The University of the Philippines (UP) will award on Friday, January 27 an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws to former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary and incumbent Senator Mark Villar.
UP’s Faculty Regent Carl Ramota, Staff Regent Victoria Belegal, Student Regent Siegfred Severino and Vice President for Public Affairs Elena Pernia confirmed the news to DZUP Balita.
Villar will receive UP’s “highest academic recognition of an individual’s contributions to the advancement of a field in a particular discipline through one’s extraordinary accomplishments.”
“Sa aking pag-oobserba… it’s either people who had rendered service to the University or who had given a certain type of donation o kung hindi naman po ay mayroong accomplishment sa kaniyang larang,” UP Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Jose Wendell Capili said in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
Severino, who represents UP’s student body at the Board of Regents, opposed the move to confer an honoris causa on Villar.
“Despite his contributions to several infrastructure projects in the University… we must also look into the character of him as part of the Villar Family,” Severino said in a published letter to outgoing UP President Danilo Concepcion.
“Several issues of land-grabbing and development aggression hound their family’s reputation… A conferment of honorary degree to him seemingly puts all these issues under the rug,” he added.
Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday, January 25 came to her son Mark’s defense, noting that “he helped UP a lot.”
“I think he was given that because he helped UP a lot,” Villar said.
“Ako, because I help agriculture a lot, so they gave me [one] sa [UP] Los Baños. So, the moral of the story [is that] you help UP a lot.”
Villar’s term as DPWH chief during the Duterte presidency saw a rise in public infrastructure projects on UP’s campuses. In 2018, UP and DPWH signed an agreement which aimed to improve physical assets across the System.
In 2017, UP’s plan to confer an honorary degree on former President Rodrigo Duterte was also controversial. Duterte later declined the offer amid heavy criticisms of his war on drugs.