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UP dean lies to honor Virata

The University of the Philippines may have more than a hundred distinguished alumni: Five Philippine presidents, three vice presidents, six Senate presidents, thirteen Supreme Court justices, and 40 past and present senators; and the heroes of our democracy such as Benigno Aquino, Jovito Salonga, and Lorenzo Tañada.

Yet not one of its 60 colleges, schools, and institutes had been named after a distinguished alumnus or any person for that matter.   The highest honor given them has been to name a building after them: for example, Quezon Hall, the main administration building for instance after President Manuel Quezon, and Romulo Hall, where the Asian Center is after Carlos P. Romulo.   An anomaly is that there isn’t even a building named after Ninoy Aquino, a UP Law alumnus, who defied the Marcos dictatorship and was killed for it.


Marcos with Cesar Virata, his chief technocrat and “Prime Minister” of his sham Batasan Pambansa parliament in a 1981 photo. (COPYRIGHT: ART DIRECTORS & TRIP PHOTO LIBRARY.)

Ninoy though must be turning in his grave with the recent decision made by the UP Board of Regents, composed of people his son has appointed, to name the College of Business Administration after Cesar Virta,  the chief technocrat and pillar of the Marcos dictatorship that had Ninoy assassinated.

Virata was Marcos’s Finance secretary throughout his dictatorship, and a member and “Prime Minister” of the sham, stamp-pad Parliament, whose sole purpose was to fool the world that the Philippines was democratic. And this is the first time ever a college of the UP is to be named for a person.

Even setting aside Virata’s role in the dictatorship, the rationale for naming UP’s business school for him is just plain stupid.

In his March 15, 2013 letter to the Board of Regents, business school dean Ben Paul Gutierrez states:

“The naming of a business school after a distinguished person is widespread in American universities, e.g., George Baker Graduate School of Business of Har­vard, the Haas School of Business of the University of California in Berkeley, the Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago, the Wharton School of Finance, and the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Gutierrez lies through his teeth.

There is no such “George Baker Graduate School of Business at Harvard,” only a George Baker Library at the business school, one of the university’s 42 libraries.

And why was the library named for Baker? Baker was a finance magnate who provided the initial funding for Harvard’s business school by donating $5 million in 1924, the equivalent of at least $50 million today.

Which brings us to the dean’s other lie that “the naming of business schools after a distinguished person is widespread in US universities.”

Except in one business school  – Darden in the University of Virginia named after its former president who had also been governor and congressman of that state –business schools in the US are not named after “distinguished” persons, as it would be controversial to determine who among their many graduates is the most distinguished person deserving that honor.

While not all business schools are named after persons, those that do carry the names of magnates are those who donated huge amounts to them, certainly living up to their nature as business schools.

Walter and Elise Haas (of Levi Strauss) in 1989 donated $24 million for the building of the University of California’s business school. Finance tycoon David Booth is the record holder, who donated in 2008 $300 million (the equivalent of P13 billion) to the University of Chicago. Bethlehem Steel founder Joseph Wharton founded the University of Pennsylvania’s B-school with a donation in 1881 of $100,000, equivalent to $25 million today. The philanthropic foundation of General Motors chairman Alfred Sloan gave MIT $5 million in 1952, equivalent to $60 million today.

Asked about these factual errors in the Virata proposal, Mr. Gutierrez did not reply at all. “Duly noted,” was UP President Alfredo Pascual’s.

Ateneo and La Salle must be laughing at their counterpart’s stupidity. Ateneo’s John Go­kongwei School of Management was so named after the tycoon donated P200 million for the construction of the school’s building. Tycoon Ramon V. del Rosa­rio, Sr. gave P250 million not only to La Salle’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business but also to finance its Science and Technology complex in Canlubang.

Did Virata donate anything to the UP Business School? The clueless Gutierrez seemed to be even proud that his college got nothing for giving away its most important asset, its name: “There was absolutely no financial considerations received for the renaming of the school.”

Gutierrez could be a dean of a college of charity, if that had been invented, but certainly not of a business school.

There is the very practical reason why naming UP’s business school after Virata is a big mistake, for which future generations of its faculty and students will suffer for.    It means that it cannot hope that a Filipino magnate or group of magnates would in the future donate huge sums to it in exchange for the honor of the school to be named after him or them.

Filipino billionaires – and there are at least 100 of them – make at least P500 million yearly.  Many of them would donate that much in exchange for the immortality of having a prestigious school named after them, especially is arrangements can be made for their donation to be tax-deductible. They would even bid to have the UP business school named after them.  And why would UP students and faculty object to this, which is a common pragmatic practice in the US, one which would raise the quality of the college and even raise its faculty’s salaries?

What is shameless is that the Board of Regents in charge of our national university had such cavalier attitude, giving away the university’s jewels, so to speak.

What is shameless is that the Board of Regents in charge of our national university had such cavalier attitude in giving away the university’s jewels, so to speak.  Dean Gutierrez submitted to them the Virata proposal 15 March 2013. They approved it barely a month after, on April 12, obviously after little or no study of the proposal by their staffs.

To be fair to them though, it is President Pascual who should have subjected Gutierrez’ proposal to rigorous evaluation before presenting the decision to the Regents.  After all, it is not only the first college to be named after a person, but a person whose role in a dictatorship is to say the least, controversial.

Gutierrez not only lied but omitted crucial facts in his proposal:  “Virata was an honorable public servant who has served as Secretary of Finance and Prime Minister of the Philippines,” he wrote, so intellectually dishonest that he did not even mention that all of Virata’s  “public service” was under Marcos’ dictatorship.

Virata was Marcos’ deputy he put in charge of the economy — which collapsed in 1983 to 1985 to throw the country back a decade, and push millions of Filipinos  to poverty.   As member of the sham Batasan Pambansa for eight years, five of those as  “Prime Minister”, Virata was not just Marcos’ political leader but the dictatorship’s principal deodorizer.   He never protested, then and now, the imprisonment, torture and killings of thousands of Filipinos –  many of whom were UP students and alumni — who went against his boss.

Yet the UP honors him?

(More on Virata’s r0le during the dictatorship on Monday.)