Duterte honorary degree proposed by UP president
It was University of the Philippines (UP) president Danilo Concepcion, not Sen. Francis Escudero, who proposed the conferment of an honorary degree on President Duterte, according to a draft transcript of the UP Board of Regents (BOR) meeting on April 5.
Based on the document, a copy of which was given to the Inquirer, the UP BOR, the university’s highest policymaking body, also discussed inviting Mr. Duterte to speak during the graduation rites at UP Diliman.
“We have invited to honor a longstanding tradition … [the] President to be our commencement speaker in Diliman on June 25,” Concepcion said, adding that it was also a UP tradition to confer an honorary doctorate degree on presidents, senate presidents and chief justices.
“Whether or not he will attend the commencement exercises on June 25, I propose that we confer an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on [Duterte],” Concepcion told those present at the meeting.
His motion was seconded by Regents Frederick Mikhail Farolan and Angelo Jimenez, both Duterte appointees.
Concepcion, who was elected by the BOR to his post in February, said they should not make an announcement until the President had accepted the offer of an honorary degree.
But if Mr. Duterte refuses the invitation to speak at the June 25 commencement exercises, the conferment will still push through, he added.
“We can confer the honorary degree on him elsewhere, like maybe, in UP Mindanao,” Concepcion said.
BOR co-chair and concurrent Commission on Higher Education chair Patricia Licuanan agreed, saying the conferment could be done in Malacañang or the “Malacañang of the South,” presumably referring to the Presidential Guest House in Davao.
A summary of resolutions made during the BOR meeting earlier said it was Escudero who proposed the conferment of an honorary degree on Mr. Duterte.
But the lawmaker who sits on the board as the Senate chair for education, culture and the arts, denied making the proposal. In a letter addressed to all the regents, Board secretary Roberto Lara admitted the error and took full responsibility for the mistake.
The revised summary posted on the website of the Office of the Secretary of the University later omitted Escudero’s name but did not say who made the proposal.
Student Regent Raoul Manuel, the sole representative of the student body to the BOR, expressed surprise that the offer of a degree conferment was made even before the final approval of the board.
He said a committee should have been formed first to study the motion, adding that the process seemed “fast-tracked.”
“I believe that the UP administration thinks that the approval of the board is only a formality, when there should be proper venues to hear the different opinions of the students, faculty and staff,” Manuel told the Inquirer.
On Wednesday, Mr. Duterte turned down the offer, saying that “as a matter of principle, I do not accept awards.” But this was after the UP BOR’s move was widely criticized on social media, with netizens saying the President was undeserving of the honorary degree.
Mr. Duterte had in fact received several awards, the latest being the Knight Grand Cross of Rizal Rank, the highest honor from the Knights of Rizal, and The Manila Times’ “Man of the Year” award, both in February.
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