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GRADUATION SPEECH

Why Duterte almost missed the bar exams

SAN BEDA GRAD President Duterte speaks to graduates of his alma mater, San Beda University, in Tuesday’s commencement ceremonies. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte told graduates of his alma mater, San Beda University, he envied them for being able to attend their graduation rites, which were denied him by school authorities after he shot a fellow student on campus back in 1972.

In his commencement speech on Tuesday, the President regaled the graduates with tales of his time as a student at the then San Beda College, where he almost lost his law degree because of the shooting and later had to beg on his knees for forgiveness from his mother for keeping it a secret.

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“I am actually jealous of you because I was not allowed by the brothers and the priests to graduate,” he said.

“In the last days of our year, we’re practicing, suddenly there was this happening inside the school,” he said, referring to the shooting, which got him expelled even before his graduation.

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Secret from mom

He kept his expulsion a secret from his mother, Soledad, who was asking him when she needed to fly from Davao City to Manila to attend his graduation.

The President told his mother that the priests decided not to hold graduation ceremonies since Mendiola, where San Beda is located, was “chaotic” because of martial law.

He was eventually pardoned by the school authorities and allowed to take the bar exams later that year after being issued a certification that he had graduated from San Beda College of Law.

He told his mother that the school simply held a Mass and gave each student a blank diploma, but were assured that graduation ceremonies would still be held.

Years later, when he was already mayor of Davao City, some teachers from San Beda traveled to Bukidnon and made a side trip to Davao City to meet him.

The President said he was in Taiwan at that time, so they met his mother instead.

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‘What is the truth?’

His mother was introduced to a priest, whom she asked whether her son’s graduation had pushed through.

“He said, ‘Why, did your son tell you the truth?’ My mother said, ‘What is the truth?’ He said, ‘He was expelled because he shot someone inside San Beda,’” the President recounted.

Guffaws erupted from the crowd inside the Philippine International Convention Center where the graduation ceremonies were held.

Upon his return, the President said he was confronted by his mother. He said he kneeled in front of her asking for forgiveness, explaining that he did not want her to worry.

The President apparently was hurt by what the San Beda authorities had done to him and had rejected an award the school had conferred on him, which he later accepted.

Achiever’s award

“The first offer of an award, an achiever’s award …. I said, I won’t go! You expel me and now you give me awards,” he said.

He did not say when the award was given, but in 2014, the President was named by the San Beda Law Alumni Association as one of the school’s outstanding alumni, along with three others, including former Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillante Jr.

“Well anyway,” he said, “I would like to thank the Benedictine community for such a wonderful show of mercy … I got back, being an awardee. But in scholastic terms, nothing,” the President said.

The President lauded San Beda for its first batch of university graduates.

Academic excellence

“This accomplishment serves not only as a testament to the school’s commitment to academic excellence and innovation, but also as an inspiration to contribute further for the long-term progress of higher education in the country,” he said.

To the graduates, he said, “serve as examples of servant leadership” and remain humble.

So who did the President shoot in school? He did not say.

He mentioned this episode during the presidential campaign in April 2016, explaining the motive for the shooting, but not identifying his victim.

The President said during a campaign rally he wanted to teach this person a lesson for bullying him over his being a Visayan.

He said he warned the student, who was pushing people around in a corridor, that he would shoot him if he got hit.

“I got hit in the nose. Aaaah! Bang!” he said.

An Inquirer source from the President’s law fraternity, Lex Talionis, identified him as one of his fraternity brothers, Octavio Goco. With Inquirer Research

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TAGS: Rodrigo Duterte, San Beda University commencement speech
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