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Ex-CHED director Vitriolo charged over 'diploma mill'

Julito Vitriolo speaks to reporters at Malacañang in December 2016.

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has formally filed graft charges against former Commission on Higher Education executive director Julito Vitriolo for allegedly allowing a state university to issue diplomas and transcript of records to students despite the suspension of an education program.

In two separate case information sheets filed before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, the ombudsman charged Vitriolo with one count each of violation of sections 3 (e) and 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 prohibits public official from giving unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference to a private party or from causing any party, including the government, undue injury.

Section 3 (a) of RA 3019, meanwhile, prohibits a public official from inducing or influencing a fellow public official to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority.

Based on the information of the cases, Vitriolo, on June 1, 2010, "permit verbally" the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, through its acting university legal counsel Gladys France Palarca, to issue the transcript of records to the graduates of Bachelor of Science and Masteral degrees in Physical Education.

Ombudsman's assistant prosecutor Jorge Espinal said this verbal permit by Vitriolo unduly "persude, induce, and/or influence" the PLM to issue not just the records but also the diplomas of the graduates.

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Espinal said Vitriolo acted with "evident bad faith" as he had prior knowledge that as early as September 2008, then PLM president Adel Tamano had already suspended the university's Memorandum of Agreement with the National College of Physical Education.

Under the MOA entered in 1996, the NCPE would use the PLM facility "without compensation" and offer undergraduate and graduate programs in Physical Education. The PLM, on the other hand, would select the faculty members for the agreed programs and issue diplomas to the graduates.

Based on the ombudsman's previous investigation, Tamano suspended the MOA in view of the 2007 Commission on Audit finding that the agreement was prejudicial to the interest of the university.

Aside from the suspension of the MOA, the ombudsman said that as of 2009, the NCPE has already changed its name to Integrated College of Physical Education and Sports, and thus, "was no longer in the list of the CHED as among the institutions of higher learning in the National Capital Region."

Among the witnesses listed in the charge sheets to testify against Vitriolo were Oliver Felix, a former PLM faculty member who filed the complaint before the ombudsman, Tamano, PLM legal counsels Palarca and Ruel Panis, PLM vice president for academic affairs Virginia Santos, PLM-NCPE Alumni Association president Lauro Domingo Jr. and several other faculty members of the university.

Also listed by the prosecution as its witnesses were COA audit team leader Elenita Abesamis, state auditor Victoria Yumang as well as CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan and CHED-NCR director IV Catherine Castañeda.

The ombudsman recommended to the Sandiganbayan to set Vitriolo's bail bond at P60,000.

It was in January of this year when the Ombudsman dismissed Vitriolo from service for administrative offenses of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, incompetence and inefficiency for supposedly failing to investigate and instead allowed the anomalous issuance of the diplomas and TORs.

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