion: (1) to­tal du­ra­tion of study­ing law is nor­mally four years, while MA and Ph.D. are nor­mally 2 and 4 years re­spec­tively, and (2) a ba­sic law de­gree has 152 to 168 units while MA and Ph.D. com­bined have 100 units more or less. The LEB adds that while th­e­sis or dis­ser­ta­tion is gen­er­ally not a re­quire­ment for the ac­qui­si­tion of a ba­sic law de­gree nev­er­the­less its “cur­ric­u­lar re­quire­ment” is “more than that” of doc­toral stud­ies.

Ap­par­ently, the ba­sis of LEB’s res­o­lu­tion is not only too tech­ni­cal but also bland. If only this mat­ter is a topic for a de­bate in a Ju­nior High School English sub­ject, LEB’s line of rea­son­ing would be ac­cept­able. It would be ex­pected there­fore for the Com­mis­sion on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion to im­me­di­ately re­act with a “se­ri­ous con­cern” to the de­ci­sion of the LEB. It ap­pears that the board has not fac­tored in other per­ti­nent doc­u­ments nor are they dis­cern­ing within the con­text of the so many re­al­i­ties of the coun­try’s chang­ing ed­u­ca­tional land­scape.

But there’s more. Per­haps it is best to test the logic of LEB’s res­o­lu­tion by rais­ing a few ques­tions. Per­haps we can try the fol­low­ing: if we con­sider the ba­sic law de­gree as equiv­a­lent to doc­tor­ate de­gree, how about those who pos­sess the de­gree but are bar flunkers (more so those who flunked the bar exam two times or even more)? Is there logic, wis­dom, or more so honor in call­ing them doc­tor? An­other, if the ar­gu­ment for the equiv­a­lency is merely the length of stud­ies or the num­ber of units, then might as well con­sider those who stud­ied The­ol­ogy in the sem­i­nary for four years (which is nor­mally a post­bac­calau­re­ate in phi­los­o­phy stud­ies) also equiv­a­lent to a doc­tor­ate de­gree holder. After all, there is also rigor in the­o­log­i­cal stud­ies in the sem­i­nary.

This whole de­bate about ti­tles and honors re­minds me of what the Ital­ian philoso­pher Um­berto Eco says: “there are peo­ple whose in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal comes from the name they sign their ideas with.”

The in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple with doc­tor­ates does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that this coun­try is get­ting more ad­vanced or bet­ter than the oth­ers. So long as the ideas of many Filipinos par­tic­u­larly aca­demics and pro­fes­sion­als are raw, poorly ar­tic­u­lated, and me­diocre, we will con­tinue to stay in where we are. We will only ap­pear ig­no­rant and stupid sign­ing doc­u­ments and Face­book posts with what­ever pre­fix or suf­fix we at­tach to our names. This coun­try needs more crit­i­cal, cre­ative, in­no­va­tive, and eman­ci­pa­tory think­ing for it to step up in the global scale. Sadly, Filipinos are very good in com­pet­ing with each other only to end up oblit­er­at­ing the whole na­tion from within.

A ti­tle is sup­posed to only “in­di­cate” ones real ca­pa­bil­i­ties and skills. It should not be an in­fal­li­ble in­deli­ble mark of priv­i­lege or syn­thetic pres­tige.

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