UP Masscom community demands apology from eUP for 'assault on academic freedom'
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC), led by former dean Roland Tolentino, are demanding an apology from the eUP Team for its alleged "assault on academic freedom and freedom of expression" following its statement against an investigative report by UP journalism graduates.
A research conducted by Ronn Bautista and Krixia Subingsubing, which was awarded Best Thesis in Investigative Journalism by the UP CMC in June 2016, alleged that university administrators violated the Procurement Law by favoring a certain corporation.
In response to Bautista and Subingsubing’s thesis, the eUP team released a statement on August 8, calling it an “an example of poorly conducted research work” and a “witch hunt disguised as an academic endeavour."
The eUP team also addressed the questions on the legality of the implementation of the project and said that “reference to brand names is a common practice in government procurement, particularly for technical items including ICT hardware and software."
‘eUP statement disappointing’
However, Bautista, in an online interview with Rappler, reiterated that the said practice, according to the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB), is absolutely forbidden.
Bautista said that UP should “rise above playing the bandwagon fallacy."
“The word of law is clear. Strictly no brand names are allowed. It is fallacious to say that other agencies get away with it, especially for an institution that is supposed to be the vanguard of good governance. The GPPB itself already says this is not allowed. Does the eUP team think they are above the law and the government?” Bautista said.
Bautista also expressed his disappointment on the way the eUP Team responded.
“It is disappointing that in a university that prides itself as the nation's bastion of knowledge, academic debate and criticism are treated as ‘attempts at confusion and sensationalism',” he said.
“The goal of every journalistic endeavor, as it always has been, is to enable people to form opinions and decisions. May we let them do so by reading the thesis in its entirety. We stand by our story,” Bautista said.
Meanwhile, the statement released by Tolentino, which was signed by UP CMC faculty, students and alumni, said that, “While the eUP team has the right to comment on the arguments raised by the said thesis, it cannot attribute malice to authors and undermine the integrity of the thesis as an Investigative Journalism (IJ) project."
The statement further said that Bautista and Subingsubing’s work, a result of an extensive eight-month research, went through established academic processes, including close supervision by award-winning investigative journalist Yvonne Chua.
‘eUP Team just exercising right to free expression’
Elena Pernia, UP CMC’s current dean, released a separate statement claiming that the eUP Team was just exercising its own right to free speech.
Pernia stressed that “discussion and debate are integral” and people should “let all voices/positions exercise free expression."
“When the eUP team released its ‘Statement on the undergraduate thesis of Ronn Bautista and Krixia Subingsubing on the eUP Project’, several months after the thesis was completed, criticising the thesis for its ‘misleading claims, questionable conclusions, and false allegations’, was it not exercising its own right to free speech?” the dean said.
Pernia’s statement was released to Tinig ng Plaridel, UP CMC’s official publication, through College Secretary Teresa Congjuico.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago filed a resolution to probe the implementation of eUP.
The eUP Project, UP President Alfredo Pascual’s P752-million flagship program, aims to “integrate and harmonize the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and system across all constituent universities (CUs) of the UP System.”
On August 6, Bautista posted their thesis and related documents on social media following the outrage against the Student Academic Information System (SAIS), one of the 5 core information systems of eUP.
Hundreds of UPLB students skipped the first day of classes on August 3 to protest against the controversial SAIS, which has been blamed for the glitches that happened during the registration period: wrong scholarship bracketing, failure to enlist in required classes, among others. – Rappler.com
Anna Biala, a Rappler intern, is a senior journalism student from the University of the Philippines - Diliman.