CHED can’t probe Cagayan ‘diploma mill’ without complaint

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
CHED can�t probe Cagayan �diploma mill� without complaint
This file photo shows the building of the Commission on Higher Education.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines —  The Commission on Higher Education is open to investigating the alleged selling of diplomas to Chinese students by some universities in Cagayan, but only if there is a formal complaint, according to CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera III.

In a statement, De Vera explained that while CHED acknowledges the calls of some lawmakers for an investigation on the so-called “diploma mill” scheme in Cagayan, the commission cannot proceed with an investigation without specific details and initial evidence.

“The commission strongly urges [Chester] Cabalza to formalize his complaint with the necessary evidence against St. Paul University Philippines in Tuguegarao with CHED. We will not hesitate to start an investigation and ensure that due process is observed for all involved parties,” De Vera said.

“In parallel, the commission reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that academic institutions under its purview operate within the bounds of Philippine laws and regulations and in concern with the nation’s interests,” he added.

Cabalza, a professor of the University of the Philippines and founding president of International Development and Security Cooperation, earlier alleged that some Chinese students in Cagayan paid about P2 million in exchange for diploma and other education credentials even if they skip classes.

St. Paul University Philippines (SPUP) in Tuguegarao City, where about 1,500 Chinese nationals were reportedly enrolled, has denied the diploma mill allegation.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday also clarified that only 400 Chinese students remain in Cagayan province, contrary to previous reports that about 4,600 Chinese students are staying in the province, possibly to serve as spies of the Chinese military.

The BI said its records showed that it issued student visas to 1,516 Chinese nationals endorsed for admission by the SPUP, but only 400 of these students remain in the province, as the others had opted to avail themselves of the school’s distance learning program.

In a joint statement last Thursday, the SPUP and three other higher education institutions (HEIs) in Cagayan – Medical Colleges of Northern Philippines, University of Cagayan Valley, and University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao – have denied the diploma mill allegation, saying that they implement “stringent admission criteria and screening process” for all its students.

“We take the safety and security of our students and faculty seriously, and any insinuation otherwise is not only unfounded but also insulting,” the HEIs said.

The diploma mill allegation came on the heels of calls by several lawmakers in the House of Representatives to investigate the supposed influx of Chinese students in Cagayan, possibly to serve as spies for the Chinese military, especially as two areas in the province, the Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana town and Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo municipality, were earlier placed under the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippine and US governments.

In their joint statement, the four HEIs in the province said the allegations against the Chinese students display “racism and Sinophobia.”

“The insinuation that the presence of Chinese students in the city’s universities poses a threat to national security is not only baseless, but also deeply offensive. It is a blatant display of racism and Sinophobia that has no place in our society, especially within the realm of education,” the joint statement read.

With the denial of the SPUP and the other universities in Cagayan, De Vera said it is only proper for Cabalza to substantiate his allegation for CHED to pursue an investigation.

“The SPUP has already denied (the diploma mill allegation). Official statements on this have already been issued by the schools in Cagayan. It’s in the media reports already,” De Vera pointed out.

“We need specific details and evidence so that a formal investigation can be undertaken and due process can be accorded to whoever is being complained (about). That is why I am urging Prof. Cabalza to file an official complaint with evidence,” he added.


Taking no chances to ensure the country’s safety from threats, security officials have expressed desire to find out if the Chinese students staying in Cagayan are members of China’s clandestine forces, an official of the National Security Council (NSC) said yesterday.

NSC assistant director general Jonathan Malaya said an investigation on the presence of Chinese students in Cagayan is underway.

“Intelligence units have been assigned to take a look at the situation if it is a national security threat or a case of students who want to study in the Philippines,” Malaya said at a news forum at Dapo Restaurant and Bar in Quezon City.

In an interview after the forum, the NSA official disclosed that they want to be certain that the foreigners are not members of sleeper cells from China.

“We are checking if there are sleeper cells,” Malaya said.

Sleeper cells are groups of operatives or spies that live secretly in a targeted area until they receive orders or decide to act.

Malaya also pointed out the arrest last week of a Chinese man in Taguig City who was in possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives.

“The government has to do a crackdown on this because, of course, we are alarmed every time we learn that there are high-powered (firearms), whoever they are,” Malaya said. – Emmanuel Tupas

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