Mar 222013

The University of the Philippines Amidst a Nation in Crisis: Its History, Role and Directions



B. The Background for Academic Repression: 1972-1982


Martial rule silenced the mass media and scores of students, journalists, labor leaders, academicians and political oppositionists were hauled into detention centers. Congress was suspended. Civil liberties were denied. Referenda, plebiscites and false elections were held to legitimize the institution of martial law.


The environment for the repression in 1972 can easily be gleaned from the headlines of that year. The economy showed signs of collapse, as crisis after crisis battered the people. Rice shortages, oil price hikes, the devaluation of the peso, increases in the prices of basic commodities and other economic maladies – all these were symptoms of a rapidly collapsing neocolonial state.


In response, the Filipino people – workers, peasants, and the intelligentia clamored for revolutionary change. They exhibited this through various forms of dissent: demonstrations, rallies, strikes and boycotts. The armed struggle loomed as a major option for the people to seize power and to take their destiny in their own hands.


US imperialism, however, rushed to the rescue of its client state, the Marcos regime. As the political bureaucracy was militarized, the World Bank and other foreign lending agencies pumped some $2.2 billion in foreign loans into the country in 1972 while foreign investments flowed into several areas of the economy.


The economic crisis characteristic of neocolonies never really abated however, from 1973 onwards. A brief economic boom in the mid-1970s was overshadowed by international recession. The peso’s purchasing power continued to deteriorate. Foreign debt consistently increased by billions per year to prop up the bankrupt regime. The balance of trade and balance of payments continued to favor the foreign sector. Prices of basic commodities multiplied as fast as unemployment rates (estimated by the Ranis report of 1974 as somewhere between 25% to 30%).


In the wake of this crisis, Filipino-owned small and medium scale industries were systematically edged out. More privileges were granted to foreign monopoly capital coming in, mainly Americans and Japanese. Foreign support was the main economic prop for the regime of repression.


Transforming UP as an ‘Agent of Change’ for the Regime


The potentials of the mass media and the educational system as effective instruments of deception were well-known to the henchmen of the US-backed Marcos regime in 1972. This explains the shutdown of important opposition papers in the past and censorship in the media.


Thus, when martial law was declared in 1972, the very first target for control was the educational system. Presidential Decree 6A (PD-6A) was issued, placing the control and administration of higher education in the State (meaning Malacanang). The arrangement served the regime’s enunciated policy ‘to strengthen the national consciousness and promote desirable cultural values’. This principle actually aligned the educational policy along State-directed priorities, its so-called ‘national development goals’. Among others, the educational system should produce ‘middle-level skills’ required for that development. The development of high level professions will provide the leadership in this ‘development’.


PD-6A was but a revised edition of the Presidential Commission to Survey Philippine Education (PCSPE), a Ford Foundation-funded undertaking in 1969 which sought to mold education according to the needs of foreign big business in the guise ‘national development’ and ‘industrialization’.


If the Philippine educational system is to effectively serve so-called national development goals and the export-oriented policy of the government, its systematic reorganization must not spare the country’s premier institution of higher learning, the University of the Philippines.


PD 58: The UP System and the Slogan of ‘Autonomy’


Presidential decree 58, instituting major changes in the U.P. was issued only two months after September 21,1972, the declaration of martial rule. The decree transformed the State University into a UP System and created autonomous units, foremost among which was UP at Los Banos. Such autonomy, the decree, said was necessary for the University to apply the academic and technical expertise and physical resources ‘to achieve the purposes of the new society’.


The Philippine Center for Advanced Studies (PCAS) was to follow suit in 1973. Like the UPLB, its autonomy ensured that authority was decentralized. In both cases, the academic freedom of the entire U.P. was clearly violated. UPLB and PCAS autonomy made sure that their operations would be unhampered by the U.P. central administration control.


Subsequently, the U.P. Charter was modified. Later called the U.P. Code, the revision saw to it that research and extension was on equal footing with instruction as a U.P. function.


It should be recalled that it was the PCSPE which proposed that the ‘U.P.  should stand at the apex of tertiary education in the public system’. The U.P. subsequently had to be renamed as the ‘National University of the Philippines’. It was the PCSPE which likewise proposed the establishment of three regional state universities and colleges in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao – an objective partly fulfilled by PD 58 and the revision of the U.P. Charter.


Towards Closer Ties with the National Government and Private Business


The next development in the U.P. only put everything into place. The University developed closer ties with the national government and big private firms. This put the University at some distance from the pursuit of activities meant to serve the Filipino working masses.


The U.P. faculty became the biggest consulting firm for the national government and private business by 1972 onwards. U.P. instructors and professors became the think-tank of the regime, providing it with management and feasibility studies. The U.P. served as a pool of trainors, speakers and resource persons/experts in various fields. Several faculty members were directly involved in ‘development’ agencies of the government.


The faculty of the Institute of Environmental Planning, for example, provided technical assistance in planning and programming the ‘development’ of the Bicol River Basin which has displaced a number of families in favor of foreign-owned companies. The Institute of Mass Communications, on the other hand, became the main research body for the government’s family planning campaign strategies. Meanwhile, the Population Institute provided professional demographic research and evaluation for the Philippine population program, which is mainly foreign-funded. The Law Center became an important legal preserve for the needs of Malacanang. It is not surprising that present and former members of the faculty occupy key positions at the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the Central Bank (CB), the Budget Commission, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Highways and Public Works, and even in the cabinet where six members were former deans and professors of U.P. This elite group serving ‘national development goals’ comprise the so-called ‘new technocracy’ of the regime.


The prostitution of the University could easily be discerned through the various units and research centers which have sprouted inside the campus.


The Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED) was created by PD 453 in 1973. It was tasked with providing the national government with an adequate research base for economic planning and policy formation. Working in close coordination with the College of Business Administration, the center actually functions as the conduit of corporate, multinational ideology legitimized as academic research. Approaches to problems favored foreign financing institutions. Whether the PCED has helped in any way to multiply several times the country’s GNP is not the relevant question. What is clear is that its ultimate beneficiaries are mostly its foreign sponsors and the policy-makers of the repressive US-backed Marcos regime.


The National Engineering Center, composed of five components which are consultative and advisory in nature, is another squatter in the academic community. Established in the late 1970s, its main objective was to ‘improve the quality of engineering education whereby the number of graduates would match the requirement of the industry and economy’.


One of its components, the Transport Training Center, is instrumental for such projects as the Light Rail Transit System and Traffic Signalling System. The Center for Applied Geodesy reportedly employs and trains a number of military personnel involved in mapping counter-insurgency strategies and military engineering projects.


Institutionalizing Academic Prostitution


The list could be extended further. The Institute for Small Scale Industries – a non-degree granting unit – primarily develops small-scale capitalist entrepreneurship, apparently to boost export-oriented policies as recommended by World Bank economists. The Asian Institute of Tourism develops and professionalizes the tourism industry, a very questionable priority. The International Rice Research Institute has tie-ups with UP Los Banos to develop high-yielding rice varieties and other crop species which thrive only on fertilizers and drug-oriented technology sold by developed countries. The IRRI-UPLB tie-up serves more the needs of foreign corporations engaged in massive agri-business.


In 1983, the Philippine Social Science Center was inaugurated amidst such controversies as the importation of all materials used in the construction of its buildings. Whether the social science to be developed within the aegis of the center would respond to the needs of the Filipino people or to serve the interests of its Japanese sponsor, only the Japanese and their local academic agents seem to know.


Meanwhile long-established units of the University have been either ‘revitalized’ or reoriented to be more useful to the national government and big comprador business. The Statistical Center, College of Public Administration, College of Business Administration, Institute of Environmental Planning, Institute of Industrial Relations (formerly ALEC), and the School of Economics now exist for the use of the government and private sectors. The College of Education however, continues to produce the regime’s educational bureaucrats – directors, supervisors, principals who serve to be efficient transmission belts for neocolonial values dictated by the regime and its foreign sponsors. In the guise of research and technical assistance, they elaborate and apologize for these policies, institutionalizing them in the educational bureaucracy.


The College of Law and the Law Center are now research arms of the Batasang Pambansa, the judiciary, and Malacanang. The College of Engineering closely works with the National Manpower Corporation, the National Irrigation Administration, and the Ministry of Public Works. The College of Public Administration (CPA) has working arrangements with the Presidential Reorganization Commission and the Civil Service Commission. CPA even conducts ‘management’ seminars for military officers while its faculty and staff are often tapped to teach courses at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP). The Local Government Center is the training arm of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development. The Institute of Public Health trains manpower from the Ministry of Health. UPLB closely consults with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The School of Economics closely complements the efforts of NEDA, while the College of Business Administration and its Center for Management Studies serve as the brain reserve of the Finance and Trade Ministries, the Board of Investments and the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Where U.P. Graduates Go: Indicator of U.P.’s Prostitution


One important gauge of the University’s direction is an assessment of where its graduates go. The question even becomes more valid within the framework of viewing the U.P. education as an ‘investment’ of the Filipino people, since it is admittedly they who support it. Through a regressive system of taxation, the University subsidizes all students rich or poor, to the tune of P1,650 per student per semester. As such, whatever benefits derived from U.P. graduates must be socially shared.


A study by Ernesto Pernia of the U.P. School of Economics (UPSE) in 1979, however, proved otherwise. Among others, it was found out that more than two out of five U.P. graduates sought employment in business corporations, private companies, and multinational corporations. Only one out of five went into teaching and research.


As the private sector – according to the graduates themselves – tended to be a more attractive place for employment than the public sector, the predominant majority of U.P. graduates who came from the regions did not return to their home areas for employment. Graduates from Metro Manila tended to remain and work in the area. Moreover, Metro Manila’s share of U.P. graduates appears to have increased in time, from one-third in 1961-1970 to nearly two-fifths in 1971-1975.


A major assumption that could be made is that U.P. alumni engaged in public service, research and teaching are likely to make more beneficial contributions (direct and multiplier effect) to society than those involved in private business, corporations and multinationals. Along this line, the evidence of employment patterns so far reveals that U.P. alumni’s contributions to social development is minimal, according to the Pernia study.


Foreign Funding and Institution of Neo-Colonial Values


Foreign funding is not something new in U.P. education. The circumstances of US colonial conquest of the Philippines gave rise to the U.P. 76 years ago. Since then, it has depended on funding from foreign sources.


Tradition has it that the University keeps an open policy with regard to foreign intervention. Usually disguised as altruistic educational aid, university officials never conceal their enthusiasm for the entry of foreign funding for research and teaching. After the Second World War, the cold war between the superpowers ensued. This period saw the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Ford, Rockefeller, and Asia Foundations entrench themselves in the University as purveyors of cultural imperialism. ‘Donations’ of these agencies went into physical plant improvement, establishment of new programs, revitalization of units, and funding for fellowships and scholarships abroad.


This pattern intensified after 1972. The School of Economics for example, reported in 1974 that virtually all its graduates were supported either by external funds or government fellowships.


Although on the surface, the arrangement looks harmless, and even something to be grateful for, essentially it is not. Many fellowships, scholarships and special assignments to participate in foreign or local exchange programs abroad have ended up strengthening neocolonial values in U.P. education. The Filipino’s cultural value of ‘utang na loob’ (debt of gratitude) ensures that with the dominance of corporate, multinational interests in the academe, the University cannot ably exercise its objective, independent task of criticism and creativity.


Meanwhile, foreign loans intended to develop some areas, programs and units of the University have contributed immensely to the gradual re-orientation of the University in the maintenance of the repressive status quo. During the martial law period, the entry and plunder of monopoly capital in the country was encouraged by official policy. The World Bank, particularly, has a heavy stake in the educational system of the country to develop Filipino human capital. For what? Renato Constantino (The Continuing Miseducation of the Filipino) eloquently summarizes the situation as follows:


‘The World Bank wants an educational system that will meet the manpower needs of the transnationals; that will facilitate the growth of agri-business production for the global market and that will ensure the internationalization of the entire student population of values and outlooks supportive of the global capitalist system.’


Within the University of the Philippines System, this is nowhere demonstrated more clearly than in the case of the U.P. at Los Banos.


UPLB: A Classic Case of Imperialist Intrusion in U.P. Education


The U.P. in Los Banos as an autonomous unit clearly exemplifies the extent with which the state and its foreign sponsors have dictated upon the academe its priorities. It is the best example of how academic freedom has been subjugated by ‘national development goals’.


At the same time, its history is a classic case of how imperialist funding institutions such as the World Bank can manipulate the University’s directions to serve their purposes.


Since the early 1960s, UPLB has been a regular recipient of foreign loans, but the entry of such capital intensified only after 1972. Since then, it has become a staunch instrument of American neocolonialist approaches to ‘development’.


Not only did partnership with American institutions such as Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and the multinational World Bank imprison the capabilities of the academic community at UPLB with regards to their critical and liberative potentials; under such relationships of dependence, UPLB undertook researches, inventions, scientific discoveries which actually answered the needs of foreign capital.


Multinationals controlling the pesticide and fertilizer industries have enjoyed a heyday exploiting the efforts of UPLB scientists.


The World Bank has determined UPLB’s direction to be that of playing a supportive role in the bank’s concept of rural development. As outlined by former World Bank President McNamara himself, this strategy calls for efforts aimed at creating small capitalist producers in the countrysides, to preempt a Vietnam-type liberation movement. This new stratum of petty ‘kulaks’ can serve as a cushion to absorb and diffuse pressure from the masses of tenant-farmers, landless peasants, and rural workers.


The ‘trickle-down’ approach obviously aims to let off some steam from the boiling unrest in the countryside. To ameliorate poverty, the World Bank approach proposes to increase the access of small landlords to critical technological and economic inputs (packaged as Masagana 99, Masagana Maisan, Biyayang Dagat). Though such programs were clearly failures, they could boast of successfully hooking thousands of tenant-farmers into a supposedly more productive and clearly more extensive rice-growing technology.


To date, UPLB continues to work for whoever can afford to finance its programs, researches and other services. Even local foundations (such as the Marcos Foundation), finance researches on technologies which in the future the donors logically intend to control and profit from.


Like the rest of the U.P. units, UPLB is helplessly tied to the national government. Most of the time, it is coordinating, counseling or even promoting government programs. It is not only because, like the rest of the U.P., it produces a number of technocrats for the bureaucracy. More significantly, its academic structure and orientation has made it forever dependent on the government and foreign agencies in order to survive financially. This places the University entirely at their mercy: anytime they wish to they can interfere in its priorities by outrightly withholding funds or arbitrarily disapproving project proposals.


All this is of course lamentable. For as a clearly capable center of science in the country, the University has undoubtedly liberative potentials to work for science that will genuinely serve the people. The case of UPLB, however, illustrates clearly the impotence of ‘academic freedom’ in the present set-up.


The Dynamics of Academic Subservience: A Summary


The ten years from 1972 to 1982 in the U.P. can be characterized as a period of regressive transformation within the environment of academic repression. There was intensified entry of foreign funds and closer ties with the national government, as well as with multinational corporations and the local comprador class.


The condition for this regression was the stifling of dissent. Sterility and subservience characterized the last years of the liberal President Salvador P. Lopez, as Malacanang virtually ran the University with stringent guidelines and letters of instructions in the name of the ‘new society’.


The administration of the Harvard-trained, Onofre D. Corpus in 1974 eradicated whatever vestige of academic freedom remained in the University. Corpus, it can be recalled, was a major adviser of the Marcos regime during the early days of martial rule. Under his supervision, the U.P. became the brain-trust of the ‘new society’.


Within the framework of regime priorities, namely ‘agricultural and industrial development’, Corpus launched projects such as the Asian Institute of Tourism (AIT). A new administrative structure, the University Research Council, formulated a general research strategy for the whole University. A technical evaluation group was also organized to serve as a single body for the screening of research proposals within the framework of the approved research programs supportive of the regime-defined national goals. A program development staff formulated the overall directions and thrusts of the University community.


The University became an ideological partner for the US-backed Marcos regime. This reached full fruition under O.D. Corpuz. His departure from the U.P. presidency to assume command of the Ministry of Education and Culture in 1979, however, did not at all create shifts in the University’s direction.


The subservience of the University to imperialism and bureaucrat-capitalism seemed so secure that Malacanang entrusted to former Vice President Emmanuel Soriano the U.P. presidency. Nothing remarkable can be said of the obedient Soriano’s term. Soriano occupied the presidency until the regime could replace him with a more reliable worthy representative of the local comprador bourgeoisie. This representative was Edgardo J. Angara.


The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in May 26th 2005




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