The recent renaming of University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman’s College of Business Administration (CBA) into the Cesar Virata School of Business has received flak from various quarters.
The move was approved by the UP Board of Regents (BOR) during their 1287th meeting last April 12. “Virata has served UP, the Philippine government and the country for many years and with clear distinction,” it was noted during the deliberations.
In officially announcing the “rebranding” of CBA, the college administration stressed that “Virata’s career can be an inspiration to aspiring managers.” “It is fitting that the business school of the University of the Philippines should carry his name,” the college said in a statement, citing Virata’s extensive experience in the academe, private sector, and in government service.
Virata most notably served for 16 years as the finance minister during the administration of Ferdinand Marcos. He also became a figurehead head prime minister during the regime’s final years. Given this background, it is not surprising that known anti-Marcos figures like former Senator Rene Saguisag and martial law era journalist Rigoberto Tiglao have spoken out against CBA’s renaming.
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Saguisag said that the UP administration may be violating a long-standing law in pushing through with the renaming. He is referring to Republic Act (RA) 1059, which bars the naming of cities, municipalities, parks, plazas, public schools, public buildings, and the like after living individuals. RA 1059 came into effect in 1954, during the time of President Ramon Magsaysay.
The UP College of Business Administration has been renamed as the Cesar Virata School of Business (Credits: University of Pennsylvania Website)
In the above cited Inquirer article, Prospero de Vera, UP Vice President for Public Affairs, argued that no law was violated since “it was the educational component that was named after Virata, not a building or a facility.” What exactly does De Vera mean?
The claim of CBA Dean Ben Paul Gutierrez that it is common practice in the United States to rename their schools of specialization after famous personalities was thoroughly debunked by Tiglao, a former spokesperson during the Arroyo administration, in a column for Manila Times last June 6. In his piece, Tiglao accused Gutierrez of lying and misrepresenting facts to support his proposal.
According to a report in CBA’s official college newspaper, Gutierrez first brought up his plan last August. After that, he pulled all the stops to make sure that his proposal is passed, including the distribution of signature sheets for students to support the move.
What are Gutierrez’ motivations for doing this? Did Virata or his family bring up the idea? Is it true that there are no financial considerations that led to this decision? Were consultations with all the stakeholders even held?
Virata’s credentials in the finance industry is beyond doubt, and his inclusion in the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s most influential alumnus list can attest to this.
However, the fact that he is still alive gives the renaming of an institution in his honor a bad taste. Virata also remains closely associated with the Marcos dictatorship. This Facebook note by University of Asia and the Pacific history instructor Alvin Campomanes explains how exactly Marcos and Virata managed the Philippine economy during their time.
Needless to say, interested parties should challenge the legality of this move before the proper venues to settle the matter once and for all.