fond memory i would never forget: i was doing the draft for this one during my 18th birthday. my editors, the devils, planned to ‘baptize’ me with 18 drafts! of course i hated them then and was just about to pull my hair out when the 15th (or was it 17th?) draft fell to my lap. they eventually confessed and the two of them became my dearest closest friends and kasamas. and they ended up marrying each other, now with a cute little boy that i love as much as i do his parents. they attest that their (very turbulent) love story started while they were tormenting me. hehe. so i guess all’s well that ends well.
anyway, i’ve decided to post this one as a reply, though indirect, to DOJ sec. siRAULo gonzales’ latest boo-boo against UP and the national democratic student movement. hoy raul, hindi nagiging rebelde and mga estudyante sa UP sa kung anong dahilan lang! napatunayan na ng kasaysayan na ang mga katulad mo ang dahilan kung bakit maraming taga-UP ang namumulat sa hubad na katotohanan ng lipunan.
Bartlett Hall, Bocobo Hall, Benton Hall, Romulo Hall, Gonzales Hall and Palma Hall – campus buildings named in honor of a few of the statesmen, scholars and administrators who have served as president of the country’s most revered academic institution.
Today, twelve candidates for the presidency are vying to be immortalized in the same way. as the turn of the new century witnesses the beginning of a new administration, it is crucial to look back on the past presidents not only to formulate positions as to how future ones shall be judged but more importantly, to try to grasp the nature of UP’s history itself.
The University of the Philippines was established on June 18, 1908 in the City of Manila by Act No. 1870 to provide “advanced instruction in literature, philosophy, the sciences and arts, and professional and technical training” to every qualified student regardless of “age, sex, nationality and religious belief, or political affiliation.” The university’s primary orientation was to inculcate “liberal” education, unimposing and unpresuming, contrary to the orientation of universities and institutions established during the Spanish colonization. Yet ultimately, the university served as the training ground for Filipino intellectuals who would later lead the colonial bureaucracy. Such purpose was essential for the so-called simulation of American-style democracy in the Philippines. Consequently, the concept of free education for every deserving citizen, which was purportedly the hallmark of the American public school system, was easily set aside. Scholars were narrowed down to students willing to offer their knowledge and abilities to the American colonial government.
Act No. 1870 further ensured the colonial orientation of the UP with the creation of the Board of Regents, the highest university governing and policy-making body, mandated especially to represent American interest.
The Board was primarily composed of four government officials, or ex-officio regents, namely, the Secretary of Public Instruction, the Director of Education, the Chairman of the Committee of Public Instruction of the Philippine Assembly, and the President of the University. Five others were appointed by the Governor General, majority of whom were American officials. The duties and powers of the Board was stipulated in Section 15 of Act 1870, in addition to its general powers of administration and exercise of corporate powers. Section 15 of the same act also provided the formation of the Board of Visitors whose sole duty was to make occasional visits to the university as they deem proper and make reports to the Governor General regarding the university’s present state.
With the most powerful body of the university consisting of these prominent figures, the very concept of campus freedom, as the university’s vision invokes, through the years has become an almost exclusive prerogative of these few people who claim to support the welfare of the students.
The American university
The first three presidents appointed by the Board were Murray Bartlett (1911-1915), Ignacio Villamor (1915-1920), and Guy Potter Benton (1921-1923). They ensured the total Americanization of the university despite having vision statements that stated otherwise. English was used as a primary medium of education while the use of Tagalog was banned in the university.
Villamor, being the first ever Filipino to hold the position, attempted to introduce Filipinization but the colonizers immediately countered his efforts. The first student demonstration, which was led by Carlos P. Romulo (who himself will become UP President in the ‘60s) and Pedro Franco, took place during this period. Freedom from discrimination became the battlecry of the students, faculty members and employees.
Liberalism was introduced in the university when Rafael Palma (1925-1933) assumed office. Ironically, it was also during his term that UP hosted the Monroe Survey Commission, a so-called entrustment campaign that further tightened American hold on the university. Palma, however, fought for the autonomy of the whole system from the political machinery of the government, which angered then President Manuel Quezon. Palma’s administration also marked the standardization of tuition fees.
Preservation of the Filipino culture and history characterized Jorge Bocobo’s presidency (1934-1939). His efforts, however, remained futile as the university remained under the colonial reign of the Americans.
The students of the university meanwhile were already beginning to pursue nationalist advocacy even under such strict academic atmosphere. Philippine Collegian editors-in-chief Renato Constantino (1939-1940) and Angel Baking (1940-1941) published articles on nationalism and prompted the use of Tagalog during the first term of Bienvenido Gonzales (1939-1943).
The Gonzalez administration carried over to the period of the Japanese occupation. Gonzalez and Antonio Sison (1943-1945) served as UP presidents but the Japanese colonial government denied them of any power to directly manage the university.
After the war, Gonzalez served a second term (1945-1951) during which the main campus was transferred from Padre Faura to Diliman.
Meanwhile, Vidal Tan (1951-1956) aimed to transform the university into a center for national progress and international cooperation. In reality, however, the university once again became a willing host to arrangements that were essentially “American-dictated.” The westernization of UP education was further ensured when corporations like Rockefeller and Ford introduced American education as “fashionable” and “passports to power.”
Cases of campus repression became rampant. In one instance, Tan prohibited the Collegian from publishing a March 1955 headline which contained information unfavorable to him, as the writer according to him merely wrote the story because they had a personal rift.
The General Education Program that is still being implemented today was the brainchild of Vicente Sinco (1958-1962) to institute what he called “intellectual integrity” in UP. He defended UP against the government witch hunts on students and faculty advocating for social change. Student activist groups staged protests against the Commission on Anti-Filipino Activities (CAFA) which was directed on the editors of the Philippine Collegian and the Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review for their ‘leftist’ articles.
Carlos P. Romulo (1962-1968), on the other hand, virtually reversed Sinco’s liberal principles when he systematically imposed American aims despite his claims to a “nationalist and Asian orientation.” While traditional motifs in university functions such as the adoption of the Katipunero design for the ROTC Honor Guards, Romulo was vehemently against the activities of the then emergent nationalist student movement. The national democratic student organization Kabataang Makabayan was established during Romulo’s term.
Upsurge in the Student Movement
The Marcos era served as a catalyst on the transforming the university into an institution committed to the struggle for genuine social change. It turned UP into one of the most important centers of radical opposition to the so-called US-Marcos dictatorship.
Often described as the most progressive, Salvador P. Lopez’ term (1969-1975) found itself performing a pivotal role in uniting the academe against the worsening political and economic crisis of the Marcos government. A role which effectively complimented the militant and nationalist tide of the student movement culminating in the historic First Quarter Storm of 1970 and the Diliman Commune of 1971.
The administration itself participated in various campaigns against repressive qualities imposed upon the university and the entire educational system. Decision-making processes were also democratized. Consultations were held with the faculty and employees to discuss policies concerning their welfare. Students were given “maximum autonomy” in managing their organizations and publications, as well as representation in the Board of Regents.
The ranks of the student movement would eventually meet direct state aggression upon the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. Democratic student institutions such as the Philippine Collegian and the University Student Council were ordered closed. The succeeding administrations of Onofre D. Corpuz (1975-1979) and Emanuel Soriano (1978-1981) practically became direct instruments in consolidating martial rule in the university.
Education as a Commodity
Assertions that Edgardo Angara (1981-1987) was elected to the Board for his “corporate values and priorities” won merit when Angara proposed the Land Use Plan, which was primarily aimed to commercialized the university’s assets. The Angara administration gave great emphasis to the implementation of various profit-generating programs, and thereby turned the period into one brisk experimentation in the enterprise of transforming UP itself into a private enterprise.
Jose Abueva (1987-1993), for his part introduced the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program with the aim to, supposedly, make UP education accessible to the less privileged. In actuality, however, the STFAP became not only an effective camouflage for income-generation but also an ingenious ploy to hike tuition every year (as students slide down the bracket scheme).
Following the pattern set by the previous presidents, as well as former President Fidel Ramos’ vision of Philippines 2000, Emil Javier (1993-1999) formulated the UP Plan 2008, a plan that would allegedly equip the university into global competitiveness. Javier maintained commercialization and privatization as the overall thrust of his administration. Among the highlights of his term was the Commonwealth Property Development Project which intended to lease the vast amount of “idle” land in the Commonwealth area. The project was greeted with strong opposition by the UP community who saw the project as a mechanism of the government to dispose of its duty in subsidizing UP education.
The Ongoing Struggle
It is not enough to merely recognize which structure is named after which president. As the next UP president assumes office, the students are roused to assess what has transpired in the past and establish a clear view of what the future holds for the university.
Indeed, history remains the basic instrument from which change should emerge. ###
postscript: since this article was written, two more were appointed as UP Presidents: Dr. Francisco ‘Dodong’ Nemenzo (1999-2004) and Dr. Emerlinda Roman (2004-present).