Brotherhood of strange political bedfellows
Over 100 concerned fellows of the Upsilon Sigma Phi Fraternity from batches spanning seven decades have released a statement on UP-DND relations that demonstrates the strong continuing bond of the alumni to the University of the Philippines.
“We, concerned Fellows of the Upsilon Sigma Phi Fraternity of the University of the Philippines deplore with much foreboding the deaths and injuries that have resulted from the military hyperdrive to repress and neutralize all manifestations of so-called communist engagement. The University of the Philippines community has been especially targeted. As a result, student activism, protest actions, criticism in the media, and even innocent student and faculty engagements with urban and rural poor communities as part of curricular and co-curricular projects have unnecessarily become life-threatening activities. The poorly vetted information and intelligence that the military acts upon, as evidenced by the recent embarrassment of senior intelligence officers, will prevent the sharing of expertise, talent, science, technology, and innovation resources with the disadvantaged sectors and areas of the country and will set back our development and integration as a nation.”
The statement was nonconfrontational and conciliatory, declaring that “We support dialogue between the University and the DND, conscious that our brotherhood has remained united in our diversity over the past 103 years, with genuine respect for the expressions of Filipino patriotism demonstrated by our members who have included WWII heroes, a President of the Philippines, Senators and Cabinet members, and generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and yes, NPA commanders.”
The UP community is more than the students, faculty, researchers, and administrators in the various UP campuses—Diliman, Los Baños, Baguio, Clark, Iloilo, Tacloban, or Davao. The bonds that are formed in UP are open-ended and do not cease upon the receipt of a diploma. Many of the fraternities and sororities in UP are designed to persist and thrive beyond student days to sustain social and professional and career networks. The UP campus also serves as the starting point for many political and public service pathways. More than any other alumni organization, the Upsilon Sigma Phi has provided executive and academic leadership in the university. The immediate past president, Alfredo Pascual (1967), and the current UP president, Danilo Concepcion (1989), are Upsilonians.
Pigeonholing UP as generally Left-leaning is fallacious, even as this description may be true of specific student organizations within the campus. As far as student politics are concerned, the Upsilon Sigma Phi since the 1970s has historically presented an alternative to the leftist bloc on campus.
Yet, that does not make the Upsilon pro-government or reactionary. The most active commands of the NPA, the Melito Glor Command in Southern Tagalog and the Merardo Arce Command in Southern Mindanao, are named after Upsilonians Glor (1967) and Arce (1970). The range of political persuasions in the Upsilon is wide and nurtured to be so. In the Senate, Dick Gordon (1968) and Kiko Pangilinan (1981) are Upsilonians. Unknown to many, the head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Martin Andanar (2020), is an Upsilonian. So are some of the more irrepressible critics of the administration like Wilfredo Garrido Jr. (1989) and yours truly (1968).
Perhaps a piece of historical curiosity about the Upsilon is that on Sept. 25, 1986, there were, in a political jump-ball situation, two presidents of the Republic and two vice presidents. President Ferdinand Marcos (1937) and Vice President Arturo Tolentino (1931) were the tandem briefly holding on to power, while on the other hand, President Corazon Aquino, widow of Upsilonian Benigno Aquino (1950), and Vice President Salvador Laurel (1947), another Upsilonian, represented the incoming regime.
Now on its 103rd year, the Upsilon Sigma Phi presents an interesting case study that belies the simplistic political taxonomy the uninformed military mind applies to the denizens of the “Diliman Republic.”
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