Laws apply to both the governing and the governed. They are kept to maintain order, reprimand wrongdoings and to protect everyone, maintaining equal treatment among those in power and the citizenry. Due process enforces the basic right of protection against accusers, and authenticates the validity of a law-breaking act.
As mandated by Art. III, Sec.1 of the Philippine Constitution, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” The University is compelled to give a certain degree of due process since the Constitution supercedes all laws of the land, including DLSU’s. Under the Students’ Charter found in Appendix G of the student handbook, it is stated that all students subject to disciplinary proceedings have the right to due process.
Yet with much premium on the balance of power, there are students who were deprived of their right to due process.
Nancy’s* professor filed a cheating case against. A discipline officer informed her about the professor’s complaint, and asked her if she could submit her reply to the complaint letter within the same day.
Under Sec. 188.8.131.52.1.1 of the student handbook, the discipline officer in charge of conducting the initial investigation of the complaint should give the accused student five days to reply, but in Nancy’s case, she was was told that the discipline office needed her response immediately, “Minamadali yung kaso [we are rushing the case], the exact words of the discipline officer.”
This is a clear violation of the Students’ Charter’s provision on the right to due process in disciplinary proceedings. It is stated in the said provision that the accused, the student, “has the right to defend himself or herself, and to be defended by a counsel of his or her choice with adequate time given to him or her for the preparation of his or her defense.”
Nancy did not complain what happened to her because she was engrossed with trying to prove her innocence, more than being meticulous with whether the process is properly followed.
Moreover, when one of Nancy’s friends asked an update of her case from the Student Disicipline Formation Office (SDFO), the attending discipline officer told the friend: “Di siya umamin e, ma
The other type of process
Along with the failure to provide the students with due process, there have also been problems with its actual implementation.
Most problems that students encounter when dealing with the due process of their cases stem from logistical and technical problems; either the trial is delayed because members of the student discipline board may not be present, or there is an overlap of powers and duties.
A compelling case happened a few terms back when a professor failed all the students in the class because he suspected the students of cheating.
Appalled, the students who were innocent filed for grievance to address the unfair decision of the professor. At the same time, the said professor filed a complaint of massive cheating to afflict the whole class. In the former Discipline Office’s record, the students were guilty, and in the Student Council’s grievance committee’s record, they were not.
In another more recent account, a current elected officer of the University Student Government (USG) almost could not run for office because of a long over-due case, which was supposedly already over.
The officer was also accused of cheating, but the case was dismissed by the Student Disicipline Board (SDB). A year after, 3rd term of last school year, her case was re-opened, and she was called once again to appear in the student courts. The USG officer was not aware that the professor filed for an appeal to reverse the decision of the SDB. The student leader was not properly informed of the professor’s appeal.
“Flaws” in the system
USG President Cabe Aquino finds that more than the internal flaw of due process, the additional delays caused by changes in hearing schedule also violate the rights of the students.
“Up to a year, pwedeng meron ka pa din kaso [a case can last up to a year]. The discipline board din parati nagpopostpone [always posponed] because the people in the board are students, deans, faculty. And if 1 of them is not available, it will not push through. Justice delayed is injustice,” she says.
Alexys Alip, Chief Magistrate of the Judiciary body agrees with Aquino. “By experience, I guess the [hearing] process it self takes a very long time. Especially when the concern is the schedule.”
Aquino disfavors the delays because it puts unnecessary burdens on students that could hinder them from excelling in their academics and extra-curricular activities. “The student would be living with that burden na di siya sigurado kung cleared siya o hindi; mahirap din magaral. [You are unsure whether your record is clean].”
Both Alip and Aquino also share that the USG also experiences similar instances when trying an administrative case filed against an incumbent elected or appointed officer. “Hindi pa masyado aware yung mga students sa process [Students are not aware of the due process]. They know what the Judiciary is, but they are still not familiar with the processes under the office.
Carl Au, LA representative of Blaze 2013, shares, “On a negative note, not all students actually allot time to read their handbooks. Because of this, some are not aware of these processes. They (the students) are also not aware that this can actually protect them. Another negative note is that there are still provisions in our current process that need to be revised for improvement.”