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SENSING the 22nd UP Prexy Selection (PART I)

NOTE: This is the first part of a two-part article. Click here for the second part.

Words by Sam Delis and Norland Cruz

Six candidates are vying for a fixed six-year term as the 22nd Head of the University, Chief Academic and Chief Executive Officer of the country’s national university, the University of the Philippines (UP). The academic institution has been vested to be the “national university”, as mandated by Republic Act 9500 (UP Charter of 2008).

As the leader of the country’s national university, his role is not solely centered on the university. The UP’s governance transcends beyond the Oblation’s openly wide arms. Thus, he shall be a national leader and a public servant at the same time.

UP and other state universities and colleges (SUCs) are facing numerous challenges, especially in these precarious times. Thus, the role of a UP president is paramount. As the national university and the home of the majority of Filipino leaders, artists, scientists, and politicians, its leadership is a matter of national consequence. 

The UP community and SUCs are still campaigning for a genuine Ligtas Na Balik Eskwela (LNBE), given that the pandemic crisis burdened the educational sector. With a pandemic crisis at hand, UP’s world ranking also dropped on the latest Times Higher Education-World University Rankings (THE-WUR). Other than these issues, there is also an impending budget cut for Fiscal Year 2023. 

Given the grave duty of a UP president to address the current issues of the university, the successor must have a critical and heightened sense in serving the nation and its people. 

The electing body: UP Board of Regents

Despite the fact that a UP president should serve the university’s constituents and the Filipino masses, contradictingly, the constituents have no direct power to elect its president. However, the approach is transparent, which keeps the public informed and abreast of the developments by conducting fora and consultations. 

It is the university’s tradition to put the power of choosing the next UP president to the Board of Regents (BOR). As the highest governing body of the UP system, the BOR consists of 11 regents from the public and private sectors. Among these numbers, four members were directly appointed by the Malacañang, two were from Congress, and five members were from the UP community. 

The electing body has four Malacañang-appointed members, with Hon. Prospero De Vera III, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman, presiding as the BOR chairperson. The three other Malacañang-appointed members are Hon. Raul C. Pagdanganan, Hon. Gladys Tiongco, and Hon. Gregorio B. Pastorfide. Meanwhile, two regents are from Congress: Hon. Francis G. Escudero from the Senate Committee and Hon. Mark O. Go from the House Committee. Thus, only five regents came from the UP community: Incumbent UP President Danilo L. Concepcion presiding as the BOR co-chairperson, and one regent each for the faculty (Hon. Aimee Lynn Barrion-Dupo), student (Hon. Siegfred R. Severino), staff (Hon. Victoria Belegal), and alumni (Hon. Reynaldo C. Laserna), respectively. 

To clinch the UP presidential position, at least six members of the BOR must side with the candidate.

The six nominees laid out their mission-vision projects and all of them took part of the recent public fora held by the BOR and the studentry separately. To further make sense about the upcoming UP presidential selection, here is a comprehensive and investigatory piece on the matter:

Azanza’s vision for UP: A scrutiny

Known for his flagship multiversity-metaversity vision for the country’s national university, Dr. Patrick Alain T. Azanza is known for his rebranding of UP: Unibersidad ng Panghinaharap. Azanza’s mission-vision is primarily focused on making UP a data-driven institution to hone data literacy and uphold data culture in the university. He emphasized that research, scientific methods, and algorithms are essential to create a “forward-thinking” university that is globally competitive.

Aside from Azanza being a data scientist, he is currently the 7th president of Catanduanes State University since 2021. Moreover, he is also the current president of Eclaro Academy and Eclaro Business Solutions, Inc., a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company. Tracing back his roots as an Iskolar ng Bayan, Azanza graduated from AB Sociology at UPLB, wherein he also served as the University Student Council (USC) chair in 1987. In the same year, Azanza was elected as the first UPLB chairman of KASAMA sa UP (KSUP), the system-wide alliance of student councils in the UP system.

Furthermore, Azanza’s candidacy for a UP leadership position was not the first time. In 2010, he was also nominated for UP presidency and UP Diliman chancellorship in 2014. He also ran for UPLB chancellorship in 2017 and 2020. (READ: The entrepreneur, the economist, the agriculturist: Who are UPLB’s three chancellor nominees?

Despite the unsuccessful bids, Azanza maintains an optimistic sight in clinching a position for this year’s UP presidency. His plan of action shows that his “visionary” branding revolves around technology, science, research, and innovation as vital aspects of his proposed programs. Azanza also foresees UP as a Global Research University, highlighting that each UP unit should have a field of specialization (agriculture for UPLB and fisheries for UPV, for instance).

Moreover, Azanza highlighted the Comprehensive and Rational Use of Land and Other Resources Policy in his mission-vision paper. He intends to establish economic zones in UP campuses for research and academic enhancements. Azanza emphasized that the UP Town Center (UPTC) and UP Ayala Technohub should be research-based economic zones instead of being just “leasing ventures”. In relation to that, one of Azanza’s proposed programs also involved the public and private sector partnership (PPP). According to him, this program aims to “modernize” UP campuses, which will be patterned from the PPP model of foreign countries. Additionally, he reiterated that UP lands and resources will be used to generate university funds.

The issue of commercialization in the university is no stranger to its constituents, with UPTC and UP-Ayala Technohub being the most popular controversies. Nearly two years ago, the contract between Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) and UP was a pressing issue, as the government sought to “review” and probe into the lease contract between the two parties. In 2016, the Philippine Collegian released an article to expose the unpaid rent by ALI for UPTC and Technohub. ALI was allowed to delay its rent payment for using UP lands as commercial profit, while on the other hand, the UP administration’s income from student fees hit a 10-year high. 

The Ayala Technohub was initially established as a science and technology park for research and development; however, the 20-hectare area became dominated by BPOs. The construction of UPTC, on the other hand, consequently caused the demolition and transfer of the UP Integrated School (UPIS) Building. 

During his run for UPLB chancellorship in 2020, Azanza said that partnering with private sectors such as ALI is not commercialization but rather the “height of research and innovation”. His then-flagship vision “Silicon Valley UPLB” aimed to create agro-industrial and biotechnological economic zones in UPLB without providing concrete plans for matters such as resources, land grants, and endowment fund. (Read: Azanza talks ‘Silicon Valley’ plans, controversies in chancy race

Azanza’s vision looks into a future-ready and data-driven UP to develop a world-class university that highlights innovation and research. However, will the Unibersidad ng Panghinaharap be a clear 20/20 or a short-sighted vision for the regents?

Will Belaro savor the taste of UP prexy ‘climax’?

Despite being no longer affiliated with UP, Former congressman Atty. Salvador B. Belaro, Jr. firmly believes that this is an advantage. In the recently held The Search: Public Forum for the Selection of the Next UP President, Belaro was asked what makes him different from the other candidates. He replied, 

“…I humbly submit that right now is the time that we demand a leadership that looks more on the outside, with my vast experience internationally and locally. This is the leadership that could steer UP into what it needs to be.”

The savor of determination is manifested in Belaro’s stance that leadership that “looks more on the outside” is what the UP community needs. As the former representative of 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list, Belaro has indeed proved himself in terms of public service. In 2018, he became a recipient of Outstanding Alumnus of UP for Good Governance and Public Service Award. Currently, he is the dean of Wesleyan University Philippines-College of Law.

During his time in the university, Belaro graduated from BA Political Science as cum laude at UP Diliman. He also served as the editor-in-chief of Tanglaw and associate editor of Sinag, and an editorial member of the Philippine Collegian during his years at the UP College of Law.

His three-year stint in the Congress was not as sumptuous as his UP years. The former congressman was dubbed the “climax congressman” for asking several lewd questions to Ronnie Dayan, the driver and lover of Former Senator Leila De Lima, way back in 2016. During the hearing, Belaro was one of the male lawmakers who pried into the affair of De Lima and Dayan by asking inappropriate questions. 

To put context on the “climax congressman”, Belaro specifically asked: “Palakas nang palakas [ang pagmamahalan] hanggang intensity 5. Kailan kayo nag-climax?” 

Meanwhile, Belaro now rebranded himself as the candidate who envisions UP as a Filipino Global University. In his mission-vision paper, he aims to make UP a genuinely Filipino Global University that empowers Filipino people, especially the marginalized. Belaro aims for an inclusive leadership that does not only serve the UP constituents, but also the Filipino community. By foreseeing a genuinely Filipino Global University, hopefully, UP will cater more to the welfare of the nation.

Furthermore, his flagship vision includes transitioning out of the pandemic by attaining a new normal education through full, in-person classes starting the second semester. Belaro also emphasized the urgent need for consensus and effective execution of the said plan.

Months ago, through the OVPAA Memorandum 2022-88, the UP system shifted to blended learning for the first semester of the academic year. Despite this being a major progress for the Ligtas Na Balik Eskwela (LNBE) campaign, the blended learning mode raised numerous student grievances due to the sudden transition, reinstated anti-student policies, and inefficiency of the learning setup. (Read: Upon return to campus, students raise concerns on Internet connection, limited spaces for blended learning

In this kind of program, consultations from the stakeholders is essential. Moreover, Belaro also included the University Strategic Planning for 2023-2030 and the Promotion and Protection of Stakeholders’ Welfare as parts of his mission-vision. The highlights of these proposals include a comprehensive 10-year Program on Faculty and Staff Careers and Retirement to address issues such as plantilla positions, contractualization, and retirement benefits.

In addition to that, Belaro also wants to diversify the UP admission process through a project called Ten Students Rule Per Barangay. Recently, a journal article tackling the bureaucracy and inaccessibility of the UP admission process has been published by the UP School of Economics. The exclusivity of UP education has been a decade-long issue. Thus, Belaro believes it is imperative to boost efforts and increase logistics towards “improving quality, guided and measured by sound indicators agreed upon”. (Read: Facts of the matter: The unfair advantage in college admissions

Furthermore, Belaro also emphasized “Fiscal Autonomy, Less GAA Dependence” by making UP strive for more modes of PPP to lessen dependence on the national budget. This program welcomes the possibility of receiving foreign-assisted projects through PPP.

Only a day left before the BOR cast their decisions. Will Belaro savor the taste of the climax in clinching the UP presidency?

Touching the ground of Jimenez’s mission

As a former UP Board of Regents member from 2016-2021, Atty. Angelo A. Jimenez’s expertise inside UP Politics gave him an advantage to clinch one step closer to the UP Presidency. As a product of a public research institution that inquires beyond the bounds, he views the ideal UP to become a global university that unapologetically asks the “big questions of our time”. He firmly stands in acting and generating solutions in a locally appropriate manner and striving to solve the problems of the world, by believing that “a problem of one is a problem of all”. 

A graduate of AB Sociology at UP Diliman, Jimenez was a known campus leader and student journalist. He served as the associate editor of the Philippine Collegian and was elected as the national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines. As for leadership, Jimenez was UP Diliman University Student Council (UPD-USC) chairperson in 1991. His stint as the UPD-USC chairperson was a controversy since he was appointed by then-UP President Jose Abueva as the 1992 Student Regent (SR), bypassing the selection process mandated by KSUP. KSUP unanimously selected Jose Ilagan from UPLB for SR; however, Abueva defied the process and appointed Jimenez instead. Despite numerous protests, Jimenez accepted the nomination; KSUP did not recognize him as the 1992 Student Regent.

In his mission-vision paper, Jimenez primarily highlights digital transformation. His envisioned leadership touches three main aspects: research, extension service, and digital transformation. He iterated to empower the university’s graduate and post-graduate programs to progress the capacity through resource-sharing and broadening the talent pool of higher studies. Moreover, Jimenez also emphasized that the effectiveness extension services are to be used as the test of relevance. He also reiterates the Open Data Policy, stating that publicly funded research must be widely disseminated to allow maximum utilization and expansion of knowledge base.

His vision paper also grasped the intersection of academe with the government and industry by institutionalizing a programmed and purposive engagement. Private research funding and close collaboration with the private sector are also to be expected during his term, should he win the post.

Furthermore, Jimenez firmly believes that closing the quality gap is key to democratic access to UP by raising the quality education inside and outside the university, specifically the undergraduate curricula. However, during the Kilatis student-led forum, Jimenez was the only one who did not agree on making PS 21 (Wika, Panitikan, at Kultura sa Ilalim ng Batas Militar sa Pilipinas) a GE course in all campuses.

The separation of the history GE course from the Martial Law GE course has been a deeply-rooted issue, as most educators and students claim that only the important dates and proclamation numbers relating to Martial Law are being taught in the classroom. Hence, their call is to implement an effective pedagogy on Martial Law education for the students to be critical and conscious of the realities of the Martial Law era. (Read: Never enough: ambiguities and silences in Martial Law education)

Moreover, in an interview with the Philippine Collegian, Jimenez stood “in favor with reservations” regarding the contractualization of UP workers. According to him, it offers flexibility for jobs and there will be times in the labor market that will “call for emergency employment and contractual workers.” In the same interview, Jimenez also asserted that he is against the institutionalization of the UP-DND accord, stating that there is already a UP-DILG accord that will suffice.

The UP-DND accord is an 1989 bilateral agreement that prevents any state and military forces from entering the UP campuses without prior notice. The call for institutionalizing the said agreement is due to its unilateral abrogation by the Department of National Defense (DND) in 2021, which caused red-tagging and harassment cases in the university to blow up. Meanwhile the UP-DILG accord is a 1992 agreement between former UP President Abueva and then-DILG Chief Alunan to limit the entry of PNP in the university.

As the next UP president, it is important to be in touch with the needs and challenges that the UP constituents are facing – from the studentry, faculty, staff, alumni, researchers and other UP constituents. It is essential to build a holistic approach in crafting programs and envisioning the future UP and the future Filipino educational sector. 

Azanza, Belaro, and Jimenez are the UP presidential candidates deemed the “outsiders” – as they are no longer affiliated with the university. This, however, does not mean their roots as an Iskolar ng Bayan are already gone. Time and again, history shows that the past BOR members have favored selecting who is currently affiliated with UP.

It is a challenge for Azanza, Belaro, and Jimenez to have their roots grounded by what Tatak UP should be like – honor before excellence, utak at puso, mula sa masa tungo sa masa. Despite being no longer affiliated with the university, they are expected to serve UP and the Filipino community, should they win the post. Above all, embodying the essence of being an Iskolar ng Bayan never ends inside the university. [P]

1 comment on “SENSING the 22nd UP Prexy Selection (PART I)

  1. Pingback: SENSING the 22nd UP Prexy Selection – UPLB Perspective

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