EDITOR’S NOTE (September 3, 2020): “Peso” Law was changed to “PEZA” Law, in reference to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
Chancellor nominee Dr. Patrick Alain Azanza speaks on his vision of a “Silicon Valley university” and controversies he encountered in his race.
“Ang aking pag-iisip, hindi isip taong-bahay. Very innovative ako, technology-oriented, at visionary. Dito ako naiiba sa ibang kandidato,” said Azanza during Perspective’s live interview with him last Monday.
Azanza presents himself to the public as a pro-student leader who promises to bring about innovative and progressive change, if given the chance to become the next chancellor.
His flagship vision centers on a “Silicon Valley UPLB,” which involves partnering with the private sector. Through implementing endowment funds, establishing a multi-sectoral platform of shared governance with the students, and creating agro-industrial and biotechnological economic zones; Azanza envisions the university as resilient, transparent, and globally competitive in terms of research and development.
Such plans for the Silicon Valley UPLB are mentioned in snippets from Azanza’s introductory video: “… Leveraging expertise on its faculty, scientists, research students, and constituents supported by the twenty-two agencies of the Los Banos Science Community, we will see a very vibrant academic community.”
Although many insights are presented in the interview, it is soon to be made clear how he would execute his said vision, such as providing online resources, harnessing land grants, and subsidizing the endowment fund.
Despite Azanza’s promise to ensure that safety nets are established when partnering with the private sector, it was unfortunately not specified in the interview how the support of the Los Baños Science community and the expertise of our students, faculty and staff will appeal to the private sector, and how these contracts and safety nets will guarantee job security and end contractualization for the university employees.
However, he mentioned: “Pero ano ang kapalit [ng tax incentives of the industry locators]: una, yung role ng ating students, faculty, reps, admin, kailangan may tamang compensation… pangalawa, merong automatic allocation sa kanilang mga earnings, they are allowed to do that pero may social safety nets na pipirma sila na bawal ang kontrakutwalisasyon… kasama dapat yun sa agreement. Otherwise they can be booted out of the Silicon Valley for Agriculture.”
On commercialization concerns
Azanza was no stranger to controversy in the short time that he gunned for chancellorship. From allegations surrounding a troll supporter to criticism aimed at his plans for the university, Azanza found himself as the talk of the town.
He assured that he is not running the chancellor race for profit, when asked about his plans of merging or partnering with the private sector. However, the on-going threats of commercialization have been an occurring issue for the university, with the latest example being that of the UP-Ayala Technohub partnership. Azanza said that partnering with the private sector is not commercialization, but rather the height of research and innovation.
“Tingnan niyo po ang UP Diliman sila ay may Ayala-Technohub. Isa po ako sa mga kritiko kung papaano ito naiba yung orihinal na atensyon na dapat yun sana ang ginawa ng unibersidad… hindi ho iyon ang modelo na gusto kong gawin sa aking Silicon Valley for Agriculture,” Azanza said.
“Ang gagawin po natin, yung locators, meron siyang tax incentives na makukuha under PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) Law at tsaka sa Corporate Recovery And Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE).” He followed that the Los Baños Science Community will be supported with the combined expertise of students and faculty, as well as their research resources.
Citing his presentation of visions and plans, Azanza also wishes to hone the present resources of UPLB for it to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis.
“Ang UPLB ay maraming pangangailangan… paano kung walang darating na pondo para sa UPLB? Tutunganga lamang ba tayo? Sa panahon ng COVID, sasabihin lang ba natin na uy gobyerno responsibilidad mo po ito, kailangang bigyan mo sila ng gamot. Hindi po yan ang tamang pag-iisip ng isang mahusay na Chancellor.”
Although he is part of the private sector, Azanza said that consituents should not forget his roots of being a UPLB alumni.
“Bagamat ako ang nasa private sector, huwag sanang kalimutan mananatiling bahagi ng unibersidad bilang alumni,” he said.
On academic promises
Azanza presented possible academic solutions such as the general elective (GE) reform and the postponement of the upcoming academic year.
He believes that the allocation of facilities and academic resources is not being maximized, thus the suggestion of a GE reform saying that he “will not allow these aspect[s] of inefficient use of resources and at the same time, i-stagnating standards of academic quality.”
“… ang dapat na pagsulong isasama ko dito sa audit kung anong dapat gagawin sa unang isang daang araw kung ako ay papalarin ng manungkulan upang makita natin kung ano ang mga programa na kailangan natin irationalize at kung ano ang mga programa na mas higit pang bigyan ng suporta,” he added.
He emphasized that e-learning will be the new normal especially for his Silicon Valley vision, but in this situation the students and faculty are simply not yet ready to transition.
“Ipipikit ba natin ang ating mga mata dito? Hindi sila technologically ready, hindi sila psychologically ready, hindi sila mentally ready…how much more sa educational preparation ng faculty?” he said.
When asked about prioritizing the Graduate School (GS), Azanza answered that quality excellence must be given focus.
“…We have a total of 8495 undergrad students and 2681 grad students. If you divide for example 2681 [GS students] by 136 [GS programs] that’s about 19 students per grad program…there has to be a rationalization behind offering these programs left and right,” he said.
On concrete plans with UP Rural High School (UPRHS), Azanza mentioned he knew a lot of friends from UPRHS and that, “Hindi ito dapat mapabayaan… napakahalaga ito sa nation building.”
On Maximum Residency Rule (MRR) cases, Azanza said that he would simply extend the deadlines of the cases.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of adjusting deadlines, which the chancellor can easily grant and yet does not. And when that happens, we are clearly becoming anti-students which we should not be as chancellors,” he said.
‘Doon tayo sa may track record’
Highlighting past experiences has been a distinct feature of Azanza when it came to answering questions. This can be observed in all three of his public interactions with the students thus far, including the vision presentation and the Pagliyab 2020 forum.
“Kapag nagsasalita ako, may pinanghahawakan akong modelo, may pinanghahawakan akong konkretong experience kung saan mangagaling ito lahat,” Azanza said in the interview.
According to Azanza, his personal track record reflects the level of commitment in being chancellor as he explained, “Makikita sa track record ko kapag nagbibigay ako ng aking sarili sa isang proyekto eh buong-buo po ang aking commitment at makaka-asa kayo na ang panunungkulan ay buong puso, buong isip, buong sarili kung sakaling palarin ako bilang chancellor.”
Azanza shared that his UPLB supporters had been the main reason for his candidacy, as they believed that his track record could serve as a good basis in fulfilling promises and providing genuine service to the constituents.
“Dr. Azanza para sa amin, kailangan namin ng track record na may patunayan na at di lang basta nangangako dahil napapaso na po kami at ikaw pag sinabi mo ginawa mo, at ayon sa track record mo sa buong UP System at UPLB, napakalinaw ang track record, sa’yo may napatunayan na kami kaysa sa maaaring nagbabait-baitan ngayon o nagsasabing suportado pero sa totoo, baka mababaliktad lang din,” he recalled.
Furthermore, Azanza cited his prior experience in being the youngest Lingkod ng Bayan Awardee, the highest award of civil service as he said, “Hindi sa kagustuhan ko lamang kundi nakikita nila ang aking pananaw ay advanced, at ang pagiging visionary ko ay puwede mag-iba ng takbo ng unibersidad.”
However, Azanza faces criticism from the students. A public critique of his vision paper was released from the UPLB College of Economics and Management Student Council which stated, “The stakeholder of the University, namely the students, professors, and staff, have long been waiting for a Chancellor who heeds their call and who genuinely wants to improve their welfare in more ways than in academics.”
“It is worrying that Dr. Azanza does not have an in-depth understanding of the problems and demands of the University’s stakeholders to serve as the Chancellor of UPLB which may result in inadequate or ineffective solutions,” the CEMSC added.
‘Tahimik lamang ang aking supporters’
“Takot ba sila na manalo ako dahil yung pagbabagong dadalhin ko ay talagang maiiba mapapabuti ang Los Baños?” Azanza remarked, when questioned on the alleged DDS and Pro-Marcos trolls incident last August 9.
The controversy alerted many university constituents, as seen in the responses of Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) UPLB and All UP Academic Employees Union-Los Baños towards these troll accounts.
As he claimed to have experienced being part of a hit-list and being red-tagged, Azanza asserted that all of these allegations are lies. He believes that the sole motive of these trolls is to alienate him from progressive groups.
However, Armand Mauricio, a UPLB alumnus, commented that Azanza turned his back on the League of FIlipino Students (LFS) and red-tagged the said group on the Pagliyab Open Forum. A departure from Azanza’s image of siding with the alliance. Azanza however countered these allegations, as he said that these claims are merely part of a ‘smear campaign’ against him.
Claiming that he was being branded as ‘Pro-Marcos,’ Azanza reiterated that he is not a supporter of the Marcoses. “Matatalino, critical ang mga UPLB students. Bakit nila kailangan siraan ang isang Dr. Patrick Azanza? Bakit nila kailangang palabasin na Pro-Marcos ako?”
Azanza also highlighted how online trolls harassed his online supporters.
“Lahat ng aking mga taga-suporta [ay] nagbibigay ng pangalan at student number. At nangyayari diyan ay hinaharass sila. Sinasabing outsider kayo, hindi kayo [supporters] taga-UPLB, napapahiya yung mga nanghaharass dahil lumabas, nanay po siya ng estudyante BS Agriculture student mismo ang nakaenroll sa UPLB. Yung mga alumni, pinatunayan na may kilalaman sila sa UPLB,” he said.
When questioned about the extent of his commitment to his chancellorship, Azanza said that his commitment remained firm.
“One hundred percent, two hundred percent, one thousand percent na aking ibibigay ang aking buhay sa UP Los Baños. Kung baga nasa stage na tayo ng ating buhay kung saan gusto nating maglingkod sa ating bayan at maglingkod sa’ting unibersidad,” he mentioned.
He further claimed that the problems the university faces, such as concerns related to University dormitories and facilities, were solved during his term as a UPLB USC chairperson.
“Kung titingnan natin yung problema noon sa university dorms yung mga facilities, nasolusyonan noong ako’y nakaupo bilang USC dahil sa magandang plataporma. Ngunit kung mababalikan mo ang mga pananayam ng mga sektor, mukhang ganyan nanaman ang nangyayari,” Azanza said.
According to him, the commitment as an active student leader in UPLB and his other related affiliations and experiences has led his supporters to believe that the other candidates are not enough to address the issues of the university.
“Nakikita nila [supporters] na ang dalawang lumulutang na kandidato ay para sa kanila hindi sapat na makatutugon sa mga kasulukuyang problema ng unibersidad,” he said.
Azanza ended the interview by thanking his many silent supporters, who motivated him to keep going despite the ongoing issues and controversies in his chancellorship.
“Sa totoong buhay tahimik lamang ang aking mga supporters, pero marami po sila at matutuwa sila kung dumating ang tunay na pagbabago dito sa ating minamahal na UPLB.” [P]
Screengrab from UPLB Perspective – [P] Live