Of the six candidates seeking the presidency of the University of the Philippines, UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo has received an outpouring of support not only from students and faculty but also from national artists, scientists and academicians.
Last week, 10 national artists and 53 UP professor emeriti signed a statement backing Nemenzo for fulfilling their criteria “for an ideal and exemplary academic leader.” They said that in a post-Covid world, the country’s foremost state university “needs a leader with a vision that will uphold UP’s strong commitment to knowledge generation and public service.”
“UP’s president must be an exemplary scholar with a lengthy teaching experience, a deep-thinking intellectual, a competent administrator and committed public servant,” they added.
On Dec. 9, the 11-member UP Board of Regents will select the 22nd UP president from among Nemenzo; Patrick Alain Azanza, Catanduanes State University president; Salvador Belaro Jr., former 1-Ang Kabataan partylist representative; Angelo Jimenez, former UP regent; Benito Pacheco, civil engineering professor; and Fernando Sanchez Jr., former UP Los Banos chancellor.
‘Grasp of data, analytics’
The signatories said they picked Nemenzo, a mathematics professor, for fulfilling their criteria for an academic leader who has “an intricate grasp of data and analytics overlaid with the ability to link and apply these to the hard sciences, the social sciences, humanities, gender, philosophy, ecology, and the arts.”
Among the signatories were National Artists Gemino Abad and Virgilio Almario (for Literature), Benedicto “Ben” Cabrera (for Visual Arts), Ryan Cayabyab (for Music), and Ricardo “Ricky” Lee (for Film and Broadcast Arts), and National Scientist for Mathematics Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J.
Former UP president Emerlinda Roman, former education secretary Leonor Briones, and former socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto M. Pernia also signed the statement.
The title of National Artist is the highest national recognition given to Filipinos who have made significant contributions to Philippine arts and letters. The title of National Scientist is the highest honor conferred to Filipinos with significant contributions to science and technology.
Professor emeritus is a title given to selected retired faculty members for their “productive service in teaching/mentoring, research or creative work, and extension service for institution/nation building,” among other criteria.
‘Most valuable core’
In his endorsement, Cayabyab, also a UP alumnus, said Nemenzo had “lived, breathed and embraced totally the demands of working within the UP system.” He added that Nemenzo had defended “the most valuable core of our beloved university: freedom from tyranny and oppression and the unending pursuit of truth and justice.”
The prominent signatories said they “are certain that, as UP president, Chancellor Nemenzo will lead the UP community into pathbreaking horizons to enhance and solidify UP’s status as the country’s premier institution of higher learning in the service of the nation and beyond.”
Nemenzo, a recipient of the Achievement Award in Mathematics from the National Research Council of the Philippines and the UPD Gawad Chanselor para sa Pinakamahusay na Guro, was appointed 11th chancellor of UP Diliman by the UP Board of Regents at its 1350th meeting on Feb. 3, 2020.
A month later, the entire Luzon was placed under community quarantine to contain the spread of the coronavirus, forcing schools, including UP, to temporarily shift to online modes of instruction.
In a resolution last Nov. 30, the UP Diliman University Student Council endorsed Nemenzo for UP president for his “strong support” of the student agenda, as well as openness to consultations in addressing the demands of the student sector.”
They also praised Nemenzo’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the “Red-tagging attacks” against university stakeholders.
Nemenzo’s father, Francisco Nemenzo Jr., was backed by the Philippine Collegian as the 18th UP president. More than two decades later, the official student publication of UP Diliman also endorsed the younger Nemenzo, for having “proven himself to be a staunch defender of not just academia, but also the broader sectors outside the university.”
7 UP constituent universities
Nemenzo also received overwhelming support from faculty members in the seven UP constituent universities in Baguio, Cebu, Los Banos, Manila, Mindanao, Visayas, and UP Open University.
Earlier this week, faculty members from UP Diliman and the seven constituent universities signed a petition letter urging Faculty Regent Aimee Lynn Barrion-Dupo to help UP “get the president that it wants for a UP that the nation needs” by voting for Nemenzo.
Paul Hutchcroft, a scholar on Southeast Asian politics who has written extensively on Philippine politics and political economy, said Nemenzo “is a great proponent of the virtues of a liberal education” and “a true veteran of the ‘parliament of the streets,’ ready to put his life on the line for the cause.”