(Artwork by: Pam Liban)
By Chanda Shahani
In its own version of writing on the wall, the University of the Philippines (U.P.) top administration has effectively signalled its objections to the appointment of Dr. Jose C. Gonzales who was selected by the Board of Regents last December 18, 2009 as the new Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) over the then incumbent director, Dr. Carmelo Alifiler, who was going for a third term, by emasculating the vote of Student Regent Ms. Charisse B. Bañez who voted in favour of Dr. Gonzales; thus throwing into doubt the validity of a closely-won contest where Gonzales garnered only six (6) votes and Alfiler five (5) votes.
The U.P. administration has tilted the balance of votes away from Dr. Gonzales when it already announced on its own website at http://www.up.edu.ph/ on January 29, 2010 that Student Regent Bañez was not eligible to vote in the appointment of the new PGH Director; thus preempting its own Board of Regents (BOR) meeting set at 8:00 a.m. on the same day at Quezon Hall in U.P. Diliman to discuss objections set forth by Regent Abraham Sarmiento last December 18, 2009 on Bañez's eligibility to vote on the selection of Dr. Gonzales. The issues of Sarmiento's objections regarding Regent Bañez's eligibility to vote in the selection of Dr. Gonzales, Gonzales's binding appointment thereof, and other issues were set to be discussed at the January 29 BOR meeting.
The proceedings of the January 29 BOR meeting were disrupted by a walkout by the Faculty Regent, U.P. Professor Judy M. Taguiwalo, Staff Regent Clolualdo E. Cabrera, Alumni Regent Alfredo E. Pascual, and Student Regent Bañez, said Arnulfo Anoos of the All-UP Workers Union in a text message. The walkout occurred because the Student Regent was not allowed to participate and had the resulting effect of a lack of quorum, said U.P. Professor Danilo Arao,a member of CONTEND UP in another text message. This was confirmed by Regent Nelia Gonzalez in a telephone interview with the Diliman Diary who said that the lack of a quorum led to a postponement of the BOR meeting. Regent Gonzales also said that Dr. Gonzales remained as Executive Director of PGH thus far.
“Nagkaroon ng principled walkout ang sectoral regents (faculty, staff, students regents) at yung alumni regent, so no quorum kaya hindi natuloy evil plan ni Roman to nullify Dec. 18 BOR decisions, partcularly PGH directorship,” said Prof. Mykel Andrada of the All-UP Academic Employees Union in a text to the Diliman Diary.
With the possible elimination of Bañez as a voting Regent, the jury still remains out on the eligibility of Dr. Gonzales to continue on as UP PGH Director if a new vote was taken and the Regents still vote the same way they did on December 18 as there would now be a division of the vote with five (5) votes for Gonzales and five (5) votes for Alfiler compared to the alignment of the votes on December 18, 2009 where six (6) Regents, including Regent Bañez voted for Dr. Gonzales and five (5) Regents voted for Dr. Alfiler.
Observers state that with Quezon Hall's unilateral splitting of the vote of the BOR, an interim measure such as President Roman's memorandum appointing of an OIC for PGH will take place until more votes are available in the BOR to reinstall Dr. Alfiler as Executive Director for a third term.
The January 29 walkout has forestalled any plans for both the pro and anti Gonzales supporters to make their respective moves until the next BOR meeting however. This date of the next meeting has not yet been announced, however.
According to the Manila Times.Net (http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/top-stories/8673-new-pgh-director-takes-oath-of-office) , those who voted for Dr. Gonzales were Student Regent Charisse Bañez, Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo, Alumni Regent Alfredo Pascual and Admin Staff Regent Cabrera. Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd also sent a written vote in favor of Gonzales.
Alfiler, however, received votes from U.P. President Emerlinda Roman, as well as Regents Abraham Sarmiento, Nelia Gonzales and Francis Chua and Rep. Cynthia Villar of Las Piñas City through a letter.
The Diliman Diary could not immediately confirm over the weekend the statement of Regent Gonzalez that Dr. Gonzales remained officially as Executive Director of UP PGH in view of Quezon Hall's January 29 website statement questioning Regent Bañez's eligibility to vote and Memorandum No. PERR-2010-001, issued by U.P. President Emerlinda R. Roman dated January 5, 2010, appointing Chancellor Ramon L. Arcadio as Officer-in-Charge of PGH.
However, despite the January 5, 2010 memo of Roman, the website of the PGH (http://www.pgh.gov.ph/ ) confirms that Dr. Jose C. Gonzales assumed his new post as PGH Director last January 7, 2010 after being voted into office last December 18, 2009 by the UP Board of Regents. During his first flag ceremony as Director last January 11, he was even introduced by UP Manila Chancellor Ramon Arcadio. Gonzales has already announced the members of his cabinet, namely Dr. Charlotte Chiong as the Deputy Director for Health Operations, Dr. Rey Ang as the Deputy Director for Administration, and Dr. Virgilio Novero as the Deputy Director for Fiscal Services. Ms. Ma. Rita Tamse remains as the Deputy Director for Nursing.
Dr. Gonzales is a renowned thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon and was the former Chair of the PGH Department of Surgery in 2001-2004. He is a member of the UP College of Medicine Alumni Class of 1972. He was former Director of the Regionalization Program of the UP College of Medicine.
Quezon Hall's attempts to rewrite the entire script on the eligibility of the Student Regent to vote after the vote had already been cast by the BOR; and possibly rescind the official appointment of Dr. Gonzales by creating a hung jury among the BOR is also being met with stiff resistance from U.P. PGH alumni in the Philippines and overseas.
An online petition authored by William H.E. Romero, M.D., a U.P. graduate (B.S. Zoology 1977, Medicine 1981) who practices medicine in the United States, with the name, The INSTALL DR. JOSE GONZALES NOW! Petition to ALL FILIPINOS (http://www.petitiononline.com/JOEGON72/petition.html) that was formed by U.P. College of Medicine Alumni and PGH personnel, asked Roman “to protect the welfare of its underpaid and overworked personnel and strengthen the education of our future doctors, by immediately implementing the decision of the Board of Regents to appoint Dr. Jose C. Gonzales as the new PGH Director and rescind the above mentioned memorandum.” The petition now has more than 1100 online signatures.
Roman's memorandum comes at the heels of another controversial decision involving Roman at U.P. Diliman where U.P. Diliman Sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo appealed to Roman to overturn a decision by U.P. Diliman Chancelor Sergio Cao denying her tenure due to a minority protest vote (Please see Diliman Diary, December 10, 2009) despite the fact that the majority of faculty in her department had voted to grant her tenure.
Raymundo's appeal for tenure was denied by Roman in a copy of a resolution of Roman she received last January 4, 2010, according to Raymundo, writing in an update she posted on an online website, Tenure for Prof. Sarah Raymundo (http://tenureforsarahraymundo.blogspot.com/).
On January 15, 2010 Raymundo submitted an appeal to the BOR, asking them to overturn Roman's decision. There has been no decision yet by the BOR, in view of the postponed January 29 BOR meeting.
In a statement dated January 29, 2010 on U.P.'s own website at: (http://www.up.edu.ph/), the date of the BOR meeting, the U.P. administration stated that:
“The Charter of the University of the Philippines, Republic Act No. 9500, provides that there shall be one Student Regent chosen by the students from their ranks in accordance with the rules and qualifications approved in a referendum by the students (sec. 12[g], RA 9500). In 2009, the students overwhelmingly ratified the Codified Rules for Student Regent Selection (CRSRS) through a referendum called for the purpose.”
“Article I, section 6 of the CRSRS defines a bona fide student as one who is “taking up academic units for bachelor’s degree, masters’ degree, doctorate degree, non-degree (sic), or certificate courses in the university, including those who are on residency status or on leave of absence (LOA).” Article III, section 1 provides, as part of the qualifications to be nominated, current enrollment at the time of his/her nomination. Article IX, section 7 provides for grounds to consider the position of SR-elect or the incumbent SR vacant, to wit:
- permanent disqualification from the university
- incapacity to enroll or file an LOA the following semester
- death, illness or any other cause which prevents him/her from discharging functions.”
“On 18 December 2009, the Board of Regents met for the 1252nd time. Before discussing the items in the agenda, the President brought Ms. Bañez’s status to the attention of the Board.”
“When asked by the Board if she is enrolled, Ms. Bañez admitted that she is not (Minutes, 1252nd BOR Meeting, 18 December 2009, p. 3). During an executive session, the President moved that Ms. Bañez be allowed to sit during the 1252nd BOR meeting but only as an observer because she was no longer a student and therefore cannot discharge the duties of a student regent. This resulted in a division of the Board.”
“Before the vote, however, one of the regents moved that Ms. Bañez be allowed to vote, in effect, on her own fate. The vote went against the President’s motion, 5-4 (with Ms. Bañez voting for herself instead of abstaining). Thus Ms. Bañez was allowed to “sit as a regular member of the Board until the issue on enrollment is resolved.” ”
“The BOR then proceeded to take up its agenda items with Ms. Bañez participating and voting. Part of the agenda included the appointment of the PGH Director, where the voting was decided by a tie breaker vote cast by the Chairman of the CHED, as Co-Chair and Presiding Officer.”
Thus, by its own admission, the U.P. administration has stated in its own website that Student Regent Bañez was allowed not just to sit as an observer but as a regular voting member of the BOR where her own eligibility to vote was agreed upon by the majority of the BOR and in that same meeting, Dr. Gonzales was selected as the new Executive Director of PGH.
The petition authored by Dr. Romero states that given the fact that Regent Sarmiento protested the eligibility of Student Regent Bañez to vote after voting had already taken place on December 18 and at the very end of the meeting; and that Bañez's eligibility to vote had already been discussed prior to voting, but that she was allowed to vote anyway; that Sarmiento's protest, formalized through an official letter dated December 23, 2009 was scheduled to be taken up in the next BOR meeting scheduled on January 29 in Los Baños; Roman's memo “unilaterally decided the outcome of the protest of a single Regent, before this protest could be acted upon by the full Board”
“The question is why is Dr. Gonzales being removed even before the protest of Regent Sarmiento is discussed in the next BOR meeting?” Romero asked the Diliman Diary.