University of the Philippines  Student Regent Raoul Danniel Manuel holds UP President Danilo Concepcion accountable for the offer of an honorary doctor of laws degree to President Rodrigo Duterte amid widespread opposition since UP has been the acknowledged bastion of student activism and fight for human rights and the rule of law.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Manuel also revealed that the apparent decision to grant the honor to the President did not pass through proper procedures.

Manuel recalls that in the April 5, 2017 meeting of the Board of Regents, the University’s highest policy making body, the conferment of honorary degrees was raised by Concepcion.

“during the BOR meeting nung april 5 kung saan nakaupo tayo ay doon binukas ng UP president Danilo Concepcion yung plan ng UP administration na magconfer ng isang honorary doctor of laws degree kay president duterte .”

Concepcion had just been elected UP President months ago, besting former UP executive Prospero de Vera whom Duterte appointed to the CHED as Commissionner.

Manuel however claimed that  based on the minutes of the BOR meeting, ” it was senator regent chiz escudero  who moved for it. though yung nagiging arguments ngayon ng UP adminstration is that it has been a tradition na binibigay yung award to all presidents of the Philippines.”

Manuel says the regents then rallied around that tradition. “doon sa meeting  ang nag meeting ay si senator chiz escudero though of course ang the UP administration dahil nga tradition ay automatic na inooffer yung ganung reocgnition sa president  during the meeting tself based on its records si  senator regent escudero ang nag move nag sceond naman ang malacanang appointees in the board who are regent farolan and regent jimenez.  dahi yun nga yung pratcice ng UP administration nais ni Danilo Concepcion UP president ay icontinue ang practice ng UP.”

Manuel added, ” it seems thats my impression still we have not heard or obtaind an official statement from the rpesident as head of the university it seems ultimately sinusupport din ng  ating president itong pag offer ng award basically the same arguments na itoy matagal na pratice inoffer similar award kay erap gloria arroyo even kay noynoy now kay president duterte.”

Manuel maintained that the conferment should have first been processed through a committee before it reached the BOR. “yun din yung medyo malabo nung nag meet ang BOR nung April 5 we clarified and supposedly BOR ang may final say  kung ibibigay ang honorary degree kay president duterte and  supposed to be before pa siya dumaan sa board eh there has to be a committee that will be formed to deliberate kung karapat dapat nga ba si president duterte na bigyan ng award”

Manuel thinks an offer was made to duterte before the BOR could make a decision, making the BOR’s participation a mere formality. “however it seems naofferan na nga si president duterte  for formality na lang final approval ng board. based sa isang interview kay CHED chairman Patricial Licuanan mukhang alam ng malacanang may inoffer na award kay president duterte at inaantay na lang kung tatanggapin niya o hindi. in my my impression ay hindi pa official na bibigyan ng award si president duterte supposedly ay dapat dumaan sa proper procedure.”

Manuel believes the informal offer is ultimately the responsbility of the UP President. “di pa siya final  pero it seems na for formality na lang magiging approval ng board yeah i beliueve meron (informal offer) i believe yung president magiging accountable as chief executive of the university. (UP president offered) yeah.”

Escudero’s camp has denied he moved for it. in a statement, the senator said, “I did not move but I did not object when it was proposed given that it is a UP tradition that Philippine heads of state (including the Chief Justice and Senate President) are OFFERED honorary degrees when they are invited to be a commencement speaker (which is also a UP tradition).  Besides, almost every honorary degree offered by UP, most of the time, has been controversial and never unanimous. I guess that too is part of UP’s long history and tradition. However, its up to the conferee if he/she will accept it. This is not given unilaterally and needs to be accepted before being conferred.”

Dalisay confirmed the error. “I have consulted with the BOR Sec and he confirms that the record erred in naming Sen Escudero as the movant”

A draft transcript of the proceedings forwarded to ABS-CBN by a source  in the board of regents shows that Concepcion indeed opened that discussion on the award during the BOR meeting. “Okay number one, we have invited to honor a long standing tradition we have invited President Rodrigo Duterte to be our commencement speaker in Diliman on 25 June. We have already sent the letter of invitation to the President but so far we have not yet received acceptance. The second one, it has been the tradition in the UP that we confer honorary doctorate degrees on Presidents, Senate Presidents, and Chief Justices of the Supreme Court. Yung whether or not he will attend the commencement exercises on June 25, I propose that we confer an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. If the President does not accept the invitation to be the commencement speaker on June 25, then maybe we can, and he accepts the honorary doctorate take note… We cannot announce that we have decided to confer on him an honorary doctorate until he accepted it but we can confer the honorary degree on him elsewhere like, maybe, in UP Mindanao. “

The same draft transcript shows Senate President Koko Pimentel has been invited to be the commencement speaker of the UP College of Law and has also been cosidered for an honorary  doctor of laws degree.

the draft transcripts show discussions that indicate that the grant of honorary doctor of laws degrees is a tradition limited to the President, Senate President and Chief Justice only. The transcripts also show that the BOR decided to create a committee for the conferment of the honors. Concepcion is quoted as citing the UP charter which states that the conferment of hnorary degrees is a power of the BOR upon the recommendation of a committee created by the univeristy president. 

UP has refused to authenticate the draft.

Concepcion left for Taiwan last night. The summary of the resolution of the BOR in its April 5 meeting showed that the matter of the conferment of doctor of laws degrees, honoris causa  came upun the motion of senator-regent escudero as seconded by regents farolan and jimenez. the conferement however shall not be announced until acceptance by the conferees.

There were no specific references to President Duterte. Escudero is a regent as chairperson of the senate committee on education, arts and culture. Angelo Jimenez and Frederick Mikhail Farolan are regents  appointed by President Duterte.

Speaking for the university, UP Vice President for Public Affairs Jose  Dalisay Jr howevere said, “From what I’ve learned of the rules of the University, the BOR has the power to initiate the awarding of honorary degrees on its own.

Dalisay Jr for his part maintained there is nothing final. “nothing has been conferred kasi nga ang pruseso ay  paguusapan ng BOR  yan at ipaalam sa taong napili o nahirang na tumanggap nitong honorary degree at kung papayag saka magkakaroon ng pormal na offer at subsequent conferment nitong honorary degree.”

Dalisay reiterated that the conferment of the honorary degree to presidents, has become traditional , along with the contriversy over the conferement. Dalisay maintains this is not the first time a conferment became controversial. “im sure in making the decision the board of regents considered that possibility that there would be some form of negative reaction if not very strong protest to this decision. masasabi ko diyan ay  UP would not be UP otherwise i cant think of too many instances in the past when this grant of an honorary degree  especially in recent times was not accompanied by some form of opposition with president duterte being as self admittedly a controversial  as he is we can expect no less that again i think is part of this equation and has been factored in by those who deemed it still the proper thing to do to give honor to essentially a newly elected president”

Dalisay doesnt think the UP will break with tradition anytme soon. “UP has done this before in the past im sure it will do it again, UP has had a long tradition of cooperation and dissent  ith sitting presidents i dont think UP’s relationship with malacanang will be influenced much one way or the other”

Dalisay recalls that almost all presidents and many chief justices have had this award. “sa hinahaba haba ng kasayasayan ng pamantasan ng pilipinas na tinayo nuong 1908 mula nuong 1911 sa aking pagkakaalam ang unang unang nabigyan si chief justice cayetano arellano mula noon  mahigit 200 katao  na ang nabigyan ng honorary degree at typically ang mga ito nakanggap ng distincion sa kanilang mga fields mula sa pulitika arts syensiya literatura, typically ang mga dumadalaw na heads of state, important personages, mga taong nagbibigay ng kanilang commencement address sa UP ay nabibigyan ng honorary degree kasama na rito ang mga  pangulo ng pilipinas  mga chief justice karamihan sa kanila  with a few exceptions have received honorary degrees from UP.”

Dalisay added, “well you do this enough over time it becomes tradition but the important thing is for the BOR to recognize some form of distinction in the person being honored that person should have achieved somehting noteworthy in his or her professional  life or public life”

In that long history of conferring this distinction, only 2 presidents have not gotten it. Former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. “as far as i know from emilio aguinaldo who was given the honor much much later 1953, this honorary degree has been offered to all presidents of the republic of the philippines but 2 presidents for one reason or other did not receive it either because they declined or they accepted but the award was not conferred for one reason or another. ang 2 di nakatanggap nitong honorary degree si president estrada at  si president gloria macapagal  arroyo, sa pagkakaalam ko and i have to check the records on this kasi hanggang ngayon hinahanapn pa namin ng opisyal na dokumento”

Dalisay explains Estrada was ousted from office before he can get the award, ”  pagkakaalam ko if my memory serves me right si presidente erap ay pumayag na tumaggap nitong honorary degree kaya nga lang dinefer ang  kaniyangacceptance  at naabutan ang edsa dos kaya di na natuloy “

Dalisay adds that Arroyo on the other hand, already had an actual PHD from the university. “si president gma ay tumanggap ng offer kaya nga lang dinecline niya ang offer kasi meron na siyang earned PHD mula rin sa UP im sure she thought this  honorary degree was superfluous”

Manuel however thinks that simply being elected president should not automatically earn anyone this award. “for me i think the university must practice prudence and kailangan talaga  ideliberate ng maayos pag nagdeliberate ng awards not just because president ng bansa ay karapt dapat na siya bigyan ng award kailngan i assess critically kung ano ba talaga profile at nagawa ng presidents at kung ano plans for the country before we even consider giving such awards and for the office of the student regent  maikita natin na yung ganitong plan ng UP administration is really bringing dismay and discontent”

Dalisay however argues, “apparently since that has been the practice all  these many decades election to the presidency is seen as a high distinction that it seen to be the voice or the wil of the people which deserves some kind of recognition im surmising thats the thinking behind giving newly elected presidents this honor if you look at the list of honorary degrees granted to presidents  i thik theyre usually given within the first 1-2  years of that president’s tenure.”

Dalisay maintains he doesnt know if a formal offer has ben made to Malacanang.

Manuel says  some members of the the UP community will oppose the confermment. 

“the BOR will have its regular meeting on april 27 and we plan on all members of the UP community  from students faculty and staff na sumama sa gaganapin nating protest actions.  on other days  also we will plan to have otehr forms of actions through havong petition statements and unity statements to get the support of the UP community”

The Incoming UP Diliman University Student Council  Chair slams move to confer honorary doctorate upon Duterte. in a statementm Benjie Aquino said, ““President Rodrigo Duterte is a self-confessed murderer. He is unworthy of any distinction from the University of the Philippines.” “President Duterte is guilty of treating women as objects, disregarding people’s fundamental human rights, and condoning unspeakable acts of violence against Filipinos. He is not worthy of being honored by the University,” Aquino maintained.   Cassie Deluria, incoming USC councilor and Akbayan Youth UP Diliman Chairperson, maintained that it is wrong to use tradition to justify the conferment to Pres. Duterte. “A tradition that rewards killing has only one place in history: the dustbin. Besides, the tradition of UP is activism against injustice and impunity, not kowtowing to the sitting president,” Deluria said. Deluria criticized Senator Escudro’s move to nominate the president for the award. “Once again, Senator Chiz Escudero proves to everyone that he lacks political values and conviction. He is a political turncoat, an opportunist of the highest order.” 

Online, UP Alumni took to their social media accounts to slam the UP.

Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte stands up for his father. “Growing up, we were taught by our father of the value of education. That is why we really strive hard to get a degree no matter what. But aside from getting a degree, our father also inculcated in us that knowledge and wisdom must go hand in hand with the degree.Meaning, whatever level of education we achieve, the level of knowledge and wisdom we gain must also be at par or even higher.Given that and knowing my father, he does not give a heck with any “honorary degree” simply because he knows he did not work hard for such a degree.All throughout the years of his public life, President Rodrigo Duterte has always shied away from public recognitions.He has always been a simple man, satisfied with what he have and works hard to make a difference not just for his family but for the Dabawenyos and now the Filipino nation. Being elected as president is enough recognition. No other recognition or honorary degrees could eclipse that. To the so-called learned individuals who frown upon the plan of the University of the Philippines to grant an honorary doctorate degree to the President, you can have that honorary degree for all we care. Our family though thank the UP Board of Regents for even considering our father. Pero ok na akong papa as being the President of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Finally, President Rodrigo Duterte is not one to run after awards or an honorary degree, the Palace told reporters Wednesday.Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella made the statement following strong online backlash to the plan  University of the Philippines to confer an honoris causa, or honorary law degree to President Rodrigo Duterte, following tradition. “If it is offered, I suppose he would (accept), but it doesn’t really matter if it is offered or not,” Abella said. Abella confirmed that there has been no official communication from the University of the Philippines on the matter, but said that the conferment will be “a sign of goodwill towards one of the most premiere institutions.” 

“It would be quite an honor to receive that, but it is not something that he is angling for,” Abella said. When asked however whether the President will receive the award, Abella answered, “Why not?” 

In an earlier statement, Presidential son Paolo Duterte  said that his father ‘does not give a heck’ with any honorary degree. “Being elected as president is enough recognition. No other recognition or honorary degrees could eclipse that,” he said.

The Davao Vice Mayor also slammed critics of the planned conferment. “You can have that honorary degree for all we care,” he said.

“Our family though thank the UP Board of Regents for even considering our father. Pero ok na akong papa as being the President of the Republic of the Philippines,” Duterte added.