Commentary

The Virata factor

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HONOLULU—Much has been said about the naming of the University of the Philippines College of Business Administration in Diliman after former Prime Minister Cesar E.A. Virata.

The purpose of this commentary is to look into the “best practices” on this issue in other institutions, particularly at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa where I spent 36 years of my life as a faculty member and academic administrator.

When I arrived in the early 1970s, there were demonstrations on campus protesting the renaming of the Social Science Building, which was then called Porteus Hall. According to the protesters, Stanley Porteus, an anthropologist who had researched and published on Pacific island cultures, was a “racist.” He had written books like “Race and Temperament,” which supposedly made derogatory observations about the “laziness” and other negative traits of native peoples in the Pacific.

The Ethnic Studies Program and other liberal forces on campus conducted “sit-ins” and “teach-ins” explaining why Porteus should not be rewarded by having a major building named after him in view of his prejudiced and “racist” views. I am not familiar with who or what group initiated the naming, but the Porteus family was prominent at the time, and Hebden Porteus, a son of Stanley Porteus, was a state legislator.

To cut a long story short, the UH board of regents revisited the issue and decided to rescind the previous resolution endorsing the naming of the Social Science Building after Porteus. More groups and the media weighed in, which must have given the board of regents more reason to consider dropping the Porteus name from the building.

The Social Science Building, where my home department was housed, remained nameless for a time. But when the genteel and scholarly political scientist and department chair Allan Saunders died, the same forces encouraged the board of regents to rename the building after him.

Nobody came forward to contest it. I gave a testimony to the board of regents supporting the proposal to rename the building as Saunders Hall—a name that it bears to this day some 36 years later.

What’s in a name? Plenty, but I will be unable to discuss everything in detail.  Naming buildings, ships, programs, artifacts, rooms, and so on, takes into account the highest academic, professional, ethical, moral and human qualities of the persons after whom these institutions are named. They must not have even a taint of scandal or any misgiving that could cast a shadow on the integrity of the institution after it has been so named.

Coincidentally, the UH College of Business Administration, formerly just known as CBA, was named some years ago after an unknown UH alumnus, Jay Shidler. A real estate developer, Shidler donated $25 million of his hard-earned money to the CBA, which is now called Shidler College of Business. It now ranks among the first 25 best business schools in the United States.

Did Shidler in effect “buy” the building, which could be another issue altogether? He certainly did, following policies laid out by the university for naming a building, room, professorial chair, athletic field, and so on. Clarence Ching, another Honolulu philanthropist, donated $1 million to upgrade university athletic facilities.

Their donations are tax-deductible, which means once they’ve given the money, they have no more influence or control about its use, because it’s not theirs anymore. Otherwise, it would be conflict of interest, which is punishable.

Central to the issue at UP is Virata himself, and where he stands. He can choose to stay in it, in which case he may invite more scrutiny and protests about his role in the martial law regime.

Or he can opt out, which will certainly help the issue go forward and calm the waters.

As one observer puts it, Virata may have redeemed or reinvented himself after all these years, but the fact remains that he did serve willingly and consciously in the dictatorship—and there is a price to pay for that.

 

Belinda A. Aquino is a political scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii, where she was also the founding director of the Center for Philippine Studies. She was the vice president for public affairs at the University of the Philippines (1989-91) during the administration of president Jose V. Abueva.

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  • Fulpol

    si Virata ay isang ring biktima sa intelligent but evil scheme ni Marcos.. hindi siya na-persecute pero ginamit siya ni Marcos.. tied up siya sa dilemma…

    may morality pa ba, right or wrong, just behavior pa ba pag nasa dilemma??

    • ApoNiLolo

      Fulpy, Virata was not a victim but a willing participant. Nag resign na sana sya if he could not stomach what was going on around him.

      He was not persecuted because he was not directly involved in the oppression of the oppositionist of Martial Law. Stop glorifying the man!

  • Olibo

    I can’t get the point of renaming that building. Parang mga kalyeng napalitan ng names nakakalito…

  • ApoNiLolo

    Naming a place to a person indicates that the person did something honorable, heroic or to the benefit of the public-at-large. Virata never did any of that except as an instrument of the dictatorship and, coincidentally, the descendant of an opportunistic revolutionary president.

  • ConnieLee90

    Cesar Virata seemed like a good man. According to Jose Sionil, he was one of the few men who came out of the relationship (with FM) with an unsullied reputation. But it is not enough that a man should be good and honest. Turning a blind eye to the evils of the Marcos dictatorship and not saying anything against it is tacit assent to the perpetuation of evil rule. Silence is acquiescence. Virata should opt out.

    Here is an apt quote from E. Burke:
    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

  • Ben

    Virata is not a good man then and now. He is an influential lobbyist and business manipulator forcing his way in even in the halls of P’Noys Malacanang to fix deals for his buddies in the mining business.

  • chemist45

    Dr. Aquino hits the bulls eye. So listen BOR of UP. It’s as simple as that.

  • Greg

    Another building named after someone who was a staunch ally of the dictator is the POEA Blas Ople Bldg.

    And now, a Virata Bldg?

    Wow – – Marcos revisionism seems to be happening one step at a time.

    Not good!

  • markus32

    What does these men have in common: Emilio Aguinaldo, Pio
    Valenzuela, Fidel Ramos, Juan Ponce Enrile, Cesar Virata

    REINVENTING HISTORY.. that is what an old “statesman” does
    when he is at the prime of his life. Creating articles, their past “views”, memoirs,
    naming schools, streets etc.

    Soon, there will be more that will follow this old tradition. They will boast their contributions on Filipinos and its history whereas the truth is; they are simply “repainting” themselves to look better to future generations.

    They are just afraid on the vindication of history.

  • rporio

    i can not understand why put the blame on virata the “wrong deeds” of marcos? too much! i would understand the view of the author because she is a solid anti-marcos then and now. dr. aquino’s view is as colored as the rainbow. anything, or anybody including virata connected with marcos had done something bad. that’s too unfair and does not hold water as it is illogical. come on, virata did his job professionally the way he thought and knew it should be. just imagine what further damage could have been inflicted to the country’s finances and economy had virata packed up amidst crisis and left us all because of marcos? come on, people, let’s be fair and call virata’s faults a virata, and call marcos’ a marcos! how can you not open your mind and heart before you open your big loud mouths? we are all educated and professional. aren’t we? i began to suspect if you insist that marcos’ misdeeds are also virata’s just because virata worked for him. if you are with somebody drowning in the middle of the sea, would you leave and let that somebody just drown and die because that somebody is bad? is it not more honorable to help a “bad marcos” in order to save the philippines in its time of crisis? i do not think a good man virata is guilty of anything by choosing to stay with a “bad man marcos” during the trying times when the country needed him most! virata, being a good untainted technocrat, should even be lauded for staying with a “bad marcos” taking all the risks and blames then up to now. while i can not question your opinions, i tend to question the bases of the same. are we thinking? i think, therefore, i disagree with the article writer dr. aquino – that virata get out of the cba renaming mess. i do not see any mess in renaming cba after virata. it is the anti-marcos die-hards who are creating the mess for all. stop it! virata deserves the honor.

  • UrHONOR

    THE evil that men do LIVES after them; the good oft INTERRED with their bones….so let it be with Cesar.

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