QUEZON CITY, Philippines - Around 4,000 students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman graduated in Sunday afternoon's 100th commencement exercises at the UP Amphitheater.
According to the Office of the University Registrar, the UP batch 2011 boasts of 21 summa cum laude, 215 magna cum laude, and 794 cum laude. Leading them was 19-year-old BS Math student John Gabriel Pelias.
His general weighted average of 1.016 set a record that was second only to Exequiel Sevilla, who graduated with a degree in BS Commerce in 1927 with an average of 1.0.
Aside from being summa cum laude, Pelias also received a best thesis award among all BS Math students, an outstanding BS Math Student award, and an award of excellence from the College of Science.
His mother, Emma Lopez, was ecstatic over her son's achievements. "I am so proud of him," she said.
In his speech, Pelias urged fellow graduates to give back. "The least we can do in return to this country's taxpayers who paid a huge part of our UP education is to dedicate even just some time of our lives in the service of the Filipino people," he said.
He was given a standing ovation during the graduation rites.
During the commencement exercises, UP also bestowed its highest academic honor and rank, Master of Laws, Honoris Causa to President Benigno Aquino III, who was the graduation speaker.
This is the first time in 12 years that a President has attended UP graduation rites.
"Hindi ako nag-aral sa UP, pero malinaw pa rin ang sinabi sa akin ng aking ama, na ang UP ang naghubog sa kanya," he told graduating students.
Aquino lashes out at opposition
In his speech, Aquino lashed out at the opposition and zeroed in on embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez, whom the President accused of favoring the previous administration.
“Malalim pa sa puno sa Sunken Garden ang pagkabaon ng sistemang luma. Sino ang ‘di iinit ang ulo…Alam nyo kung sino tinutukoy ko…isang simpleng ‘OMG,’” he said.
“Walang kampo-kampo, walang partido sa nakapiring na hustisya, kung tingin nila sila lang ang pinagtutuunan ng panahon, ang tanging humahabol sa kanila ay kanilang kunsensya,” Aquino added.
The President also recognized the contribution of various UP alumni for helping expose anomalies in the previous administration.
He also urged the graduates to join the government's campaign to stamp out corruption and run after the people behind them.
“Hiling ko lang sa Isko at Iska…maisabuhay din ang obligasyon bilang iskolar ng bayan,” he said. “Kung nasa posisyon na kayo, maalala kaya ninyo ang slogan na na sinisigaw ninyo?”
Aquino's speech was interrupted by protests when members of militant student group UP KILOS NA unveiled streamers and claimed that no significant progress has been made during his administration.
They were immediately escorted out of the area by members of the Presidential Security Group.
"No amount esteem granted by any university, nor an honoris cause from UP, can hide the truth that we have an exploitative administration run by a president who is insensitive to the demands of the people," a statement from the student activists said. – with a report from ANC