Atty. Danilo Lardizabal Concepción was formally installed as the 21st president of the University of the Philippines on September 20 at the University Theater, UP Diliman. He has been in office for seven months.
Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, who heads the UP Board of Regents, presided over the investiture rites. As part of the ceremony, she handed over the symbols of the presidency such as the mace and medallion to Concepción.
Philippine Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo graced the event along with other government officials. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had been invited but sent his regrets along with his “felicitations to the University and its new leadership.” Members of the diplomatic corps, National Artists, National Scientists, academic leaders, former UP presidents, and University officials from across the UP System were among those who attended the ceremony.
When Concepción was still a nominee, his vision sought to redefine UP’s culture, enhancing its time-honored traditions of honor and excellence to include “malasakit” or compassion—a virtue he considers as “UP’s moral core as the national university.”
In his investiture speech titled “Compassion, Our Common Ground,” he defined compassion as genuine care for UP, for the professions, and for each member of the University. “When we genuinely feel compassion, we are truly careful with our words and deeds; very careful of our every move so as not to hurt or harm the things we value and care for,” he said.
Speaking both in English and Filipino, the new UP President began by looking back at UP’s 109-year-long history and noting that while “dissent has been coded into the University’s DNA,” the current atmosphere of political polarization in the country and even the university had taken its toll on “truth, reason, and respect.” He called for the promotion of “consensus over conflict, civility over calumny, and collaboration over confrontation. We must foster strategic thinking over short-sightedness, honest labor over opportunism, and shared effort over self-promotion.”
He said that he would “focus on finding, in this University, a common ground, a clearing—a safe, free, and congenial space within which its constituents can teach, study, and work productively to their full potential.”
He acknowledged the implementation of the new free tuition policy as his administration’s first major challenge. While tuition is now free, Concepción raised another important student issue: democratizing admissions. A good number of underprivileged students who wish to go to UP fail the UP College Admission Test. To address this, he proposed a voluntary return service agreement for UP students benefitting from free tuition. There are three options: agree to teach in senior high school for one year after graduation with compensation, opt out by paying tuition, or opt out after graduation by paying the cost of their UP education. Concepción was optimistic that UP students would choose to render service.
On student protests and rallies, he promised to “guarantee their right and freedom to express their ideas, beliefs, and principles. We will never even attempt to suppress what they want to say, or oppress them for what they fight for.”
For UP faculty, Concepción discussed the vigorous pursuit of funding for development programs; easing up the rules on tenure and promotion; the rise of the new and improved Faculty Center in three years; and the establishment of an office to help faculty members prepare for retirement, which includes assisting them with their needs, like housing.
Campus rehabilitation is also on his list of priorities. He appealed to the UP alumni for support, specifically for the rehabilitation and upkeep of dormitories. Concepción also revealed plans for a Philippine General Hospital in Diliman, a medical complex that will include a College of Medicine and the Genomic Cancer Research Institute. It will serve northern Metro Manila and nearby areas.
Another campus concern Concepción brought up was the presence of informal settlers across the University. He said that his family was, at some point, like them, so he knows how it feels to be one. “Their welfare will be included in all of our plans to put in order our campuses. My sincere prayer and hope is for them to also have compassion for our University and our community.”
On staff development, Concepción emphasized the need to match operational requirements with administrative workforce. He also said that his administration has begun the process of regularizing contractual employees. Concepción explained that regularization entails the creation of plantilla items, which takes time. While waiting, non-UP contractuals are being moved up to UP contractual status for now, to let them enjoy the same benefits as regular UP employees.
Concepción also talked about seeking reforms in the procurement process, automation of operating systems, and in the allocation and use of funds and resources. He mentioned the drive for more collaborative activities with other universities and colleges.
Prior to assuming the presidency on February 10 this year, he was the executive director of the UP Bonifacio Global City campus. He also served as Vice President for Legal Affairs in the administration of his predecessor, Alfredo Pascual. From 2000 to 2002, he was president of De La Salle Araneta University. He has also been serving as the Dean of the UP College of Law since 2011.
Born in 1958, Concepción earned his Master of Laws degree from the University of London in 1986 as a Chevening Scholar. He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree, cum laude, from UP Diliman in 1983. In 1979, he received his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering degree, summa cum laude, from De La Salle Araneta University.
He was elected to the position in November 2016 by the 11-member Board of Regents, UP’s highest governing body. UP’s presidents have traditionally held their investiture several months after taking office.
To view a copy of his speech, click here.
Click here to view photos taken during the investiture.