UP college dean in hot water for anti-Duterte letter
An official of the University of the Philippines (UP) said he viewed with “serious concern” reports that the dean of the UP College of Engineering in Diliman, Quezon City, had allegedly voiced her support for the downfall of President Duterte.
UP Board of Regents (BOR) chair J. Prospero de Vera III was referring to a letter signed by Dean Rizalinda de Leon on Sept. 13 in which she expressed support for activities and protests scheduled on Sept. 21, the anniversary of the declaration of martial law.
De Leon also encouraged the engineering community to join the mobilization in remembering the “struggle of the Filipino people to fight for democracy, peace and justice.”
In her letter, however, she said the activities would be held “under the banner of ‘Engineer the Downfall of Tyrant and Dictator Duterte.’”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, De Vera, also officer in charge of the Commission on Higher Education, said that while these activities were covered by the academic freedom of individual universities, the supposed ouster call should be taken seriously.
“My personal take is that it is the responsibility of the universities to allow discussions and debates. But I frown upon university officials who take a political position on issues, especially those who call for the ouster of the President. That is simply not allowed under the existing laws. The civil service rules prohibit that,” he added.
De Vera said that as BOR chair, he intended to call the attention of the regents on the matter. However, whether De Leon would be asked to explain herself in the next BOR meeting was up to UP President Danilo Concepcion, he stressed.
On Monday, De Leon issued a clarification, saying that an earlier Facebook post of UP Rises Against Tyranny and Dictatorship—a group leading the Sept. 21 activities—about her expression of support contained an “editing misunderstanding.”
“While I believe that the engineering community must take upon itself the challenge to defend human rights and civil liberties, and that we ought to speak out against any system of tyranny and dictatorship whether current or future, I do not and will not instigate the downfall of any person or leader, including President Duterte,” she said.
De Leon pointed out that her brother, Bayani Lontok, was shot dead during martial law while fighting for farmers’ rights.
“He was killed because he espoused a different way and a different ideology from those in power then,” she said. “If I were to engineer or even wish the downfall of any person, then I would be no different than my brother’s killers,” she added.
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