Chancellor Corro’s Investiture Speech

FOR GREATER SERVICE. Chancellor Liza Corro is greeted with applause in the processional to her investiture on Monday, April 3, 2017 at the Performing Arts Hall of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu in Cebu City, Philippines. UP President Danilo Concepcion presided over the ceremony in the presence of the university's Board of Regents and at least 250 guests from the government, academia and the industries. (UP CEBU Mass Communication PHOTO/Trisha Maie Apa-ap)

FOR GREATER SERVICE. Chancellor Liza Corro is greeted with applause in the processional to her investiture on Monday, April 3, 2017 at the Performing Arts Hall of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu in Cebu City, Philippines. UP President Danilo Concepcion presided over the ceremony in the presence of the university’s Board of Regents and at least 250 guests from the government, academia and the industries. (UP CEBU Mass Communication PHOTO/Trisha Maie Apa-ap)

President Danilo L. Concepcion Co-Chair of the Board of Regents and President of the University of the Philippines, Honorable members of the Board of Regents, UP System officials, Hon. Hilario Davide, Governor of the Province of Cebu, and his wife, Government Officials, AFP representatives, Consular officials, University Presidents, our partner school Shu-Te University’s representative, Chancellors, Vice Chancellors and Deans from all the CUs of the University of the Philippines, my colleagues in UP Cebu, my family, guests and friends, it is a great honor and a privilege for me, personally, and for the whole of UP Cebu, to have you on the occasion of my Investiture as the First Chancellor of UP Cebu. For after its 99 years of existence, UP Cebu finally has a Chancellor to represent its status as a constituent university.

It is indeed a special honor for me to have the majority of the Honorable members of the Board of Regents in attendance in my Investiture. Likewise , with all the 6 Chancellors of the University of the Philippines present, I feel like a Bunso, with all the kuya and ate around. I think, just like a bunso, our parents and older siblings will have a soft spot for us, as manifested by their full force presence here with us.

To my family and my UP Cebu family, dako nakong dungog ug pasalamat sa inyong pagsalig sa ako, usa ka Cebuano nga nahimong unang Tsanselor sa UP Cebu.

UP Cebu, is the youngest, among the 8 constituent units of the University of the Philippines, and the oldest regional unit at the same time. Youngest, for we were granted our constituent unit status only last October 27, 2016, converting UP Cebu into a full university, with 4 Colleges: the College of Science, College of Social Sciences, College of Communication, Art and Design and the School of Management. UP Cebu is the oldest among the regional units, for we started as a regional unit of UP Diliman on May 3, 1918. We are turning 100 years old next year.

This includes the 10 years down UP Cebu’s history, when we were closed down, when no budget was allocated for UP Cebu under the Government Appropriations Act. This happened when a Cebuano politician was angered by the outcry of UP Cebu students over the acts of armed, bearded goons of powerful Cebuano politicians during the presidential election in the late 40s. UP Cebu students lampooned these politicians in editorial cartoons of their campus paper, “The Junior Collegian”, thus, getting the ire of then powerful politicians of Cebu.

And no, I am not going to mention to you who were those politicians who got so antagonized and caused UP Cebu’s closure. It is for you to do your own research on that. But yes, UP Cebu’s history is also intertwined with Cebu’s political history.

Actually, I was thinking we should not have an Investiture anymore since “nakakabawas lang” sa MOOE ng UP Cebu. But seriously, this is for us UP, as part of our tradition, and for UP Cebu to celebrate our establishment as a constituent university, and our forthcoming 100 years of existence. We here in UP Cebu, had agreed as part of our 100 years’ celebration, to have an 18 month run-up of activities beginning November of last year, with the unifying theme: UP Cebu in its 100 years of Public Service. So let me share with you my thoughts and what I feel about “Challenges and Opportunities in Public Service”.

The concept of “public service” I am referring to, is one about being able to provide service to the public, and knowing what makes good service, and what does not. It is one wherein you work with the government, either as a politician, or an appointive official, or as a career personnel, because you believe, that this is where you know you can make a difference.

It is about us having a mission, and turning our vision into a reality, in the arena of government service where we are in. I think this purpose of what public service is, resonates, in most of us here.

For most of us here, can you remember the exact moment you chose to go into public service?

Did it happen right away upon graduation, or even before you had graduated in school? Or was it along the way in your career, when you realized after an encounter with a politician, or a poor and lousy service from a government career personnel, when you said to yourself, ‘I know I can do better than what they are providing me’, and “I can contribute a lot more for the betterment, not just of the services provided to us, but to the conditions of the government employees themselves”? Or was it after your retirement, and it dawned on you that the public can benefit from the wealth of experience you had gained in your earlier career in life?

In my case, it was not the usual route I took. UP Cebu was then in difficult times when I was nominated by UP Cebu Alumni, and my appointment was approved then in December 2012 by UP’s Board of Regents to become the 9th Dean of UP Cebu. My lifelong learning and experiences, as a corporate lawyer and a civic leader, fortunately honed me in what I needed to do inside the academe.

As the well-known Greek Philosopher Aristotle said, “everything happens for a reason.” And that every experience in our life was designed to shape us, and reform us, into the greatest version that we can be. We will always be an evolving person, growing, learning and experiencing, regardless of our age. Then along the way, we realize, that this is where we fit, and where we can make a difference. To quote Steve Jobs, we cannot connect the dots looking forward, we can only connect them looking backwards. And we have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in our future.”

Presently, I had been tasked to safeguard the ideals of this institution, but likewise, to be a visionary at the same time. This, is quite a feat, but I will rise, to the challenge.

For those who joined before in government service, I believe salary rates was not much of a consideration, because government pay was not that competitive with the private sector. Unlike now, especially after passage of the salary standardization law, government employment had become so attractive, if salary is the consideration in joining government service.

Not only then there was disparity in the salary, there was, or still is, likewise, a perception of an inferior service rendered by employees, in public sector. There is a common perception, that employees in private sector provide better services. And so, employees from private sector had to be brought in, to bring in their work ethics, and culture, into the public sector.

Although right now, pay may be high, but I know a case of a parent’s ambivalence, in letting a son join the government service. Because she knows the son will start off as a contractual, or what we commonly know as Job Order or J.O., with no idea when a government item will be available, even though how well qualified, and outstanding, an employee might be. It is not uncommon, that there are some, who get regularized after 5 or 11 or 21 years of public employment, before they would finally get an item, in the government’s plantilla.

I know my people here in UP Cebu are listening right now, hoping, I can relay and mention, to the Chancellors of other UP units, na baka kayâ puede kaming makahiram ng ITEMS in the meantime, while you are not using them? Hiram lang, then these will be returned once DBM releases new items for us, complete with internal agreements to document the loan, and of course, its return.

For those new in government service, there is a certain feeling that things take so slow to accomplish, even though how much we want to fast track them. There will always be the “red tape”, to ensure policies are being followed. Sure, there are agencies who have one-stop shop. And there are the exceptions, those who really do not have the “malasakit”, to provide excellent service. But what I am talking about is the majority, those who strive to render their best, and outstanding service, whether they get, or they do not get, a performance based bonus.

Very often, it is the policy at fault and not the people who work for them. The thought of making a wrong decision which will violate auditing rules, with grave consequences, slows people down.

We want to ensure we make the right decisions, and all the needed signatures appear in the document. Maybe, I am just lucky, and probably, so as as with you who are lawyers, for it gives us the feeling of confidence when we make decisions and affix our signatures, due to our familiarity with the law. But a lot of people do not possess this advantage, that lawyers have. I know that different government agencies, like us, we try to capacitate our people so they can effectively manage, the daunting challenge of expediting procurement. We know suppliers, and contractors, are wary in providing, and supporting our procurement needs, because they say, we take forever, in settling our accounts.

What do I do here in UP Cebu, which you might also be doing in other government agencies, is, we try to capacitate our people. Commonly in government offices, a lawyer is appointed to become the head of the bids and awards committee. But here in our University, our BAC is headed by a Doctor, and not the usual doctors which abound in a university. Our BAC head is a Doctor of Medicine, but she is a government procurement policy board or GPPB certified. Our Vice-Chancellor for Administration is also a lawyer, which doubly gives me, more confidence, that papers have been properly reviewed, after they had been cleared also from the Office of Legal Affairs.

Yes, we do a lot of multi-tasking here in UP Cebu, and for UP, in general.

Because of the multi-tasking, UP employees are loaded, and burdened. There are employees who decline to accept additional administrative functions. But there are also some, who feel slighted when they do not get appointed, to positions they like. But afterwards, I notice a sigh of relief, that no additional functions had been given to them. Here inside the University, if no added function is provided, especially for faculty, means more time to do research, publications and extension works. And this translates to better chances for promotion.

In the desire for public service to be more fast and efficient, there are clients and colleagues at the same time, who have the impression, that those who work in the public sector are burdens, rather than dedicated professionals, who work hard to improve the quality of people’s lives. This leads to the stereotype, that public sector provides poor service, while private sector provides, fast and efficient service. That is why we hear statements like bringing in, the private sector efficiency to the public sector, to teach them how to perform better. Do not get me wrong. Yes, we want to bring in, to the public service all the best practices happening in the private sector, like streamlined management, cost-saving strategies and increased efficiencies of employees.

Right now, it is not so much a problem in accessing government funding, but it is our absorptive capacity, and being able to spend in an expeditious way, the funds provided to us. We must not only be able to obligate, but likewise, we should really be able to disburse the funds. How we spend, is as important now, as to how much we spend, and when we get to spend it. Anyhow, this is a happy problem for us.

I believe that to have faith in people, as being basically good and smart, is necessary. And this trust will bear good outcomes. I believe that most public servants are dedicated to what they do, given a leader who will inspire and motivate them, and who will value, and respect them. And of course, if public servants are provided with clear and categorical policies to execute their jobs, with enough flexibility to exercise their innovativeness and creativity, and if given the right resources, to provide a good service.

You might say, if there are cynics among you here, where are these dedicated public servants I am talking about? I see them here in UP Cebu, and in the whole of UP. I do see them, without doubt.

I know, you too have them in your respective government offices.

So today, I acknowledge, and give tribute to my constituents, and to UP as a whole, its officials and employees, past and present, for delivering excellent education, and for all of its accomplishments as a national university. I offer this occasion as a tribute for all public servants who dedicate their lives to public service. Today, I celebrate public service, together with my co-public servants.

You might think this is self-serving. I don’t think there is anything self-serving, in matters of acknowledging accomplishments, where, it is due. I hope we can continue to encourage and attract talented, knowledgeable and genuinely committed professionals to public service.

Yes, there are public and civil servants who redefine objectives, for personal and party gain, or to cater to the interests of the provider, and not the citizen. This does not only happen to politicians, it can happen anywhere, even for us here in the University. To counter, political will is needed in taking action that is for the good of public service, regardless of its negative impact on the voters, and on the appointing authority, and not in the short horizon view to ensure re-appointment or re-election.

Public service being a public trust, accountability and transparency plays an important aspect. So together with it goes greater public scrutiny, greatly aided by media. Having many media people as alumni of UP Cebu, I consider them as an opportunity for us. Although sometimes I would wonder, why is it, when I disallow Oblation Run inside UP Cebu campus during a final examination period last year, it gets more media mileage, than as against, the turn-over of hazard and resource maps produced by UP Cebu’s team for the Light Intensive and Detection Ranging or LIDAR team?

Maybe, we just need to let the general public know on what good things are happening inside the campus, and not just presume, that they know what we provide and what we can do for them. Because there are a lot of opportunities and good things we can do, being in the public service.

The reason why we are all here today, is because you all bear witness to this formal Installation to the official function of a Chancellor. This is called Investiture, from the word “investire”. It comes from a latin word whose etymology is the word, “vestis” which means robe or clothing, and as a verb, “vestire” or to clothe one with a rank, or endow, with authority. And this is familiar to us among Cebuanos, because we use the word “vestida” in reference to a dress. We say, pag bestida na diha, when we want someone to dress up already.

But I would like to take up another meaning that this event connotes, which is that of investment, or the laying out of money or capital in order to gain more money or profit, when we invest. And public service is one such avenue.

Public service is an opportunity for investment, in the hope we get returns out of it. And it can happen in public service, where it is used as a lever to generate jobs and growth.

We as UP officials, or for that matter, other government administrators, we provide the vision and the direction, and ultimately, it is our people’s execution and implementation, which will make its realization.

For UP Cebu, we visualize ourselves to be a lead university in pioneering research, ICT driven innovations, creative design, responsible governance, and community service in Central Visayas and the global community.

While being true to our mandate as the national university to provide excellent teaching, research and extension, I look at the opportunities available, on how we can give better returns, not just to our institution, but to the whole community as well. And I see this in us by being responsive to all those challenges in public service. Even if we are UP, the national university, it is incumbent upon us, that we should not rest on our laurels and depend on our reputation. As our Former President Alfredo Pascual is known to say: “We must succeed, not because we have a reputation to keep, but because we have a country to serve.”

It is therefore our duty, to innovate, and be creative enough, to fit our services and our programs, to the challenges of today, and the future. This is best articulated in UP Cebu’s tagline, we are “Nurtured to Create, Inspired to Innovate and Destined to Serve.”

How will we make a difference in our mandate as an institution of higher learning whose mandate is also to provide public service?

It is not only BPOs and Call Centers who provide shared services facilities. We here in UP Cebu does that too. As levers for growth and jobs, UP Cebu has institutionalized shared services facilities or SSFs. These SSFs do not only serve as learning laboratories and research facilities for our faculty and students, but likewise, these serve the community.

This can be seen in the UP Cebu’s Technology Transfer and Business Development Office or TTBDO, under which are our Technology Business Incubation (TBI) Facility, supported by the DOST, which helps out start-up companies become viable business entities. The TBI is supported by 2 SSFs, called the Innovation Technology Support Office (ITSO) and Technology Transfer Office (TTO), which help protect the intellectual property rights of the creator and its commercialization. For the creatives here in Cebu, and nearby provinces and regions, we host the DTI-UP Cebu Fablab where you can create, test and prototype your designs. Or if you are a singer or a musician, there is the Digital Media Production Center, where you can sing you heart out and record it at the same time so you can submit your composition to the Visayan Pop competition if you are interested. There is also the Go Negosyo Center which can assist in scaling up the businesses of micro, small and medium enterprises, and the Co-Working Space, for those who do not have a permanent office to work on. All these facilities, are available, to the public community.

As a young constituent university, we strive for transformational researches, which will impact our community. This hablon sablay we are wearing, are woven either in Baguio or in Iloilo. We hope that we, soon, will not have to go far. From Governor Davide’s own town in Argao, we are currently doing a study on its weaving industry, both to safeguard it, as a cultural heritage and for cross-cultural collaboration on craft design and development. Recently, CHED awarded to UP Cebu, thru its College of Science, a substantial amount for the setting-up of a Regional Center for Molecular Diagnostics and Research; and Cebu being a coastal province, rich in biodiversity, we are doing a study on the Biorefinery of seaweeds for production of high value natural products for biomedical applications and animal feeds;

For climate resiliency, innovation and sustainability, aside from the ongoing hazard mapping and resource assessment under the LIDAR projects, we are likewise doing a “Geomapping and Nutrient Analysis of wild Edible Plants as Food Alternatives in Disaster-Prone Areas in the Central and Eastern Visayas Regions in the Philippines”.

These are just examples of our transformational research initiatives.
As part of our continuous innovative search, for ways to serve the region with relevant academic programs, we are currently offering degree programs, in collaboration with other UP constituent units. We are currently hosting a doctoral degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, both from UP Diliman; a master’s degree in pure Math from UP Los Baños; and just recently, we got the approval to adopt UPLB’s Master’s in Information Technology; and the latest, a transnational program for a Master of Arts in Applied Arts and Design from Shu-Te University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This is to cater to our creative industries in Cebu and the region. These programs are in addition to our existing UP Cebu undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

And lastly, we hope to harness, the very best of modern technology in extending public service, in order to tackle bureaucracy.

It is our hope to become the Data Science Center, wherein we can provide all useful and complete information, that can be easily accessed, and used, as a tool for public service. This is now in the offing, with the support of another government agency. I believe, digital transformation will provide leaps and bounds to efficiency in government service. It will give people at all levels of government, the tools to use for their confidence, and for them to unleash their ingenuity in solving problems, all for continuous improvement. It likewise becomes an enabler of choice, for better, and informed decision making.

We have just signed also our Memorandum of Agreement for Social Watch, with UP Cebu to set up the People’s Public Finance Institute, as our way in helping out for better governance, and enhanced accountability of our public servants.

The reward for public service is something intangible, but as Einstein had said, the life of a public servant is a life worthwhile, which gives immense satisfaction and gratification. I know a lot of us in this hall feel the same way.

We signed up for government service because we want to help people. I hope our energy, our motivation, and our desire to serve our country will never wane. Yes, sometimes, we might commit mistakes along the way, or there will be obstacles more difficult to hurdle, which will really make us feel low. But I hope, we will never lose the spirit of service, that brought us here in the first place. Let me end this talk with a quote on some few verses in Mother Teresa’s poem “Do It Anyway”, which goes this way:

“If you are kind,
People may accuse you
of selfish ulterior motives;
be kind anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
build anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
give the world
the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
It is between you and God;
It was never between you
and them anyway.”

In the name of public service, as the First Chancellor of UP Cebu, I wish for many realized opportunities for UP Cebu and for our local and global community.

Padayon UP Cebu, Padayon Unibersidad ng Pilipinas!