CHED: University officials should not take political stand
MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Officer-in-Charge Prospero De Vera III said that while universities must promote discussion and free thinking on different belief systems, officials must avoid taking political stands.
De Vera was responding to the signed letter of University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Dean of Engineering Rizalinda de Leon stating she would join activities on September 21 calling for the ousting of President Rodrigo Duterte. He said while he encourages schools to promote discourse of different ideologies and beliefs, but not political stands.
“Universities should be a venue for the articulation of different ideologies, different belief systems, but I frown upon university officials who take a political position on issues. Especially those who call for the ouster of the president because that is simply not allowed under existing laws,” De Vera said in a press briefing on Tuesday, September 18.
De Leon, however, has since asked that her signature be removed from the open letter calling for the ouster of Duterte.
What letter? In a Facebook post, De Leon responded to a now deleted post of a signed letter stating she would join the UP rise against tyranny and dictatorship (UPRISE) activities on September 21 organized “under the banner of ‘Engineer the Downfall of Tyrant and Dictator Duterte!’”
De Leon said while she believed the engineering community must defend human rights and speak out against “any system of tyranny and dictatorship whether current or future,” she would not instigate the downfall of “any person or leader, including President Duterte.”
In explaining her position, De Leon recalled how her brother, Bayan Lontok, was among the victims killed during the despotic rule of the deposed president Ferdinand Marcos. She said he was killed for believing differently from those in power.
‘If I were to engineer or even wish the downfall of any person, then I would be no different from my brother’s killers,” she said.
The actions of De Leon caught the attention of De Vera who said he viewed “with some seriousness” the signed letter.
As the chair of the UP Board of Regents, De Vera said he would call attention to the matter in its next meeting.
“Encouraging students to attend events and activities is one thing. calling for the ouster of the president is another thing,” he said.
Remembering Martial Law: In similar efforts to remember Martial Law, UP Danilo Concepcion declared September 21 of every year as a “UP Day of Remembrance” for the university system to recall the atrocities of the 21-year rule of the late ousted dictator.
In the order signed Monday, September 17, Concepcion said he not only authorized, but also and encouraged holding special lectures, meetings, and ceremonies for the commemoration of UP’s role in struggling against Martial Law.
With the “Day of Remembrance,” the UP president highlighted how the university “both as an institution and through individual efforts of its faculty, students, and staff – stood at the forefront of the resistance to Martial Law.”
He also recalled how the school has always championed academic freedom and “contributed many of its best and brightest to the struggle against dictatorship and despotism.” The declaration also marked the “continuing need for awareness, vigilance, and militancy” in protecting “fundamental freedoms.”
Concepcion’s action fulfills one of the promises he made after incurring fierce backlash for his participating in a Kabataang Barangay reunion at the UP Bahay ng Alumni last August 25.
Concepcion earlier vowed he would not support any attempt to cover up Martial Law after his appearance alongside Ilocos Governor Imee Marcos, daughter of the disgraced dictator Ferdinand Marcos, inflicted a deep insult among UP faculty, alumni, and students.
UP President Danilo L. Concepcion signs a proclamation declaring Sept. 21 as UP Day of Remembrance. The proclamation was issued in honor of UP's contributions at the forefront of the resistance against dictatorship and martial law.— UP System (@upsystem) September 17, 2018
Watch the signing: https://t.co/ssfG0HqiPt pic.twitter.com/e3GTT6Vu6U