Friday, December 24, 2010

A Day of Shame for U.P. Mindanao by Eufremio T. Rasco, Jr.

PhThis is an essay by U.P. Mindanao Research head Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr. on the illegal uprooting of the Bt Eggplant samples last December 17-18, 2010 while everyone was at downtown Davao for the Kasadya lantern parade.

This is addressed to the City Government of Davao and the UP Mindanao administration and students.

This essay's link ( was emailed to the Facebook Page of the Diliman Diary by Mr. Sam Sanchez.

December 17, 2010: A Day of Shame for UP Mindanao
by Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr.

Few considered it an important issue. For the first time in the history of the 100 year-old university, a scientific experiment, the symbol of UP’s academic tradition, was destroyed upon the order of the honorable mayor of Davao City.

The order is unjustifiable. It was based on half-truths and exaggerations manufactured by the City Agriculturist. UP Mindanao took pains to clarify all of these directly and indirectly to the City Mayor, in newspapers and in various public fora. But the explanations fell on deaf ears. UP Mindanao pleaded for more time to explain; this was summarily denied.

Even if the City Agriculturist’s claims were true, it could be argued that the local government could not justify the destruction of the experiment. There was no imminent danger to life or the environment that might justify a drastic local government action on an activity that is officially permitted by the national government. The basis of the order, in the final analysis, was that UP Mindanao failed to post a notice in 1 out of 4 places in Davao City where it is supposed to, as a condition for granting a national government permit to do the experiment. The punishment, if warranted, would have been to revoke the permit. This could only be decided by the Bureau of Plant Industry, the organization that issued the permit. But the permit had not been revoked; BPI had not been asked by anyone to revoke the permit.

The order was carried out, in full view of the leadership of UP Mindanao, and by the same people who worked hard to set up the experiment, all of whom knew that the order was at best questionable, if not outright illegal.

Who gave the command to destroy on site? It was not even the City Agriculturist, the man who
was sent to carry out the order. She was an associate professor, a member of the Institutional
Biosafety Committee (IBC) of UP Mindanao -- the same IBC, by the way, that was remiss in posting the controversial notice.

The role of the IBC at that stage of the experiment was to monitor the procedures to ensure that they comply with BPI’s (the regulatory body’s) conditions for granting the permit to do the experiment. If the experiment was compliant, it was IBC’s duty to make sure that no one illegally interfered with it. If it was not compliant, it was IBC’s duty to report this to BPI. But the experiment was compliant; BPI, the official body to whom the IBC reports, said so in an official certification that everyone knew exists.

But one member of IBC decided that it is her role to carry out the order of the City Mayor, even without consulting the rest of the committee. In a fit of sadism, she asked the young researcher who worked so hard for the experiment, to destroy her own work while a noisy mob of anti-GMO advocates cheered. It is a spectacle that I will never forget.

While the rape of the university tradition’s symbol was taking place, most of the university’s constituents were in downtown Davao City 20 km away, participating in the annual parade of Christmas lanterns, even as they were alerted earlier in the day that the order was about to be carried out, and that their presence could help prevent the virtual invasion of UP Mindanao. Few cared. Those who do and were present in the experimental site, did little to stop the invasion. The project leader of the experiment, the UP Mindanao faculty who should be most concerned, was hundreds of kilometers away, enjoying an early Christmas break…

December 17, 2010 permanently tarnished the University of the Philippine’ self-image as a family of fearless, principled advocates of social change and a bastion of righteousness in the academic world. This image, recently enhanced by the standoff with the Supreme Court over a plagiarism issue, was lost in UP Mindanao.

On December 17, 2010, the name UP Mindanao has assumed a derogatory meaning. It is too
embarrassing to print what this meaning may be. We will forever carry this badge of shame. 

A former UP President once rhetorically asked: Does UP Mindanao deserve to be called UP? Many of us questioned this skepticism. But he may be right, after all.

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