UP students, alumni slam honorary degree for Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — Students and alumni of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) protest the decision of the Board of Regents (BOR) to confer an honorary degree to President Rodrigo Duterte.

In the April 6 resolution of the U.P. Board of Regents (BOR), it stated the motion to confer was initiated by Senator Regent Francis Escudero.

The BOR is the highest policy-making body of the university. It is composed of the chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education, the U.P. President, representatives of the students, staff, alumni, faculty, lawmakers, and presidential appointees.

Escudero is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture.

The proposal was seconded by Regents Frederick Farolan and Angelo Jimenez, two of three Duterte BOR appointees.

Student Regent Raoul Manuel said Duterte does not deserve such recognition because of issues in his administration.

"Honors are not deserved by a president whose regime killed thousands of citizens and leaders of progressive groups," Manuel said. "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."

Duterte, who topped the 2017 TIME 100 reader poll, has been drawing international attention because of his war on drugs, which has led to thousands of deaths since he took office.

READ: Duterte tops TIME 100 Reader Poll

The student representative also raised Duterte's decision to allow the burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which, Manuel said, is "against the will of the Filipino."

Marcos' remains were transferred last November from his hometown in Ilocos Norte to the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig. Duterte justified this, saying Marcos was a former soldier aside from being a statesman.

READ: Marcos buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani

Statements of dissent also circulated on Facebook, after students and alumni copied and pasted a status with their names and courses, saying U.P. will take "a major step backward" in upholding its tradition of "honor and excellence" if it gives honor to a man who "challenges basic human decency, discourages public dissent, promotes a culture of impunity, and lauds extrajudicial killings."

Even former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, and a faculty member at the U.P. College of Law, disagreed with the possible conferment.

The hashtag #DuterteNotWorthy also became a trend on Twitter past midnight.

We're taught in UP to reimagine institutions in order to end systemic oppression. Now we're honoring a murderer - anyare? #DuterteNotWorthy

— Yael Toribio (@rafaeltoribio) April 18, 2017


— Kelby Chiang Uy (@kelbigatin) April 18, 2017

Duterte, however, is not the first to be given such honor. Former president Benigno Aquino III was also recognized in 2011.

Twelve other presidents were conferred with the same degree. Only former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declined the award.

According to CHED, the honorary Doctor of Laws degree is given to "outstanding lawyers, politicians, public servants, and statesmen who have contributed so much to and distinguished themselves in international understanding, leadership, and the rule of law."

'You can keep your degree'

Meanwhile, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said in an April 19 Facebook post that although his family is thankful to the U.P. Board of Regents, his father would likely decline the honor, saying that being President is enough recognition.

"Growing up, we were taught by our father of the value of education," he said. "That is why we really strive hard to get a degree no matter what. Given that and knowing my father, he does not give a heck with any 'honorary degree' simply because he knows he did not worked hard for such a degree."

"To 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, you can have that honorary degree for all we care," he added.

Backlash expected

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in an April 19 press briefing that the negative reaction to the honorary degree is "expected."

Abella added that while Duterte may accept the degree if offered to him, it is not something he seeks.

"If it's offered, I suppose he would," he said. "But it doesn't really matter if he's offered or not. It's not something that he runs after."

Abella however stressed that they have not received any official communication from U.P. regarding the doctorate degree.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan and Senior Correspondent Ina Andolong contributed to this report.

(Updated 3:40 p.m. of April 19 to include statement of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.)