MANILA – While the country’s premier state university traditionally offers honorary degrees to Philippine heads of state, not all have accepted, such as former chief executives, Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and now President Rodrigo Duterte.
While Duterte declined the University of the Philippines’ (UP) informal offer of an honorary Doctor of Laws on the basis of principle, stating that he has never accepted any accolades even when he was mayor of Davao City, Estrada and Arroyo were also special cases.
According to Professor Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr., UP's Vice President for Public Affairs, Estrada was caught up in events beyond his control, while Arroyo declined as an honorary degree would be redundant.
“Iyong kay Estrada, tila nasabi po niya diyan, hindi raw po siya karapat-dapat na tumanggap nito, which I took to be a deferred acceptance. Sa ibang panahon na lang. Hindi naman niya tinanggihan, sinabi lang niya na huwag na lang muna. Pero naabutan na po si Erap ng EDSA 2 kaya di na talaga nabigay,” Dalisay said in an interview on DZMM.
Arroyo, meanwhile, declined the offer as she already earned a Doctorate in Economics at the UP School of Economics in 1985.
While UP’s offer of an honorary degree for Duterte was generally met with mixed reactions from the UP community, those against it were very vocal of their disapproval, staging a rally at the school’s Diliman campus and posting their dislike on social media via hashtags #NoDegreeForDuterte and #DuterteNotWorthy.
Dalisay said the idea of conferring an honorary degree on Duterte came when UP President Danilo Concepcion brought up his invitation for the president to be a commencement speaker at Diliman.
“Noong nabanggit niya iyon, na naimbitahan ko na si presidente na maging speaker dito, ang naging practice din ng UP ay ginagawaran ng honorary degree ang mga commencement speaker,” he said.