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CHEd OIC De Vera warns SUCs vs. calling for Duterte’s ouster, says it’s illegal

Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Commissioner Prospero de Vera has warned officials of state-run colleges and universities against calling for the resignation of President Rodrigo Duterte, claiming that expressing such adverse position is illegal.

De Vera was referring to the statement released by the faculty members of UP-Diliman's Mechanical Engineering department which condemned the Duterte administration’s attacks against the Filipino people, democracy and the rule of law—a position shared by UP College of Engineering Dean Rizalinda de Leon by saying that “we, as one Engineering community, must take upon the challenge to defend human rights and civil liberties and join the Filipino under the banner of “Engineer the Downfall of Tyrant and Dictator Duterte.”

The UP Mechanical Engineering faculty members also argued in their statement that the atrocities committed by the Duterte administration against the Filipino people are no different from the crimes of the Marcoses, considering that the martial law regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos was plagued by “numerous cases of torture and murder, immeasurable graft and corruption, and the wanton stifling of basic human rights.”

The statement, however, did not call for Duterte to resign. Instead, the faculty members called on the community to join the university-wide protest against a Duterte-Marcos tyrannical alliance on September 21, the 45th commemoration of Marcos' declaration of Martial Law.

“Civil Service rules prohibit that. I would like to remind the university officials to promote discussions, allow students to articulate their belief, but calling for the ouster of the President is another thing,” De Vera told reporters.

Under Section 29 of the Civil Service law, “officers and employees in the civil service, whether in the competitive or classified, or non-competitive or unclassified service, should not engage directly or indirectly in partisan political activities or take part in any election except to vote.”

The same section, however, also states that the law does not prevent any officer or employee from “expressing his views on current political problems or issues, or from mentioning the names of candidates for public office whom he supports.”

“I view it with some seriousness,” De Vera said.

Further, he said that he will call the attention of the UP Diliman Board of Regents in his capacity as CHED officer-in-charge regarding the matter.

“The disciplining authority on any university official is the UP Board of Regents. I will call their attention, so that they will look into it, let the person explain what happened. That is due process,” he said.

But on Tuesday, Dean De Leon walked back her statement of supposedly supporting the “engineering” of Duterte’s downfall.

“To the UP College of Engineering Community, this is to clarify the pledge of support that was posted on the UPRISE [organization] page. I asked UPRISE the other night to delete the post because of an editing misunderstanding,” De Leon said.

“I do support the September 21 United People's Action and enjoin the engineering community to remember the Filipino people's fight for democracy, peace and justice. As stated in the letter, my statement of support does not constitute the suspension of classes in the college and it is still the professors' prerogative if he or she will excuse the students who will join the protest,” she added.

Preference for Bongbong

Duterte has expressed preference of having former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who lost in the May 2016 vice presidential race, as his Vice President. Duterte also has a penchant of saying that Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos campaigned for him in the 2016 presidential race.

Early in his presidency, the President pushed for a hero's burial for Marcos, a move that was ruled legal by the Supreme Court despite protests from the families and survivors of the human rights violations committed during Marcos’ martial law.

This is the second time three weeks that UP Diliman has been put into the spotlight over the Marcoses.

UP President Danilo Concepcion earlier apologized for his attendance in the Kabataan Barangay reunion with Imee Marcos at the UP Bahay ng Alumni on August 31, saying that he has “deep regret” over the hurt caused by his appearance at the Kabataang Barangay Reunion at the UP Bahay ng Alumni.

Concepcion also assured the UP Community that he does not, and will not support, any attempt at political whitewashing of Martial law.

The UP Mechanical Engineering faculty members, however, are not having any of Concepcion's apology.

“For years, there has been an effort to erase this dark history from public memory. The recent Imee Marcos’ entourage on a proverbial red carpet at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni was a sly tactic of the Marcos-Duterte alliance to test our memories. But the uproar against the visit is a resounding yes, we remember, [and] we will never forget the crimes committed by the Marcoses.” their statement read.

“During our dark history, many Iskolar at Guro ng Bayan responded to the call of the times and fought for democracy in the front lines, losing their lives. The Department of Mechanical Engineering stood with them. As history repeats itself, we stand once again,” they added. — RSJ, GMA News