Cynthia Villar on son being given UP honorary degree: Moral of the story, help UP a lot | Inquirer News

Cynthia Villar on son being given UP honorary degree: Moral of the story, help UP a lot

/ 12:17 PM January 25, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday defended the University of the Philippines’ (UP) plan to confer an honorary degree to her son and fellow senator Mark Villar, noting that he had “helped UP a lot.”

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Cynthia pointed out that she was the first in her family to be awarded an honorary degree in UP Los Baños.

“I think he (Mark) was given that because he helped UP a lot. Ako, because I help [with] agriculture a lot, so they gave me [one] sa Los Baños. So the moral of the story: you help UP a lot,” she said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

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(I think he was given that because he helped UP a lot. I help with agriculture a lot, so they gave me one in Los Baños. So the moral of the story: you help UP a lot.)

Cynthia added that her husband – billionaire and former Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. – had also recently donated five hectares of land in Dasmariñas, Cavite, for UP to build a new business school.

The senator noted, however, that she is not certain whether or not the building will be named after their family the way it had been done for UP Bonifacio Global City, which was donated by the SM conglomerate led by tycoon Henry Sy Sr.

READ: Henry Sy donates P400M BGC building to UP

Cynthia also bared that she encouraged Mark to run since she is set to leave her seat in the Senate in a few years.

“I’m leaving in 2025, so it’s his turn. I’m about to retire,” she said, speaking in English and Filipino.

But Cynthia did not shut down rumors of her possibly running for mayor in Las Piñas City after her stint in Congress.

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Issues of land-grabbing, development aggression

The move to award Mark with an honoris causa was strongly opposed by the UP Office of the Student Regent.

“Despite his contributions to several infrastructure projects in the University as the Secretary of Public Works and Highways, we must look into the character of him as part of the Villar family,” Student Regent Siegfred Severino said in a letter addressed to UP President Danilo Concepcion, who is co-chair of the UP Board of Regents.

Severino pointed out that “several issues of land-grabbing and development aggression hound their family’s reputation, and his stint as the Secretary of the DPWH exacerbated these key issues.”

“A conferment of honorary degree to him seemingly puts all these issues under the rug. I believe the character of those we confer an honorary degree to will be based not only on their contribution to the University, but also the public character that they have outside and to the People we are mandated to serve,” he added.


The Villar family has built a business empire centered on the real estate sector but has also expanded to include shopping malls, convenience stores, coffee and pastry shops, banks, and more recently, broadcasting.

Their family’s patriarch is the richest person in the Philippines and the 263rd in the world with a net worth of around $8.3 billion, according to Forbes’ world’s billionaires list in 2022.

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TAGS: Cynthia Villar, honorary degree, Mark Villar, UP, Villar
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