THE first and only local bill renaming a street that was enacted by the post Martial Law Congress that went into a bicameral proceeding in the 8th Congress was that of renaming Vito Cruz. The House of Representatives passed the local bill renaming the whole stretch of Vito Cruz St. to Pablo Ocampo St. When it was discussed in the Senate, then Sen. Rene Saguisag asked for a research on the historical role of Vito Cruz, a street map which showed Vito Cruz traversing two political subdivisions: Manila and Makati; and a copy of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1059, An Act Prohibiting The Naming Of Sitios, Barrios, Municipalities, Cities, Provinces, Streets, Highways, Avenues, Bridges, And Other Public Thoroughfares, Parks, Plazas, Public Schools, Public Buildings, Piers, Government – Crafts And Vessels, And Other Public Institutions After Living Persons. R.A. 1059 is vintage 1954 and is still in our statutes book.
Vito Cruz Street was named after an alcalde mayor of Pasay, Hermogenes Vito Cruz, circa 1871. He was also one of the local leaders of Katipunan in Pasay who fought in the Spanish revolution and Filipino- American war. Later he was considered one of the Fundador of Iglesia Filipinas Independiente (Aglipayan Church) in Pasay City. During the Spanish era, the territory of Pasay extended up to Malate since the inhabitants of Pasay were all under the ecumenical territory of Malate Church. On the other hand, Pablo Ocampo Sr. was born in 1853 in Quiapo, Manila. He was a member of the Malolos Congress and a resident commissioner to the United States. He distinguished himself in the US Congress when he tried to obstruct the passage of the Payne Tariff Bill, which established free trade between the Philippines and the US.
The Senate then passed a different version owing to Saguisag’s attention to detail. Hence, at the bicameral conference level, a compromise was adopted where the Manila side of the original Vito Cruz would be renamed Pablo Ocampo and from Taft Avenue to Makati, remains Vito Cruz. I was the technical staff then.
One would say, what’s in a name? The answer there is a lot. It can alter history, accommodate political aggrandizement and, in the case of the University of the Philippines, alter tradition.
I am an alumna of the University of the Philippines both undergraduate (1981-1985) and graduate (1987-1989) degrees. I was even a UP varsity player (champs for four years). I learned from the unique UP tradition of critical thinking and active student involvement on issues of the day. An open system means public consultations. A transparent process means setting the records straight. I was a member first of SAPUL, then APSM. Later on, I joined the faculty of Political Science and the National College of Public Administration. It would have been a logical career after 15 years in government but academe life was not for me. There was just too much red tape and things move too slowly. And Virata was a fast break, a break from tradition.
I have nothing against Cesar E.A. Virata. I do not know him save for the things I read in history books and how a technocrat became the deodorizer of a dictator. That was then. Today, an irony of sorts is being pushed to the whole UP community to rename the College of Business Administration (CBA). I would not stop my daily grind since its CBA, the hardest College to mobilize during my time, but to rename it after Virata was the height of insensitivity. Why now? Who were the big guns that initiated it? Talks are going around that a former UP president; a former UP vice president and the Dean were all players to the effort. Were they working in tandem with Virata? What was Virata going to give to CBA? Allegedly, Dean Albarracin gave a P40M donation. Why?
The former UP president should have tried it then or were there red flags already from various stakeholders? Why was the former UP president suddenly bold now? The least that could have been done was to ask the CBA people to go slow. Then some faculty members were aghast at the idea, but the Faculty Regent was the one who moved that the Board of Regents (BoR) approve the renaming last April 13, 2013. How does the faculty regent arrive at decisions prior to a vote? How come the faculty members against the plan are not calling the attention of their representative now? Interestingly, the motion was approved unanimously. The so-called left (student regent and staff regent) voted for it. Now the left is attacking the decision when it was in the regular agenda of the Board. I understand the agenda is given a week before every meeting. Why did the left vote for it?
Section 1 of R.A. 1059 clearly states: “The naming of sitios, barrios, municipalities, cities, provinces, streets, highways, avenues, bridges, and other public thoroughfares, parks, plazas, public schools, public buildings, piers, government crafts and vessels, and other public institutions and places after living persons is hereby prohibited, except when it is a condition in a donation in favor of the government. Any ordinance or resolution adopted contrary to the provisions of this Act shall be null and void.” Mr. Virata is a living person. Is U.P. now just like politicians who love leaving legacies by changing names of streets, school buildings bearing their names and building statues with their likeness?
A petition is now circulating online appealing to the U.P. BoR to rescind the renaming of CBA to Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business. Interestingly, it states: “Such honor given to a top technocrat of the Marcos dictatorship brings dishonor to the 72 UP martyrs who offered their lives fighting the Marcos dictatorship and who were recognized by then UP President Emerlinda R. Roman in the Centennial Commemoration of the University with these words: “Giving service to the nation . . . is accepted by the UP community, but some of us did more – gave their lives to serve the nation and offered their lives for justice [and]peace They inspire us and give us hope for change in our lives. Today, we remember their extraordinary valor. Because of them, life is a little better for us all. To their families, please know that they are remembered [with]deepest respect and admiration.” What an interesting twist and an irony of mega proportions!