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Ed.: The following essay was written by Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr.

, was sent to Himati,


the official student publication of UP Mindanao, in response to the illegal uprooting of
the Bt Eggplant samples at the Field Testing Area inside UP Mindanao grounds on
December 17-18, 2010, while everyone was 20 kilometers away, at the Peoples' Park,
for the annual university lantern parade (Kasadya).

December 17, 2010: A Day of Shame for UP Mindanao


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 But the permit had not been revoked; BPI had not been asked by anyone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.