[OPINION] U.P. and the Marcoses

Is UP more accommodating of the Marcoses than it is commonly believed to be?

Miguel Paolo Reyes

10:11:52am September 11, 2018

10:12:8am September 11, 2018

Imee Marcos was in the University of the Philippines Diliman on August 25, 2018, attending the Kabataang Barangay (KB) reunion held at the Bahay ng Alumni. The venue happens be the site of one bloody bank heist and one political assassination – a fitting venue then, in retrospect?

UP president Danilo Concepcion was also in attendance. It has since been “revealed” – he did not really hide it since it is in his publicly accessible CV, released when he was running for UP president – that Concepcion was a ranking member of the Marcos-era KB.

At least 4 written statements from members of the UP Diliman community, numerous articles and memes, and two apologies from President Concepcion later, many have been reminded about the case of Archimedes Trajano, who was found dead after questioning why Imee Marcos was appointed KB chairperson in 1977. (READ: MARTIAL LAW 101: Things you should know

Some also pointed out, as even the United States embassy in the Philippines noted in the late 1970s, that the KB also functioned to keep the country’s potential young radicals in check. A declassified diplomatic cable shows how Imee was well aware of that function. (READ: Gone too soon: 7 youth leaders killed under Martial Law

Marcoses in UP

It’s clear now that members of the UP community were up in arms because the chief academic officer, head of faculty and the chief executive officer of the university, attended an event celebrating an appendage of the Marcos regime on UP property. For many, the gesture made it seem that UP was being complicit in the attempts to definitively cast the Marcos regime as a Golden Age. Statements issued have not focused on Imee Marcos being in UP – why would they, she isn’t banned from stepping foot on UP, where she was once a student?  

In fact, to my knowledge, within the last 10 years, she has been in UP Diliman a number of times before August 25, 2018:

In her capacity as president of the Creative Media and Film Society of the Philippines, she was among the presenters at the 7th Philippine Youth Congress in Information Technology, organized by what was then called the UP IT Training Center, held on September 8-11, 2009, at the UP Theater, the UP Film Institute and Ang Bahay ng Alumni. (Photographs here.)

She attended the UP College of Law commencement exercises on April 29, 2013, at the UP Film Center, because one of her sons, Michael Marcos Manotoc, was among the graduates. She probably also saw Concepcion, then dean of the UP College of Law, at that event.

Lastly, on September 22, 2016, at Balay Kalinaw, she, along with her brother, Bongbong, gave some remarks during the launch of a book, titled Accountability in Congress, by former House of Representatives secretary-general and UP National Center for Public Administration and Governance lecturer Marilyn Barua Yap. Then Dean Concepcion was also in attendance, as these photos  posted on UP’s official Facebook page prove.

Yes, there were two Marcoses in UP Diliman a day after the 44th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos' proclamation of Martial Law. To my knowledge, there were no protests during that event or at the other official UP-organized events in Diliman that Imee attended.

Her brother, in his capacity as Senate chair of the committee on local government, also top-billed a forum on the Bangsamoro Basic Law held on November 27, 2014, at the UP Asian Center. (Here’s a photograph of him with the university seal directly behind him.) No protests then, either.

In contrast, a “Tsikahan with Gov. Imee,” set to be held last September 8 at the Iloilo Science and Technology University, was called off because of protests by student activists.

So, is UP actually more accommodating of the Marcoses than it is commonly believed to be?

Think of it this way: if, as the cliché goes, UP is a microcosm of Philippine society, then as there are numerous supporters and loyalists of the Marcoses in positions of power in the government, so there are numerous supporters and loyalists in the corridors of power in UP.

Where our loyalties lie

During the commencement exercises in UP Diliman on April 17, 1977, Imelda Marcos was given an honorary doctorate by UP. She called UP her “new alma mater” – earning the derision of some of those in attendance. At the time, the US ambassador believed that “bold intrusion of Mrs. Marcos into the heartland of Philippine radicalism [sic] is indicative of [the] Marcos’ regime’s confidence that they now have UP firmly under control.”

That honorary doctorate has never been revoked even after the People Power Revolution.  

In 1991, the UP Board of Regents approved a proposal to establish 25 professorial chairs to be named after former Philippine and UP presidents. During the same BOR meeting, it was decided to rename the Ferdinand E. Marcos Professorial Chair to the Class of 1957 Professorial Chair (see the 51st page of this). However, subsequent mentions of these “presidential” chairs (for example, on the 30th page of this, and on page 20 of this) again referred to a Marcos Professorial Chair.

I haven’t been able to check if it still exists, but I have not seen a notation about it being abolished. If it still exists, then it has fared much better than the Ferdinand E. Marcos Chair for East Asian and Pacific Studies at Tufts University, which was cancelled soon after it was established in 1977 when nobody wanted to fill it.

In President Concepcion’s most recent apology, he acceded to the UP Diliman University Council’s proposal to craft General Education courses on Martial Law for UP students. If courses on the Marcos dictatorship will be developed by UP’s faculty, perhaps they should also look well into how members of the UP community helped in the rise of the dictator, or showed obeisance to him – writing books for him to make him appear to be a historian, calling him “the Grand Architect of our destiny,” allegedly allowing Imee to study at the UP College of Law though she supposedly did not have an undergraduate degree, among others.

They should also look into how members of the UP community today continue to revere the Marcos dictatorship – by naming an entire institute after one of Marcos’s main technocrats, describing him only in the most glowing terms, or defending his economic legacy amid other studies showing the contrary. (READ: Marcos years marked 'golden age' of PH economy? Look at the data.) 

Pseudo-intellectuals are important in the rise and maintenance of dictatorships. Francisco Nemenzo Jr, then dean of the UP Diliman College of Arts and Sciences, noted as much during a 1978 faculty conference titled “Social Science for the People”:

Today, whoever has the research skills and the cynicism to undertake even the most morally reprehensible projects will never run short of funding because those who have wealth and power have come to recognize the value of the social sciences for the manipulation of people. That is why intellectuals in our country never had it so good – perhaps not as professors nor as genuine scholars but as consultants, data gatherers, and ghost writers.

Universities – UP included – can concurrently be home to both the sardonic critics of dictators and the opportunistic collaborators Nemenzo described. A purge of either is desired by some.

My less violent counterproposal is for members of the UP community to make as naked at the Oblation where their loyalties lie, thereby allowing us to “move on” from personality-based partisanship (no, pro-Marcos and anti-Marcos are not political ideologies) toward discerning whether our labors are benefitting a privileged few or the masses we claim to serve. – Rappler.com

Miguel Paolo Reyes is a university research associate at the Third World Studies Center, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Diliman. He is also an associate editor of the Center's journal, Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies, and a managing editor of Asian Democracy Review (currently on hiatus). The Center has made publicly accessible a number of resources on the Marcoses and the Marcos regime through Kasarinlan.