Sunday, July 01, 2007

CHEd, printing office develop fool-proof diploma

By Michael Lim Ubac - Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The government is determined to wipe out the Recto diploma mill which through the years has catered to millions of out of school and undergraduate Filipinos, including overseas workers, pretending to hold college degrees.

The National Printing Office (NPO) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) signed a memorandum of agreement Thursday for the printing of “highly securitized paper” for college diplomas.

NPO, the agency that prints government forms, said the same security features applied in the printing of ballots, election returns and certificates of canvass would be incorporated in the manufacture of diplomas.

This will include the use of water marks, bar code and other high-tech printing technology previously utilized only in the printing of currencies such as the peso and dollar bills.

“Our aim is to put them out of business, and that people will no longer patronize them,” said NPO chief Felipe Evardone, summing up the government's response to the ready made counterfeit college diplomas peddled along a stretch of Claro M. Recto Avenue in Manila.

Evardone said the “Recto University” has given “a bad name to the patriot and statesman” Claro M. Recto, and the country as well.

According to Evardone, some higher institutions of learning have complained of lecturers and even professors gaining teaching positions by virtue of a fake Ph.D. or master's degree.

C. M. Recto Avenue has been home to a thriving diploma mill where an ostensible University of the Philippines diploma could be had for about P1,500.

Throw in a few more P100 bills and you have a newly minted TOR, or transcript of records, complete with flat 1 grades, and signatures of college secretary, university chancellor and president for authenticity.

Evardone said the Recto phenomenon, which blossomed during martial law, could be blamed on Filipino's ingenuity and of course the high premium put on education by society -- not to mention some people’s warped values.

For some people, getting the easy and less-expensive route appears palatable, he said.

“Also, it is easy to fake college diplomas. In Recto, they have people with a golden hand, plus the advent of computers allowed them to cut and past signatures of school officials.”

The Manila City Hall has repeatedly raided these labyrinth of counterfeiters, to no avail, recalled Evardone.

So the best way to defeat them is for the government to go high-tech, thus cutting the supply side, he said.

On the demand side, government should prove that those who will avail themselves of their services will face “risk and embarrassment,” he added.


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