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UP Board of Regents moves to confer honorary doctorate to Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte has been nominated for an honorary doctorate at the University of the Philippines, members of its Board of Regents told GMA News Online on Tuesday.

The BOR is the highest policy-making body in the university. Its members include representatives from Congress, UP administration, faculty, students and alumni.

"There is a plan, but it is not yet final," Student Regent Raoul Manuel said in a text message when asked about reports that Duterte will soon be conferred an honorary degree.

Regent Frederick Mikhail Farolan said the conferment of an honorary degree was “customary” on the part of the university.

“It was brought to the attention of the Board that the bestowing of an honorary degree to the President, Senate President and Chief Justice have been customary,” Farolan told GMA News Online.

This means honorary degrees would also be offered to Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

A summary of the resolutions of the BOR at its 1,326th meeting held on April 5 said “matters approved by the Board” include the “Conferment of Doctor of Laws degrees, honoris causa, upon motion of Senator Escudero seconded by Regents Farolan and Jimenez.”

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero is a member of the BOR as the chairperson of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture.

The other BOR member is Angelo Jimenez.

Manuel said it may be finalized by the "end of April or end of May."

In a text message to GMA News Online, Commission on Higher Education chairperson Patricia Licuanan, who also serves as UP BOR chair, said Duterte has not yet accepted the conferment.

"In keeping with tradition, the UP will confer an honorary doctorate on the President. President Duterte has yet to accept," Licuanan said.

GMA News Online also sought comment from UP President Danilo Concepcion. They have yet to reply as of posting time.

Farolan, an appointee of the President, admitted they expected criticisms, but stressed that honorary degrees are part of “tradition.”

“I would expect that not everyone in UP would have the political ideas or beliefs so opposition at varying levels would be expected and I think it should be expected for a university like UP. I would be more perplexed and concerned if everyone says yes to matters such as this,” he said.

Farolan defended Duterte, saying if tradition will not be upheld because of mere allegations, then there should be a recall of honorary degrees given to “worse” former presidents.

“If sasabihin na he should not be given the privilege because of all the allegations, eh di dapat bawiin na yung honorary doctorate degrees sa iba which are worse; yung nagpakita ng kawalang halaga o kawalang importansya sa OFWs, indigenous peoples at sa iba’t ibang sektor ng mahihirap,” he said.

Duterte’s predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, was also conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

According to UP, Aquino was the 13th head of state who received an honorary degree from the university.

Other former Philippine presidents conferred with the degree were Manuel Quezon (March 16, 1929), Sergio Osmeña (March 25, 1930), Manuel Roxas (April 13, 1948), Elpidio Quirino (February 12, 1949), Emilio Aguinaldo (June 12, 1953), Ramón Magsaysay (April 5, 1955), Carlos García (April 7, 1959),  Diosdado Macapagal (May 30, 1965), Ferdinand Marcos (May 22, 1966), José Laurel Sr. (April 20, 1969), Corazon Aquino (April 20, 1986) and Fidel Ramos (April 24, 1993). —NB, GMA News