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Support snowballs for Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo as UP president 

by Leila Salaverria

SEVERAL stakeholders and student organizations want Fidel Nemenzo to be the next president of the University of the Philippines. 

The UP Board of Regents is set to meet Friday to decide on the next UP president, and Nemenzo, the current UP Diliman Chancellor, has garnered a lot of support.

The UP president is the university’s chief academic officer, chief executive officer, and head of the university faculty, and is expected to uphold the UP charter and pursue its mission and vision. 

Nemenzo, a mathematics professor, is one of six candidates for the position. He is also the son of former UP president Francisco Nemenzo Jr. 

The other candidates are Dr. Patrick Alain Azanza, an expert in ICT-based education; Atty. Salvador Belaro Jr., former 1-Edukasyon party list representative; Atty. Angelo Jimenez, an expert on labor law and foreign relations; Dr. Benito Pacheco, an engineering expert; and Dr. Fernando Sanchez Jr., a horticulturist and arborist.

Student support

The student councils of UP Diliman and UP Baguio are among those who have declared their support for Nemenzo. 

In its resolution, the UP Diliman student council said ut chose to back Nemenzo because of his concrete plans of action for the UP system, his commitment to support the students’ agenda, and his willingness to listen to them.  

“The USC believes only Dr. Nemenzo indicates strong support of the ‘UP Diliman Student Agenda’ and the ‘UP Student Agenda’ as well as the openness to consultations in addressing the demands of the student sector,” it said. 

The council said the UP president must call for the restoration of the P2 billion slashed from the UP budget, and must uphold academic freedom and freedom of the press, and ensure democratic and safe spaces amid the red-tagging and security threats and harassment that UP Diliman students are facing.

The UP Baguio student council said Nemenzo “stands to be the outstanding candidate in terms of pro-student and pro-people campaigns.” 

“As we support Dr. Nemenzo, we equally challenge him to ensure that under his leadership, no member of the UP Community shall be left behind, the UP Student Agenda will be actualized, and our university is safe from viruses, militarization, and other attacks on our rights and welfare,” it said. 

The Philippine Collegian, which interviewed all the candidates, backed Nemenzo because as chancellor, he was able to face incursions into students’ rights head on. 

It also cited his decision to assert the primacy of in-person learning beyond the classroom, unlike the other nominees. 

“Under his term, we have seen an imperfect yet steady and cautious return to in-person classes. Under his term, we have seen the campus continue to be a hallowed ground for our most cherished rights and freedoms,” the student paper said. 

The last time the Collegian endorsed a UP president was in 1993, when it supported Nemenzo’s father Francisco for the position.

It said the younger Nemenzo is a “a civic-minded leader who hopes not so much to reinvent the wheel as to nurture and protect all that the university already holds dear—the students, our freedoms, our democratic values—at this troubled historical juncture,” it added.

Students could also expect a recalibration of UP education under his watch as he plans to review the general education program of the university in order to produce well-rounded professionals, it said.  

“After all, quality, relevant, and holistic UP education is the groundwork for the university’s commitment to public service,” it said.

Moreover, the Philippine Collegian said Nemenzo has shown that he is a defender not just of the academia, but also of the broader sectors outside the university.

“With Nemenzo at the helm, UPD remained a safe haven for activists and marginalized groups, such as the displaced Lumad youth whom his administration welcomed and built a school for in the College of Fine Arts,” it said.

It also said Nemenzo is far from perfect, but the university needs a “steadfast leader with a relevant and feasible mission for the university.” 

Peers’ backing

Aside from the students, Nemenzo has also gotten support from his peers. 

Earlier, reports said academics, scientists, and artists signed a statement endorsing Nemenzo for UP president. 

 The Nemenzo supporters included National Artists Ryan Cayabyab, Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera, Ricky Lee, Gemino Abad, Virgilio S. Almario, and Ramon P. Santos, and former UP Presidents Emerlinda Roman and Emmanuel Soriano, and former Chancellors Priscilla S. Macansantos, Cristina Padolina, and Ida Siason.

Photo credit: University of the Philippines

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