UP Diliman Class of 2021 urged to ‘speak in defense of UP’ amid threats to academic freedom

Graduates of the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UP) were urged to speak up in defense of their alma mater amid threats to the university’s freedom as an institution for higher learning.

UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo (Screenshot from Interactive Learning Center Diliman livestream)

UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo made this plea to this year’s graduates of the country’s premiere state university, as he lamented the allegations against the university that threatens its academic freedom.

“Hindi lang ang krisis ng pandemya ang kinakaharap nating pagsubog sa ngayon (The pandemic is not the only crisis we are facing right now)," Nemenzo said in his opening message during the UP Diliman’s 110th commencement exercises.

“Nandiyan rin ang banta sa ating kalayaan bilang isang pamantasan, ang walang tigil na pananakot at pagsisiil sa ating academic freedom (There is also the threat to our freedom as a university, the relentless intimidation and oppression of our academic freedom),” he added.

The university chancellor took note of the numerous allegations and accusations made against UP Diliman, with others claiming that the university is a “haven of anti-government ideologies.”

“Pero ang dapat maintindihan ng lahat, dito sa UP Diliman pinahahalagahan natin ang iba’t-ibang prinsipyo’t pananaw sa mundo (But what everyone should understand, here at UP Diliman we value different principles and world views),” said Nemenzo.

“And so dear graduates, wherever you are, no matter what career you choose, I encourage you to speak in defense of UP, in defense of your education, in defense of our people,” he added.

In January, the Department of National Defense (DND) terminated a 31-year old accord with UP, which sets guidelines on military and police operations inside the state university's campuses.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana claimed that the accord is being used by members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) as a shield to recruit students inside UP campuses.

Lessons of the pandemic

As the threat of the coronavirus pandemic continue to grip the country, Nemenzo said the pandemic has prepared the new graduates of the university to face life beyond the university.

“Kung may isang bagay na hinubog ang pandemyang ito, ito ay ang kakayahan nating humarap sa mga krisis (If there is one thing that this pandemic has shaped, it is our ability to deal with crisis),” he said.

“If there's one thing that you take away from your UP education, it is that it has been permanently marked by the lessons of the pandemic. You must translate this experience into the agility, grit, and resilience that shall prepare you for the world beyond the university,” he added.

This is the second time that the UP Diliman held a virtual graduation due to the lingering threat of the global health crisis.

During the online ceremony, the UP Diliman sent off 3,167 new graduates from 27 colleges and academic units of the university for Academic Year 2020 - 2021.

“Sa inyong pagsasabuhay ng husay at dangal, lagi niyo sanang tandaan ang inyong tungkulin bilang mga Iskolar ng Bayan, iskolar para sa bayan (As you practice excellence and dignity, please always remember your duty as Iskolar ng Bayan, scholars for the people),” Nemenzo said.