Otso Diretso to Bulacan youth: Will you vote for somebody who lies about college degrees?

Mara Cepeda
The opposition senatorial candidates hit administration bet Imee Marcos for lying about graduating from Princeton University and the UP College of Law

YOUTH VOTE. Opposition senatorial candidates (from left) Pilo Hilbay, Erin Tañada, Romy Macalintal, and Samiria Gutoc court student voters at Bulacan State University on March 1, 2019. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

BULACAN, Philipines – Otso Diretso candidates zeroed in on their opponent and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos for lying about earning degrees from two prestigious schools. 

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay was first to take a swipe against Marcos – although he did not directly name her – in his speech before students of the Bulacan State University on Friday, March 1. 

“Meron diyan tumatakbo, nagsisinungaling sa kanyang diploma. Kayo, at alam nating bilang mga guro, bilang mga estudyante, kung gaano kahirap makakuha ng isang diploma,” said  Hilbay, earning him cheers from the young crowd.

(Someone is running yet lying about her diploma. You and your teachers know just how difficult it is to earn a diploma.)

Yong isa diyan, graduate daw siya ng UP  (University of the Philippines) College of Law, walang diploma. Yong isa diyan, graduate daw siya ng Princeton, walang diploma. Mapagkatiwalaan nyo po ba ang isang senador na hindi man lamang puwedeng maging matapat pagdating sa isang simple pero importanteng bagay katulad ng diploma?” Hilbay asked. 

(There is a candidate who claims she graduated from the UP College of Law, but she doesn’t have a diploma. There is a candidate who claims she graduated from Princeton, but she doesn’t have a diploma. Can you trust a senator who can’t be honest over a simple yet important thing like a diploma?)

Veteran election lawyer Romy Macalintal followed suit. He told the college students that because a senator’s term is for 6 years, they must scrutinize the backgrounds of each of the candidates. 

He said the students should not entrust their future in the hands of thieves. Then Macalintal took a swipe at Marcos. 

“Ipagkakatiwala nyo ba yan sa mga tao na kung ano-ano ang inihaharap na kunwari sila ay graduate ng isang unibersidad? Eh kayo, nagpapakahirap kayong mag-aral. Nagpapakahirap kayong sumagot sa inyong mga teachers,” said Macalintal.

(Are you going to entrust your future to people who pretend they graduated from a university? You know how hard it is to study. You are working hard so you can answer your teachers.)

In taking a jab at Marcos, former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada shared that he failed the bar examinations twice before passing it on his 3rd try. It’s a story he has previously shared in other campaign events. 

Tañada said the students should vote for candidates who have integrity. 

“Hindi po ako nahihiya na kumuha ako ng bar exams nang 3 beses bago ako pumasa. Ewan ko po kung bakit yung isang kandidato sa kabila ayaw niyang amining di siya nakatapos sa Princeton. Importanteng-importante po ang integridad para sa ating lahat,” said Tañada. 

(I am not ashamed to say I took the bar exams thrice before I passed. I don’t know why there is a candidate from the other party who does not want to admit she didn’t finish her degree in Princeton. Integrity is very important.)

TALKING COLLEGE DEGREES. Otso Diretso bets tell BSU students: You're working hard to graduate, why vote for an administration bet who lies about her college degrees, referring to Imee Marcos. Photo by Mara Cepeda

Marcos claims she graduated cum laude from the UP Colleg of Law and also has a master’s degree in religion and politics from Princeton University in the United States.

But both schools have debunked Marcos’ claims. While Marcos did attend both UP Law and Princeton, she never completed any degrees there. 

UP executive vice president Teodoro Herbosa told Rappler in an e-mail that Marcos has no record of graduation nor honors with the UP Registrar’s office

Princeton deputy university spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss also told Rappler via email that Marcos did not finish her degree.  

Apart from Hilbay, Macalintal, and Tañada, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc is also campaigning in Bulacan as of posting time.

At Bulacan State University, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano was represented by his party’s vice chairman, Manuel Cabochan, while human rights lawyer Chel Diokno was represented by his sister, Carmen Leonor Diokno. 

Reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino and ex-interior chief Mar Roxas were not present and did not send any representatives.  

Bulacan is the country’s 6th most vote-rich province with 1,863,596 registered voters for the May elections. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.