MANILA (UPDATE) — The University of the Philippines (UP) plans to confer an honorary degree to Sen. Mark Villar, drawing opposition from students' representative in the university's highest policy-making body.
The plan to give an honoris causa to Villar was made public Monday after the UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR) published on Twitter its letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, expressing opposition to the move.
The OSR represents students in the UP Board of Regents, described as the "highest governing body" in the UP System. The board is co-chaired by Concepcion.
"Despite his contributions to several infrastructure projects in the University as the Secretary of Public Works and Highways, we must look into the character of him as part of the Villar family," Student Regent Siegfred Severino said of Villar, who previously led the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
"Several issues of land-grabbing and development aggression hound their family's reputation and his stint as the Secretary of DPWH exacerbated these key issues," Severino said.
Severino said conferring an honorary degree to Villar "seemingly puts all these issues under the rug."
ABS-CBN News has reached out to Villar's camp for a comment but they have not responded as of writing.
The Villar family earlier said the land-grabbing allegations were part of "black propaganda."
In a text message to ABS-CBN News Digital, UP Vice President for Public Affairs Elena Pernia confirmed the premier state university's plan to give an honorary degree to Villar.
UP Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Jose Wendell Capili said the conferment would take place on Friday at the UP College of Law.
Capili said UP's conferment of honorary degrees undergo a stringent process, which includes consultation with stakeholders.
He noted the projects done during Villar's time as DPWH secretary.
"Maraming mga bagong gusali, 'yong mga improvement ng daan, mga kalye sa UP tapos 'yong mga gusali tulad ng Faculty Center, ng Student Union building, 'yong UP Food Hub, 'yong Shopping Center at iba pa across the UP System, so kung 'yon ang basehan, we have given that (honorary degree) to similar people who have rendered either monetary or extensive support to the university," he said.
(He helped build new buildings, improve roads in UP and buildings like the Faculty Center, Student Union building, UP Food Hub, Shopping Center and several others across the UP System. So if that's the basis, we have given that to other people who similarly have rendered either monetary or extensive support to the university.)
In a separate interview with ABS-CBN Teleradyo, Capili explained that UP usually gives an honorary degree to benefactors or people who are accomplished in their respective field.
Capili also confirmed reports that the Villar family donated in 2016 a 5-hectare property to UP in Dasmariñas, Cavite for a new campus.