MANILA—Sen. Francis Escudero on Wednesday said that he did not move to have the University of the Philippines (UP) offer Pres. Rodrigo Duterte an honorary doctorate degree.
However, Escudero said that neither did he object when it was proposed by the UP Board of Regents, the university’s highest policy-making body.
Escudero made this clarification following reports that he moved to discuss Pres. Duterte’s conferment. Escudero is the Senate representative to the BOR.
“I did not move but I did not object when it was proposed,” Escudero told reporters.
The senator explained that it is a UP tradition to offer Philippine heads of state, including the Chief Justice and Senate President, honorary degrees when they are invited to be commencement speakers.
He stressed that most of the time, almost every honorary degree offered by UP has been “controversial” and “never unanimous.”
“I guess that too is part of UP’s long history and tradition,” he added.
Escudero, however, said that it will still be up to the conferee, Pres. Duterte, if he will accept it.
He maintained that the honorary degree is not given unilaterally and needs to be accepted before being conferred.
Malacañang, for its part, said that an honorary degree from UP is not something that Pres. Duterte would run after but said the President might accept the offer as a sign of goodwill.
“It would be quite an honor to receive that (honorary degree), but it’s not something that he (Pres. Duterte) is, you know, angling for. Of course, a sign of mutual respect would be in place here,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said during a Palace briefing.
“Although he doesn’t run after awards, you know, it would be a sign of goodwill towards the highest, well, one of the most premiere, one of the three premiere institutions,” he added.
Some students and alumni are opposing the move due to alleged human rights violations in the campaign against drugs.
Abella, however, said that Pres. Duterte would still be inclined to accept the conferment if it is offered.
Malacañang has yet to receive an official communications from UP.