A university dishonored

34

ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

I HAVE no problem when a university, and not only the University of the Philippines (UP), strictly adheres to academic standards of excellence, and expects its students and faculty to uphold those standards before they graduate or get promoted and tenured.

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However, I have a fundamental problem when a university, more so if it is funded by taxpayers’ money, begins to function like a moral guardian, a gatekeeper of what is tolerable and acceptable.

The beauty of a university rests on its tolerance of voices not only of dissent, but also of those that are unpopular.

I can accept Catholic universities when they behave holier than thou, and impose an additional standard to measure good behavior of their constituents, which is consistent with Catholic or Christian values.

But not UP, not a secular university funded by people’s taxes, and whose very existence rests on the fact that it must be a breeding ground for tolerance even of the vulgar and the openly defiant. It is a place where academic freedom turns it into a refuge for the blasphemer and the heretic, and where the full spectrum of political ideologies is theorized and taught.

This is why as a UP alumnus I am offended when people from UP behave as if it is the final arbiter of truth, a guardian of morality, and a propagator of a singular and homogenizing set of values that can only be done through the policing of acceptable conduct.

This has found clear manifestation in how some of UP’s faculty, students and alumni have expressed their opposition to the unsolicited offer made by the UP Board of Regents to confer a doctorate honoris causa on President Rodrigo Duterte.

The President, as expected, refused the offer. But the damage has been done. Eager in maligning the President as not worthy of the honor, those who opposed ended up dishonoring UP.

Social media exploded with posts by UP faculty, alumni and students, and even their non-UP sympathizers, copy-pasting a sweeping judgment on the conduct of the President. They argue that in “giving honor to a man who challenges basic human decency, discourages public dissent, promotes a culture of impunity, and lauds extra-judicial killings, UP has taken a major step backward in upholding honor and excellence.”

These are pretty strong words, even as they remain as accusations that need to be proven by empirical data or logical reasoning. What this statement in fact does is become a judgment of guilt without the necessary factual warrants. This is so unscientific for a university that houses centers of excellence for many scientific endeavors. What it does is to push UP to become part of the lynch mob that condemns before verified proof is presented, which is a contradictory stance when you think that UP as supposed to be a place where evidence and reason should rule supreme in the production and vetting of truth and knowledge.

The allegations that the President lauds extra-judicial killings and is promoting a culture of impunity has yet to be substantiated by empirical proof that is not corrupted by political partisanship but is produced from unassailable data and evidence.

The claim that the President discourages dissent is not even supported by evidence, and is contradicted by the very existence of vocal and virulent opposition to his being given the honorary degree. There is no killing spree of journalists. The opposition openly plots to unseat him. He has not filed a single libel case against, or ordered advertisers to boycott, critical media. Demonstrations and rallies are tolerated. It is not his fault if support for dissenting voices among the people is low, shown in the poor attendance in anti-Duterte rallies.

The claim that UP will renege on its commitment to uphold honor and excellence if they honor the President, on the basis of an allegation that he challenges basic decency, turns the university into a moral fundamentalist. This conservative stance would make UP abandon its responsibility to foster critical debate on contentious issues, which is a trademark of an excellent secular university. It renders human decency as already a fixed and absolute construct which can secure for us a warrant to pass judgment on human conduct. Those who say this forget that UP precisely exists to push the limits of what is decent, and that since decency is a social construction, that such limits are contested grounds.

Left with eggs on their faces, these guardians of UP morality will be best served if they undertake a deep introspection, a skill that they seriously lack. They have always been isolationist, self-absorbed and elitist, arrogantly believing that UP is a fountain of excellence and perfection.

Before they can pass judgment on the ethical and moral practices of others, they must seriously look into UP and examine if it totally upholds human decency and if dissenters are tolerated at all times.

Let me tell you a little secret. The beauty of being a former UP employee, and of having maintained kinship links to UP, is that I have come face to face with indecent practices from within its ranks. And I have personally experienced being the object of institutionalized harassment for being an outspoken dissenter. And I am sure I am not alone.

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34 Comments

  1. Ronaldo Zamora on

    How can these pseudo-intellectuals, critical thinking cheats and plain arrogant pricks at UP even begin to imagine they live a working, functional democracy under which clouds they wish to assert the right to put down a duly annointed leader? DONT THEY GET IT DEMOCRACY IS A FAILURE IN THIS COUNTRY! So their assumptions for free speech is fallacious!!! JUST DO THIS COUNTRY ONE BIG FAVOR. Show some decency to respect and follow a leader favor beloved by a great majority of their fellowmen. YES THATS THE PROBLEM. these young shenanigans at UP are using US democratic system import as excuse to keep up with their spoiled immaturity, self-serving opportunist middleclass ideological thinking– ekeing to live the fences of the state university to find their place in the world of exploitation where those who a little bit more than the rest gets a relatively bigger share in the spoils of elite-driven vicious cycle of exploitative corruption in our country that PRRD IS NOW SLOWLY GETTING RID!

  2. Raymond Gonzales on

    Freedom of expression by the faculty or students should not be restricted by whatever type of school they are in. I don’t thing UP was dishonored in this case. Nor any school with teachers or students who expressed the same anger towards the plan to honor an evil minded ill mannered psycopath.

  3. Andres Zamora on

    I am currently a student of the University. I agree that UP students, alumni, and faculty often, if not always, try to push their belief to other people.
    From what I’ve read, it’s as if you are actually condemning the student’s freedom of expression. True, it’s all over the headlines that UP is a university who ‘always rallies’, but please don’t be blinded by the reality that not all students are in the rallies. Not all students as are arrogant as what you see in the news or in social media. I am not blaming the media for their dishonest news or confusing headlines, I am saying that the every story in the world has two sides, and the media can’t cover both at the same time. It can cause confusion to some people, especially those who only read the headlines of the news and assume the rest of the article, and also people who “just go with the trend”. UP students are smarter than you think. And believe it or not, we have a point. The only wrong thing about it is how we voice out, which a totally different issue.

    Also, this article is very biased. Kulang nalang sabihin mo na “dilawan” rin kami, as what most people would say. You say that “we need empirical evidence and logical reasoning to prove the president’s responsibility towards the EJKs and other issues in the Philippines. We are not dilawan, honestly, we don’t like PNoy as much as we don’t like Duterte. And don’t tell us that we owe the government for our education. It is our right as part of the Filipino youth to study for free. Regardless of what university or college we are in, it is funded by the Filipino masses. You keep blaming UP students that are doing something for the country, yet you don’t bat an eye on other students from other universities, who in my opinion, don’t give a single care about our country’s situation. We just settle for the decisions the government makes for us. And as an alumnus of the national state university, you should know that we are thought to be critical in all things, not just the academics that we are studying, but also about social and political issues.

    We don’t owe the people the money. It’s the government’s job to fund ALL state colleges and universities. But it is our debt to inform the masses of the current administrations wrongdoings. I am not against Duterte only, I am against all the future presidents who will bring the country to shame. You should look at Duterte at another perspective before you say that he is worthy of our respect.

  4. UP since the 60s has been known to be the breeding ground of a single ideology. A university should be a place for academic freedom, correct. Academic freedom is contrary to ideology. Cultivation of thought is contrary to ideology. Ideology is very similar to religion; it has no place in a publicly funded university.

  5. “a breeding ground for tolerance even of the vulgar and the openly defiant”

    Hahaha. Funny how “vulgar and the openly defiant” are also characteristics of our President. And he is quite proud of being vulgar and defiant.

    • CriticalThinking on

      He does walk the walk and not all talk like the previous administration not only tolerated corruption but prolifilated drugs and criminality within its ranks publicly.

      So where was UP when aquino aprroved the unconstitutional billion peso DAP/PDAF which ended in thr pockets of corrupt Yellow Politicians. Where was UP when Farmers where being gunned down ordered by aquino. Where was UP when Trillianes went to China 16x backdealing before Scarborough Shoal got lost. Where was UP when innocents got raped, murdered, stabbed, slayed by drug addicts or criminals. Etc. Too many to bother writing them up. And for 6 years they did nothing and even awarded that incompetent president doctorate for doing nothing but pure corruption in 6 long years?

  6. Isn’t it free speech you are espousing? Then there is no need to rail against those that are airing their voices like the students.

    It is becoming evident this article is trying to stifle others belief and pushing its own beliefs.

    Sorry to the author but this article doesn’t show you are fair to all sides

  7. Ganito lang naman yan. aminin na kasi natin na sa UP ang sentro ng kaguluhan dito sa Philippines
    – mga professors na hindi pumapasok pero may oras pumunta da rally, magpa interview at magcomment kung ano tama at mali
    – o kayong mga KOMUNISTA , lahat po yan mga taga UP, na sumisira sa ekonomiya ng bansa, na sumisira sa mga kumpanya at nagdudulot ng kawalan ng trabaho ng nkakakrami
    – feeling nakikiisa sa naaapi, s mahihirap HINDI PO TOTOO iyan. ang sarap bg buhay ng mga official na communists na taga UP na yan un iba nga nasa congress pa eh kayo ang makakapal ang mukha walang mga mgawa at hindi marunong lumaban ng patas
    – tingnan nyo nga mga campuses ng UP walang pagunlad kadiri CR palang.sa dinami dami ng mga graduates wala pa rin paano kurakot ang inuuna ng mga graduates na yan& ayun sumama sa mga kaguluhan.
    – pero kung mga magsiasta akala mo sila ang pinakamagaling na tao sa buong mundo.
    – nakatungtong lang ng UP, hindi po lahat magalling un iba KAMOTE
    – taga UP din po ako , at sana namn un mga alumni e magkaisa nlng upang pagandhin ang imahe ng UP hindi s gnito paraan.

    • You hit the nail right on the head! They have monopolized or captured a government university!

  8. aladin g. villacorte on

    A refreshing article from a certified VP Leni critic. Talk about “holier than thou” attitude and free speech! The group of students in protest rally constitutes a minority of the UP population. Let them speak and express their mind. Frankly I also belong to the minority who does not feel right and see right about what’s going on in our country under this administration.

  9. charles river on

    Is promising to pardon and promote the members of the CIDG 8 not tantamount to promoting a culture of impunity? How about the thousand of deaths under investigation with no investigation results up to now? Isn’t this equivalent to suppressing part of your so-called empirical data? As well as the data on his bank transactions, is it not equivalent to suppression of information when Duterte refuse to sign the waiver of his rights under the bank secrecy law. How should the UP students, alumni and faculty then judge Duterte under whose administration official data, including those relevant to determining his worthiness for an honorary degree are somewhat held back.

  10. Silverio Cabellon, Jr. on

    The Chief Justice has said that the resources of the Judicial Branch pale in being able to render justice on cases, whether the
    deaths are according to law or not. UP, in a constructive manner, should rally to make the Judicial Branch capable of rendering justice.

  11. I don’t see anything wrong with this. Those who oppose are just hypocrites and conceited of themselves. How dare you made a protest against the President.. Mahiya nman kau sa mga taxpayers na gumastos sa edulasyon niyo sa UP.

    • I think it would be better na e-privatize na lang ang UP para mapa-ganda ang campus at ma-professionalize ang mga instructor at saka magbabayad na rin ang mga student na sa ganun kahit na mag-protesta sila at mag-rally ay may karapaten sila dahil nagbabayad naman ng tuition.

  12. Dispensing free speech without serious thought by the students is dangerous. It can only cause intrigues and disharmony. They just riding in emotions of the Yellows and the anti-Dutertes.

  13. Adolfo Tarlit on

    Some UP Diliman students who have also studied in other universities have observed that it is probably the most corrupt university in the Philippines. Can you imagine instructors not showing up until the second week of classes and still collecting salary? Can you imagine instructors being consistently absent for at least one period every week because they have other activities conflicting with class but they still get paid and are not fired? Can you imagine professors telling their students “kuwarto o kuwatro”, “drop your pants or drop the course”, and still not get fired? It is no wonder that many of the most corrupt government employees and officials are from UP Diliman.

  14. Exactly how I feel. Thank you for saying it loud and clear. I’m one ashamed UP student and what you said is true.

  15. Mr APC, I like u the more.. ur straightforward opinion kahit na isa ka palang Alumnus ay kahanga hanga ang pananaw mo..

    Shame on those who opposed for Du30 to become Honorary Member.. Hindi po yata pinangarap ni Du30 yan o hiniling na to become as UP’s one.. Kahiyahiya kayong mga nag oppose at nag rally pa, assuming kayo hehehe.. kasi ayaw nga nya ng His Excellency title..

    Don’t u think before u rally to oppose him being an Honorary Member.. tama po ba nasabi ko..

    Correct me if I’m wrong..

    Sir APC and Bobby T. are becoming my idols in Journalism world.. More power to u both and also Ms. Sasot..

  16. Christopher Torno on

    As a former UP student and faculty, I have seen how some elements of the university have favored and still favors the culture of elitism, something that they claim to abhor. I stated here “some” because it is likely that the noisy ones, if we use the university as a microsm of the Philippine society, are actually only a handful.

  17. Patrick gonzalez on

    Mr contreras abogado ang presidente mo at alam nya na karapatan ng isang tao demonyo man sya na mabigyan ng day in court. Ang ebidensya at scientific proof na hinahanap mo ay recorded sa lahat ng speech ng pangulo mo sinsabing patayin pag nanlaban, yung addict na kapitbahay mo patayin mo, yung sina marcos na pumatay kay espinosa he will pardon , etc i know you will say exaggerating lang kwento lang humorous lang pero ang evidence ay pulis take dutertes word and patay lang ng patay , kitang kita mo naman yan kahit nagbubulagbulagan ka.

    Tama ka dapat my evidence and kung tanga ka , you will surely ignore ang body count ng mga tao na hindi pa naman convicted ay patay na ngayon.

    Si duterte ang may kasalanan sa nangyaring patayan. Siya ang totoong responsable sa patayan. Sya ang nagutos. At marami ebidensya.

    Im a UP alumnus too but unlike mr antonio contreras, wala ako inside connect sa alma mater ko.

    Nga pala, hindi ako dilawan or yellow army or whatever they are called nowadays.

    Both dutertards and yellowtards are the same wavelength kung magisip, nagkataon lang iba leader nila.

    Pareho sila ng basic political orientation and they are both conservative righteous akala sila ang tama group hehe

    • Your very correct sir! Kahit sabihin ni Contrteras na walang ebidensya, sa mismong bibig ni Duterte nanggaling ang mga ebidensya. Sakin tama yung ginawa ng mga taga UP na nag rally at marinig ang panig nila. Kahit anong sabihin nila na di dapat mag rally mga taga UP dahil scholar sila ng bayan at tax payers money ginagamit nila, bakit hindi pwede Kung sa tingin nila ay di dapat talaga dapat bigyan ng honor?

  18. Leodegardo M. Pruna on

    You are not alone. There are those thinkers who are with you and I am among them. But, David and his cohorts are not also by themselves. The people know what is truth, fact and evidence. The group of David and those of Rapller, Inquirer, etc have their own minds fixated so that the only thing they do is criticize and find fault. God bless us and God bless the Philippines.

  19. Your use of words like “indecent practices” and “guardians of morality” would seen to nullify your advocacy for “secularization”. How do you rate secularization in American State Universities where speakers from the left are more than welcome whereas those from the right are not only unwelcome but their scheduled speech are held hostage by impending violence? Is this the price of secularization in Universities funded by tax money? Does secularization outweigh the constitutionally established freedom of speech?

    Free speech is what your morally loaded language is targeting. Your little secret will do you no good if you hold on to it as something that lets you think comfortably of your stance while giving free rein to your own free speech to attack others’ free speech just so secularization can be held up as a sword to cut the tongues of other people.

  20. Very good Prof. Contreras…UPians at present should start looking into their own selves and see if what they did is really a true measure of excellence and scientific vetting of proof…not just emotional outburst due to partisanship. I, too, am a UP Alumna and to be honest, I didn’t find their “rally” against the awarding of honoris causa something I could support.

  21. It is called freedom of speech and are the views of the next generation, and of those who espouse universal values. good on UP for trying to lead by example and responding to the voice of the students which were overwhelming in their disgust of duterte’s attitudes and actions.

    The philippines is a divided nation. Young, aspirational, and diverse individuals run by a collective of corrupt and/or incompetent old men from dynastic elites who are still living in a 1980’s time-warp amid their bubble of privilege ‘paid for’ from stolen taxes.

    Duterte is only interested in killing and authoritarianism.
    The sane and students fortunately are not.

    the moral question which people should be asking themselves is – ‘how many filipinos need to be killed before you realise your stupidity?’

    • “the moral question which people should be asking themselves is – ‘how many filipinos need to be killed before you realise your stupidity?”

      ’What stupidity are we talking here? Yong, we will just leave Filipinos to die because of drugs.If we don’t step in the shoes of those victims, those who were killed by drug addicts, the parents and relatives of those victims. You wish that those who died because of drugs can speak for themselves and say”sabog yong tao” and “he was full of drugs when he pointed a gun at me and killed me”.

      Anong klaseng tao protects drug dealers and druglords? You and these UP students should have asked that question? What side are we on the law of justice here? Justice for those who you said were killed in project tokhang or the side of the victims killed by drug dealers and addicts.

      The elitist side of being a UP student seemed to come out when granting Duterte this honor of distinction as a president of this country and has been questioned. As other have been given this. It is not because in quotation marks due to “the killings” – as these need to be proven yet. The articulate degree of wrapping those unfortunate victims, putting signs, the media – whose work are these. Do you think the military and police can afford masking tapes and wires and all these paraphernalia? Is it in their budget? Can they afford the cost of those killing – as the latest Reuters investigation said? Ang mahal nga.

      Teka muna makapag merkado muna!

    • this james guy is sadly just another plain duterte hater. he is just focusing on duterte’s roughness and all. his comment on another article labeled duterte as a mayor from nowhere. and he spews this seemingly self-righteous “opinion”? “Oh hurr-durr duterte just kills hurr-durr the youth today should fight the tyranny of duterte hurr-durr”

      also your moral question is WRONG. “how many filipinos have died before that we are not able to realise our stupidity?”

      by the way are you a filipino?

  22. What is so off with the statement of the Office of the Student Regent is that they even castigated Duterte for not giving in to all the whims of the communists and adding the usual neoliberal blabber. They seem to be so blind with the strides that the Duterte administration has done in terms of seeking peace, reaching out to the left and dispensing social justice – a feat which has never been done before by previous administrations and something I don’t think future administrations would do. You’d think that in those aspects, they would have some appreciation for what Duterte is doing, but no, they are not happy but they have no concrete solution to offer.

  23. The article starts out complimenting the University.

    “The beauty of a university rests on its tolerance of voices not only of dissent, but also of those that are unpopular”
    “whose very existence rests on the fact that it must be a breeding ground for tolerance even of the vulgar and the openly defiant”

    Then you rip on the university students for protesting claiming their opinions lack proof.

    It is becoming plain that the authors writing exists to prop up everything Duterte.

  24. UP is a center of hypocrisy. Just look at how it passes moral judgment on a President while tolerating the disgusting practice of its students running around naked. I cannot imagine Filipino greats such as Carlos P. Romulo and others of his era who were products of UP condoning such obscene behavior. UP has reached a sort of intellectual dead-end where the breeding of depravity and not intellectual growth has become its raison d’etre.