DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Sept)—The first Mindanawon president of the University of the Philippines (UP) System, lawyer Angelo Azura Jimenez, said his administration would focus on Mindanao, the island being host to the poorest regions and provinces.
During a press conference Thursday after his investiture as the 22nd president of UP at its Mindanao campus here, Jimenez, who is of Manobo descent, said the state university should also provide more spaces for the Lumads.
“The decision to have [the ceremony] here is not based on sentiment… but this is based on a very cold calculation,” he said in his opening remarks.
Jimenez, a native of Butuan, emphasized that Mindanao is his priority, citing that the island requires attention as it is host to four of the country’s five poorest regions, and eight of the 10 poorest provinces.
In his speech earlier in the day during his investiture, Jimenez pointed out that while “UP has had more than a century to produce leaders of the highest intellectual caliber and technical expertise … too many of our people remain mired in abject poverty, in hunger and despair.”
He asked his constituents: “Are we doing enough at present to promote economic progress and social justice among our people?”
Jimenez said that UP’s engagement with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is an “example of how UP is finding ways to assist more directly in nation-building.”
“If we can help bring peace to BARMM, then we can help bring peace to the whole of Mindanao,” he said.
On Wednesday, Jimenez met with members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority as the state university hosted the UP-Bangsamoro Development Institute Summit Consultation at Dusit Thani Residence here.
He also revealed his plans to partner with the City Government of Davao to establish a college of medicine and a medical center within UP Mindanao.
Jimenez said UP is reaching out to other state colleges and universities not just to “help raise academic standards, but also where it can cooperate and collaborate as an equal partner, and learn from SUCs with advanced and specialized expertise in certain areas.”
Jimenez reminded his own constituents to “remain humble enough to realize that [UP] has no monopoly of knowledge, and that, unlike rain falling from the sky, the best knowledge grows from the ground.”
According to him, it is high time to find multiple pathways for students to enter UP. He said his advocacies include solutions to the currently flawed UP College Admission Test where 60 percent of the passers come from private high schools.
“Our educational system remains terribly skewed in favor of children from privileged and urban-based families, and our admissions policy unfortunately does not do enough to correct that bias. If we are to be a truly national university, this has to be addressed,” Jimenez stressed.
He said in the press conference that among the things they are looking at now is to use a data science system to spot talented students from poor families. Jimenez said that the standard of choosing deserving students would be based on need, not merit.
But he clarified that “it’s all in the works right now.”
Jimenez said that when he gathered the UP System’s senior administrators to help chart the court of his administration, their most significant decision was to add one word to UP’s “Honor and Excellence” motto.
“That simple but deeply meaningful word was ‘Service.’ Honor and excellence are inherent in the individual, but service looks beyond the individual and locates him or her in our nation and society,” he pointed out. (Miah Christine Bontilao / MindaNews)