Legarda calls for ‘higher forms’ of UP protest
Student activists who disrupted Sunday’s graduation rites at the University of the Philippines (UP) as part of campus tradition were advised to strive for “higher forms” of protest by the commencement speaker, Sen. Loren Legarda.
“To the demonstrators, I say welcome, and say your piece if you must, as I have said mine. UP will not be UP without you,” Legarda said.
“But I also ask you to consider this, when the shouts have died down and when we walk out of this amphitheater to face the rest of our lives, you may discover, as I have, that there are higher forms of, and larger reasons for, protest and affirmation,” she said.
“Someone has to speak up for Earth itself, for nature itself, for the voiceless among us,” she added.
Legarda was earlier conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree by the premier state university.
She graduated cum laude from UP with a broadcast communication degree in 1981.
The senator said she had been “forewarned” about the demonstration near the end of the ceremony.
It is a tradition at the university to let student activists stage a “lightning” rally during graduation rites.
This year, they carried banners that read “Stop the Killings,” “Defend Press Freedom,” “Free all Political Prisoners.”
Before reading her speech, Legarda also noticed several students holding up signs that called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“Yes, I agree with you,” said Legarda, who is serving as one of the advisers to the government panel in the talks.
She said she was supposed to leave for Oslo, Norway, for the resumption of the talks, which, she added, were “unfortunately suspended for the meantime.”
UP President Danilo Concepcion, members of the Board of Regents, and UP Diliman chancellor Michael Tan conferred the honorary degree on Legarda.
The degree is awarded to public servants and lawyers who have contributed to leadership, international understanding and the rule of law.
In her speech, Legarda challenged the demonstrators to go out into the world and to take action to protect the future.
“My work in the Senate is my demonstration against the abuses and inequities that have destroyed our world. But beyond speaking, we need to act, in our respective spheres and communities, to protect the future,” she said.
“Join me in my advocacy, and let us unite to realize and uphold our beloved freedom,” she added.
Spirit of inquiry
Legarda urged the graduates not to waste brainpower by continuing to be curious about the world.
“Never lose that spirit of inquiry, that insatiable curiosity, about the world and how it works. And when the world fails to work, or begins to fall apart, as we are seeing with our environment, be even more intensely engaged,” she told some 4,000 graduates.
“Ask questions not just for the sake of asking them—but because, today, I can and I must help find answers that work. Knowledge without application is a waste of brainpower. Awareness without action is a waste of principle,” she added.
While buildings and student population have doubled since her student days in the 1980s, Legarda observed that “there are things that will never change”’ at UP.
“Like your chosen theme for this year — and foremost of this is ‘paglayang minamahal (beloved freedom)’ — freedom of mind, freedom of speech, and freedom from poverty, ignorance and oppression,” she said.
Legarda said the university “would not be UP if it were not to remain the bastion of intellectual inquiry and academic freedom in this country.”
“UP would not be UP if we were to devote ourselves to anything less than service to the people, in whatever form. UP would not be UP if it did not dare to lead, to be different, and to excel,” she said.
She said she came back to Diliman “much less as Senator Legarda than as Student Loren,”’ since she never really stopped studying.
“In the end, I submit that one can be a lifelong scholar in attitude and in practice,” she said.
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