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Diliman Scandal

In March 2011, I wrote in this column about news that the University of the Philippines has decided to give then President Noynoy Aquino a doctor of laws degree, honoris causa. “Old hands at Diliman wryly commented that perhaps UP wanted to be first again—or at least to beat Noynoy’s beloved Ateneo to the ‘honor’ of giving the President an award that not even his old school has given him yet,” I said.

I was told then that the practice of UP administrations of giving such degrees to incumbent presidents was a shameless bid to gain more funding for the premiere state university, which has seen a steady decline in government subsidies since the assumption to the presidency of Cory Aquino (who accepted the offer of an honorary UP degree, by the way.) The university “is now on full mendicancy mode and will do anything to get more funds from the state—and a doctorate degree does seem a small price to pay for that,” I wrote then.

Now UP is offering the same honorary degree to President Rodrigo Duterte, upon the initiative of Duterte’s appointees to the university’s governing Board of Regents. Even more than seeking more money for UP, the current BoR, I’m told, is just continuing the tradition of appointees giving honor to the president who got them their posts—which is why the holdover regents are now questioning its conferment.

But I don’t think Duterte is the kind of president who could be scammed with such an award. In that way, he is unlike the two Aquinos who preceded him who accepted the honor with alacrity, and more like two other predecessors who turned down the degree.

The high school dropout Joseph Estrada refused to accept the award (probably snickering as he did so at the prospect of being called “Doctor Erap”), as did Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who reportedly told UP that she already had the real thing, a doctorate in economics from the same university that she really worked to get before she became president. I have a distinct feeling that Duterte will turn down the offer, as well, because he doesn’t care about such things.

Needless to say, I opposed UP’s granting of an honorary doctorate to Aquino then and I am opposing the offer of the same honor to Duterte for much the same reason. Noynoy’s appointees to UP were merely sucking up to him by giving him the degree, while Digong’s own appointees are also behind the move this time.

The award itself has been devalued for decades, to the point where it is now about as important as purchasing a fake diploma from Recto. Of course, the people who want to give the award to Duterte are real academics with real doctorates.

But it’s still a scam. And a long-running Diliman Scandal.

Besides, it is no coincidence that the people who are now opposing the conferment of the honorary degree to Duterte are practically the same ones who gushed over giving the same award to Aquino six years ago. If Aquino, who barely completed his Ateneo economics degree, is more deserving than Duterte, who has a San Beda law degree and who had to pass the bar examinations, then I have a real doctorate in advanced nuclear physics, also from Diliman.

If someone insists that I prove that last claim, I will say that I just need time to gather the evidence. Commuting to Recto Avenue can be a real pain.

* * *

A Turkey-based supplier that has won the bidding for high-tech gadgetry for the Armed Forces of the Philippines has come under fire for being the alleged beneficiary of favorable bidding rules. The bidding for the AFP’s P1.1-billion Night Fighting System involved the supply of 4,500 night vision monoculars, an equal number of infrared aiming devices and 500 laser zeroing devices.

The losing bidders cited international experts who claimed that the “loose application of bidding rules” favored a single supplier with the help of the military’s bids and awards committee and an Army general. Aselsan Elektronik Sanayi Ve Ticaret, Theon Sensors, SA Nightline, Newcon and ATN all took part in the bidding conducted by the Department of National Defense, which Aselsan eventually won.

The losing bidders complained about an alleged lack of transparency and a level playing field in the screening and selection of the bidders for the package. They said that when the DND specified that the gadgets should contain an Image Intensifier Tube with a halo diameter size, which determines the gadget’s level of performance, of 0.85mm are qualified, this “effectively excluded” them.

The alleged favoring of one supplier over the others will serious affect the military’s ability to upgrade its equipment, they claimed. And the “disqualification by specification” sounds like just the kind of practice that President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants to eliminate because it fails his smell test for corruption in government transactions.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Diliman Scandal , University of the Philippines , UP , President Noynoy Aquino , President Rodrigo Duterte , doctorate degree
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