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MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Martin Romualdez formally addressed the issue of his supposed multi-million-dollar donation to Harvard University by declining to categorically confirm whether he actually did it.
“In light of recent speculations regarding my alleged donation to Harvard University, I choose to respect the institution’s gift policy,” he said in a statement sent to the press on Sunday, September 17.
“Harvard has already communicated that they ‘do not discuss the terms or specifics of individual gifts,’ and I stand by that principle,” he added.
US-based magazine FilAm first reported in August that the Philippine House speaker donated $1 million to fund the first-ever Filipino language course at Harvard University.
The Harvard Crimson, the daily newspaper of the institution, also wrote on September 14 that Romualdez indeed was a major donor, committing $2 million to fund the the Filipino language instructor’s post.
Both publications cited well-placed sources who preferred to speak on the condition of anonymity.
“Funding for the preceptor position wasn’t guaranteed to last longer than three years – until Romualdez’s pledge,” The Harvard Crimson report read.
Rappler previously sought confirmation from the executive director of the Harvard University Asia Center via email, but we have yet to receive a response.
But a spokesperson for Harvard University already declined to disclose to The Harvard Crimson the identity of the donor, saying they do not “discuss the terms or specifics of individual gifts.”
Philippine news outlet Inquirer.net carried the exclusive report by The FilAm on its website, but subsequently took it down, as pointed out by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
Rene Ciria Cruz, the US editor of Inquirer.net, told The Harvard Crimson he resigned from his post as a result of the article’s takedown.
The Inquirer Group of Companies – of which Inquirer.net is under – is led by Sandy Prieto Romualdez, whose husband Philip is the brother of Speaker Martin.
Call for transparency
Two days before Romualdez’s statement, Washington-based nonprofit advocacy organization US Filipinos for Good Governance asked for transparency regarding the funding for Harvard University’s Filipino language course.
“A sizable donation by Speaker Romualdez should be transparent. The sources of the $2 million should be disclosed. Recall, his uncle was overthrown in 1986 by the Filipino People (Power) revolution against unprecedented corruption, repression and economic mismanagement,” USFGG national chair Loida Nicolas Lewis said on Friday, September 15.
“[But] to demand Harvard return the funds back to the donor on the accusation that Speaker Romualdez ‘stole’ the funds is premature and seems unwarranted. And, it is not fair to Harvard,” she added.
Lewis also pointed out that if the Marcos family really wants to rebuild its reputation, dictator’s son President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should pay thousands of human rights victims from his father’s Martial Law regime.
Romualdez also said on Sunday that he does not want the controversy surrounding the supposed donation to overshadow the “significant milestone achieved” in introducing a Filipino language course at Harvard.
“This is a remarkable acknowledgment of our culture and heritage on a global platform,” he said. “I firmly believe in promoting and preserving our Filipino identity, and this step by Harvard is a testament to that effort.”
Romualdez is among the richest legislators in the Philippines. His net worth was P475 million as of 2016, the last time his financial statements were publicly available.
Rappler, since May, has asked Romualdez’s office for a copy of his latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, but the request has yet to be granted. – Rappler.com