By Raïssa Robles
It is RARE for people to return awards. But when they do, they mean to send an important message.
In the case of Carmencita Reodica, a woman who has spent much of her life in public service, her gesture of physically giving back a cherished award to the alumni office sent shock waves in the academic community of the country’s oldest university.
The University of Santo Tomas is not new to controversies and has weathered them all in its four centuries of existence.
Still, Dr. Reodica’s gesture gave much food for thought. Considering that she is part of the “UST 400” or the 400 Outstanding Alumni in 400 years. You can read more about her here.
I met her Saturday night during a reunion of graduates from St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City. And so I decided to ask her if she had really done what she said she would do and why would she do such a thing.
In short, she told me that an award that was once “the highest” recognition of achievement for which a graduate had to work hard for had now become “very cheap”.
Here is my short video interview with her:
Dr. Reodica’s accomplishments are stupendous. She—and a handful of other females – overcame male prejudice and persevered to become outstanding medical doctors in their chosen fields of expertise.
In her case, she specializes in public health.
Her appointment to the helm of the Department of Health was serendipitous. The Health Secretary Hilario Ramiro had been implicated in a kickback scandal over medical supply kits and she was at that time a senior health department official.
Then President Fidel V. Ramos needed a fresh face to divert the public from the Ramiro scandal. Appointing Reodica scored double points for Ramos since she was the very first woman to be appointed Secretary of Health.
Following her appointment as Secretary of Health, her fellow UST alumni recognized her achievement by giving her the award as “overall” or top outstanding alumni.
By contrast, the UST alumni association’s giving of an “award” to Mocha Uson—an act which sparked a storm of protest—seemed to be based on nothing more than the fact that she was appointed assistant secretary. And one with zero experience in government service.
Let me point out that Dr. Reodica was also once an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health but her work was solid. She handled the Maternal and Child Health Service, Nutrition, Family Planning, STD/AIDS, Women’s Health and Dental Health. At one point, she was doing all that while at the same time performing as Officer-in Charge for the health department in the National Region.
I recall interviewing her once when I was with Philippine Star.
No wonder Dr. Reodica felt miffed, gave back her award and called such alumni awards “very cheap”.
As for Mocha Uson, I keep wondering what her accomplishments are as a newbie public official. Being able to do exclusive interviews of President Rodrigo Duterte? Junketing around the world on the public tab?
The only accomplishment I can think of is that she has become a social media “influencer”. Right now, she has the ability to persuade thousands of Filipinos to continue supporting Duterte and to post murderous and vicious thoughts about those who are critical of Duterte. Another word for that would be “propagandist.” For students of UST and universities across the country, is that kind of accomplishment worth emulating and applauding?
Maybe UST should set up a Goebbels Award?