SWU readies ‘aggressive’ response to freeze order vs. medical college

By: Marites Villamor Ilano, Vanessa Claire Lucero July 02,2015 - 12:07 AM


SALAZAR                                               (CDN/LITO TECSON)

Students say CHED refusal to issue SO numbers ‘a form of prejudice’

Phinma-led Southwestern University last Wednesday broke its silence to assure anxious medical students and graduates that a more aggressive response to a freeze order against the College of Medicine was being prepared.

Chito B. Salazar, Jr., SWU chairman, said he has been meeting with the company’s lawyers to craft a legal strategy to defend the university’s right to operate a medical college and deal with problems caused by the cease-and-desist order issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

A task force has been formed to collate and help address the students’ needs and concerns.

“I can’t promise you anything, but I will fight for you because I believe it’s the right thing to do. We’re not doing anything wrong,” Salazar told students and graduates in a dialog yesterday.

The freeze order, issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) last June 2, has caused emotional distress, mental anguish and sleepless nights to about 300 students enrolled in SWU’s College of Medicine in Urgello.

“Supposed to be, CHED will help the students. Kami na nuon ang maningkamot nga mu-ingon nila nga palihog ipa-graduate mi ha kay wala mi labot ani (Instead, we have to make an effort to ask them to allow us to graduate because we take no part in the quarrel). It´s really upside down,” a student, who asked not to be named, told Cebu Daily News.

Salazar said the “biggest victims” are the 2015 graduates, whose diplomas are considered invalid without the CHED-issued special order (SO) numbers, and foreign students, who couldn’t get CHED certification to renew their student visas.

“These kids have nothing to do with this fight, other than when (CHED regional) director (Freddie) Bernal recommended they move, they decided not to,” Salazar said in an interview after the dialog.

Some students, whose parents were alarmed by the order, transferred to other medical schools. But most have chosen to stay, optimistic that this latest dramatic turn in the long-running Aznar family conflict over the medical college would be resolved in favor of the Phinma-led university.

Salazar said they gave the students until the end of July to decide whether to stay or transfer. They will get a 100-percent refund of their tuition payments, he assured.


CHED issued last June 2 a cease-and-desist order to SWU College of Medicine, Inc. (SWU-CM) in Urgello and reiterated that it recognizes only the SWU-Matias H. Aznar Memorial College of Medicine, Inc. (MHAM) in Redemptorist Plaza.

The order requires students to transfer to MHAM or to other CHED-recognized medical college.

It also directed Bernal to assure students that they will not be prejudiced and would be able to graduate and get their degree, undergo an internship program and take the board examination.

But students interviewed by CDN yesterday said the agency’s refusal to issue SO numbers to SWU graduates “is a form of prejudice.”

“The seniors, who decided to stay and graduate in 2015, are the biggest victims because they stayed the longest. They were given no choice. These are the people who are the most prejudiced,” Salazar said.

He said they were preparing to go to court to defend the Government Recognition issued to Southwestern College, now SWU, in 1954.

The CHED order did not rule on which institution owns the Government Recognition. CHED said the court should decide on the issue.

Salazar said the Government Recognition continues to exist and the CHED freeze order did not revoke this authority.


Third year student Siegfried Dy said the freeze order has affected students mentally, emotionally and psychologically.

They found out about the order only through Facebook, he said. CHED did not issue any communication to the students, he added.

“Grabe kaayo among stress daan with studying. Pun-an pa gyud ini (We are already stressed out with our studies. Then this),” another student, who asked not to be named, said.

“As much as possible, I don’t want to transfer because of the hassle. I want to graduate from this school,” the student added.

Several students, like Dy, worry about their finances.

“I am not going to transfer because having to transfer schools is tedious. I’m in my 3rd year. I also don´t have money. But if I did, maybe I´d transfer just to stay away from all the stress,” Dy said in Cebuano.

Several fourth year students are now worried about their internships and board examinations because CHED will not release a special order (SO), Dy said.

Without the SO, the students will not be able to take the board exam. For the foreign students, this delay can cause financial and psychological problems.

Without the SO, SWU interns are not accepted at the government-owned Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

“Sotto is looking for a letter from CHED, or an SO, or something that will state that they are credited for internship,” Dy said.

Only the Cebu City Medical Center and Sacred Heart Hospital, which is part of the university, have agreed to take in SWU interns.

Phinma took over the university’s administration in May, after acquiring 57 percent stake from Aznar family members.

Salazar said the conglomerate was aware about the family conflict over the medical school, but was hopeful for a peaceful resolution.

“I believe that CHED is interested in quality education and that’s what should override everything,” Salazar said.

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