DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 April) — President Rodrigo Duterte has declined, “as a matter of personal and official policy,” the offer of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines.
“With due respect, with due respect sa University of the Philippines, I do not accept (awards) even when I was mayor. Hindi ako tumatanggap, I do not… As a matter of personal and official policy, I do not accept awards,” Duterte told reporters in Tagbilaran City, Bohol on Wednesday.
Reports on UP’s conferment of an honorary degree on Duterte sent protesters to mount a rally in UP Diliman on April 19 and triggered verbal battles between protesters and defenders of Duterte in and out of the university.
Duterte explained he did not reject the offer but “simply declined” it.
“Hindi ko naman nire-reject … To use the word reject is not good. I simply declined,” he said.
Although generally he does not accept awards, Duterte selectively does.
In March 2015, while on his seventh term as Davao City mayor, he was conferred the “Most Outstanding Alumnus” award of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), where he finished AB Political Science, for his “incalculable services, exemplary dedication to duty, and outstanding achievements in positions of high responsibility in … public service … bringing honor to … his alma mater.”
On April 23 last year, Duterte, then already the leading Presidential candidate, was the LPU’s graduation speaker.
Duterte finished his Law degree at the San Beda College.
As President, Duterte accepted the “Man of the Year” award given by the Manila Times during its 5th Business Forum at the Marco Polo hotel here on February 10 and another award conferred on him by the Knights of Rizal on February 23 during the 21st International Assembly and Conference of the Knights of Rizal at the SMX Convention Centre.
The Manila Times Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang said The Times 2016 Man of the Year Award was given to Duterte “for capturing the imagination of the Filipino people and setting off a dawn of new politics.”
In his speech before the Knights of Rizal, Duterte said: “Your conferment upon me today of the Knight Grand Cross of Rizal, the highest degree the Knights of Rizal could give any person with, is truly humbling.”
“I must confess, however, that I suffer the sense of inadequacy knowing that I stand before assemblage of men who are so fused with patriotic fervor, deeply imbued with Dr. Jose Rizal’s ideals and visions, and dedicated to the diffusion of his writings and teachings,” he said.
Tradition be damned
The UP Board of Regents cited tradition as the reason behind the proposed conferment of a Doctor of Laws degree on Duterte. It said it has been a tradition to confer honorary degrees on Philippine Presidents.
The Office of the UP Student Regent in a statement on April 18 protested the conferment.
“We must not turn a blind eye to the deeds of the current regime by giving it such recognition. Honors are not deserved by a president whose regime killed thousands of citizens and leaders of progressive groups under Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Kapayapaan. Honors must not be given to a president that declares all-out war against his people to quell their struggle for just and lasting peace, and reimposes death penalty to legitimize the killing of the poor,” it said.
“Moreover, it is ironic that a university, which has then and now fought against state fascism, will now recognize a president that allowed the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani — much against the will of the Filipino people,” it said, adding Duterte “has not even exhibited excellence to date.”
It called on all members of the UP community to “demand accountability from President Duterte for his attacks on the people” and urged those who oppose the conferment to “join other sectors in society as we clamor for change” through mass actions on April 19 in UP Diliman, Integration at Pandi Bulacan and Hacienda Luisita on April 22, Board of Regents meeting at Quezon Hall in UP Diliman on April 27, Lakbayan ng Maralita on April 29 and Mayo Uno mobilization on May 1.
Presidency is “enough recognition”
The President’s eldest son, Paolo, Vice Mayor of Davao City, said “being elected as President is enough recognition. No other recognition or honorary degrees could eclipse that.”
Addressing what he referred to as the “so-called learned individuals who frown upon the plan of the University of the Philippines to grant an honorary doctorate degree to the President,” he said, “you can have that honorary degree for all we care.”
But he thanked the UP Board of Regents “for even considering our father. Pero ok na akong papa as being the President of the Republic of the Philippines.”
He explained that while growing up, their father taught them the value of education, that they have to “really strive hard to get a degree no matter what.”
“Aside from getting a degree, our father also inculcated in us that knowledge and wisdom must go hand in hand with the degree. Meaning, whatever level of education we achieve, the level of knowledge and wisdom we gain must also be at par or even higher. Given that and knowing my father, he does not give a heck with any ‘honorary degree’ simply because he knows he did not work hard for such a degree. All throughout the years of his public life, President Rodrigo Duterte has always shied away from public recognitions. He has always been a simple man, satisfied with what he (has) and works hard to make a difference not just for his family but for the Dabawenyos and now the Filipino nation. Being elected as president is enough recognition. No other recognition or honorary degrees could eclipse that.”
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told the Malacanang Press Corps that although the President “does not run after awards, it would be a sign of goodwill towards the highest — well, one of the most premiere — one of the three premiere institutions — it would be quite an honor to receive that. But it’s not something he is angling for. Of course, a sign of mutual respect would be in place here,” he said.
Abella said there was no official communication on the honorary degree from the UP Board of Regents. “As far as we know, there’s no official statement. Official communication, none,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)