MANILA (UPDATE) – An official from the University of the Philippines denied Wednesday President Rodrigo Duterte’s accusation that the country’s premier state school was a recruitment ground for communist rebels.
In an interview with ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, UP’s Vice President for Public Affairs Elena Pernia also appealed to the chief executive to continue funding the university, adding that its alumni have contributed so much to Philippine society.
“Wala naman nakasulat sa mission namin iyong recruitment, at hindi namin ginagawa iyon (Recruitment is not in our university’s mission and we don’t do that). UP is not in the business of recruiting for communists,” Pernia said.
“Dapat naman siguro makita rin ng presidente na ang laki ng kontribusyon ng mga alumni natin sa iba't ibang sektor ng ating lipunan, mapa-gobyerno man, mapa-private,” she added.
(The president should see how much our alumni have contributed to the different sectors of our society, either government or private.)
In asking for continued funding, Pernia also cited the contributions of UP to the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Marami ring na-contribute ang UP doon (COVID-19 response). Maputol mo iyong funding sa amin, ano naman ang magagawa namin?” she said.
(UP has contributed a lot to the COVID-19 response. If you cut our funding, what can we do?)
UP developed COVID-19 test kits, and its faculty members and researchers from UP are part of the OCTA Research Group, which regularly publishes COVID-19 forecasts and analysis for the government with suggestions on community quarantine measures.
In a public address aired late Tuesday, Duterte threatened to stop funding UP after students called for an “academic strike” against the government’s alleged negligence in disaster response and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it was students from the Ateneo de Manila University, not UP, who started calls for an academic strike against the alleged incompetence of the Duterte administration.
In an interview with CNN Philippines on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperosn Harry Roque said Duterte “somehow confused” UP with Ateneo.
“He also, I think, somehow confused the proponents of this academic strike. I explained it was the Ateneo students advocating the academic strike,” Roque said.
Constitutional law expert Tony La Viña said the president cannot take away funds from the national university.
“The president can propose a smaller budget to the [Department f Budget and Management]… and the final say on the budget of UP is the House of Representatives and Philippine Senate,” La Viña said in an interview.
“It’s an empty threat by the president, this defunding UP or defunding institutions, that will really survive the presidency,” he added.
Section 22 of the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008 requires the State to “support the University of the Philippines System as the national university in the form of lump sum amount, through general appropriations and other financial benefits, and in kind, through land grants and donations and use of other real properties.”
Under the charter, UP shall recommend its annual budget to the president and Congress.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan also said it would be “legally infirm” for the president to defund UP over student protests.
– With a report from Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News