Who proposed honorary U.P. degree for Duterte?

Paige Occeñola
Who proposed honorary U.P. degree for Duterte?
(3rd UPDATE) The idea to confer an honoris causa degree on President Duterte is mistakenly attributed to Senator Francis Escudero. It comes from another Board of Regents member.

(3rd UPDATE) The University of the Philippines (UP) Board of Regents (BOR) edited the summary of the resolutions it passed on April 6 to remove an earlier reference to Senator Francis Escudero as the member who proposed the conferment of an honorary degree on President Rodrigo Duterte.

The revision came Wednesday afternoon, April 19, after Escudero issued a statement, denying he was the one who pushed the idea during the board meeting. (The senator, as chairman of the Senate commitee on education, arts and culture, sits in the BOR.)

The part that used to indicate Escudero only removed his name but did not reflect the name of the correct proponent.

It appears the idea was brought up instead by UP president Danilo Concepcion, who also co-chairs the board. 

Members of the UP community expressed their disappointment on social media shortly after word of an offer to confer an honorary degree on President Duterte got around. (READ: ‪#‎DuterteNotWorthy‬: UP students, alumni protest honorary degree for Duterte)

The controversial motion was found in Line Number 23 of the Summary of Resolutions of the Board of Regents at its 1,326th meeting. It originally read: “Conferment of Doctor of Laws degrees, honoris causa, upon motion of Senator Regent Escudero seconded by Regents Farolan and Jimenez. The conferment shall not be announced until acceptance by the conferees.”

Escudero, however, denied making the motion. His statement on Wednesday read:

“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, it’s up to the conferee if he/she will accept it. This is not given unilaterally and needs to be accepted before being conferred.”

According to Escudero’s staff, the error in attributing the proposal was made by the BOR secretary to the board Bobby Lara.

The Summary of Resolutions has since been revised to remove Escudero’s name, without a replacement, but retains who seconded the motion: “This Revised Summary of Decisions supersedes the earlier Summary routed to the Regents and Chancellors under date 6 April 2017. The revision consists of the deletion of the phrase ‘upon motion of Senator Regent Escudero’ originally appearing in Line No. 23.”

Line Number 23 now reads: “Conferment of Doctor of Laws Degrees, honoris causa, to certain individuals, seconded by Regents Farolan and Jimenez. The conferment shall not be announced until acceptance by the conferees.”

Sought for comment, UP vice president for public affairs Jose Dalisay Jr said the idea came up when the board was discussing Duterte’s response to the invitation for him to speak at UP Diliman’s commencement exercises on June 25. The President had not yet given his reply.

Concepcion was supposed to have “observed that, also following tradition, he (Duterte) should therefore be granted an honorary doctorate,” Dalisay said. “Senator Escudero just happened to be part of the discussion.”

Concepcion was in Taiwan Wednesday for an official visit.

Concepcion was elected UP president by the BOR.* Frederick Mikhail Farolan, Angelo Jimenez, and Francis Laurel are presidential appointees to the BOR.

President Duterte has since declined the offer yet to be formally made by UP. – with a report from Jee Y. Geronimo/Rappler.com

*Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said Concepcion was one of Duterte’s 4 appointees to the BOR. He was not. But he was chosen by the BOR to be UP president.

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