The President of the University of the Philippines, Emerlinda Roman, is facing pressure from several quarters to rescind a January 5, 2010 memorandum she issued effectively reversing a Board of Regents (BOR) decision approving the appointment of Dr. Jose C. Gonzales who was elected the new Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) over the incumbent director, Dr. Carmelo Alifiler, who was going for a third term.
According to Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo, Gonzales received 6 votes while Dr. Alfiler, who has already served two terms, received 5 votes. The BOR met during its regular meeting on December 18, 2009 at Quezon Hall, U.P. Diliman.
Sources informed the Diliman Diary that one of the key issues considered was whether to extend the term of Dr. Alfiler, as University policy limits the appointment of directors, deans and chancellors to a maximum of two consecutive 3-year terms, except in highly exceptional cases. But the majority of regents, numbering 6, did not think there was a basis for considering an exception for the incumbent and Dr. Gonzales got the majority of the vote.
Regent Abraham Sarmiento, a former Supreme Court justice, who did not vote for Dr. Gonzales voiced a protest and questioned the election because the Student Regent, Ms. Charisse B. Bañez who voted for Dr. Gonzales was not enrolled at the time, putting into question her status as a regent as well as her right to vote. Bañez admitted she was not enrolled at the time of voting, on December 18 and registration ended mid November.
Sarmiento, who protested Bañez' vote for Dr. Gonzales at the tail-end of the December 18 meeting nevertheless participated and voted in the entire proceedings of the BOR, according to reliable sources. It has not been confirmed by the Diliman Diary if Sarmiento has also questioned Bañez's eligibility to vote on the other issues deliberated upon by the BOR on December 18, or is only challenging her right to vote in favour of Dr. Gonzales.
In a January 10, 2010 email to Mina Datoc, a member of the Board of Governors of The University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society of America, Roman sided with Regent Sarmiento's stand that Bañez ceases to be a regent if she fails to enroll. The next possible period for enrollment for Bañez, a U.P. Los Baños student, will be during summer enrollment. Additionally, Roman claimed in her email that U.P. BOR Chairman Emmanuel Y. Angeles (who voted for Gonzales) asked her to withold the appointment of Dr. Gonzales as U.P. PGH Director. Roman issued Memorandum No. PERR-2010-001, dated January 5, 2010, appointing Chancellor Ramon L. Arcadio as Officer-in-Charge of PGH.
In her email to Datoc, Roman said that, "I was ready to issue the appointment of JoeGon (Dr. Gonzales) on January 4, the first working day of the year. The Chairman of the Board (who incidentally voted for him) asked that I withhold the issuance of the appointment and also asked that Mon Arcadio (Dr. Mon Arcadio, Chancellor of U.P. Manila) be designated as OIC. This I did. But a day later after the Chairman and I talked, together with Mon and Dean Bert Roxas (Dr. Alberto B. Roxas, Dean of the U.P. College of Medicine), we decided to issue his appointment. We also agreed that JoeGon be formally informed about the protest. JoeGon knew about the protest even as early as after the December Board meeting. Mon informed him about the protest. The Board will discuss this matter during our January meeting."
"The protest from the complaining regent has been received and this will be taken up. The issue is not about one's qualifications. It is about a regent and her status."
Here is what happened next, according to Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo, who wrote in the blog of the All U.P. Workers Union (http://aupwu.blogspot.com/) that all of this happened despite the fact that on January 4, the University Secretary, Dr. Lourdes Abadingo, issued the announcement of new BOR appointments which included Dr. Gonzales' designation as PGH Director. Taguiwalo wrote that UP Manila Chancellor Ramon Arcadio then informed Dr. Gonzales and the appointed Dean of the College of Dentistry, Dr. Vicente O. Medina III, that they wouldl be sworn into office on the afternoon of January 4:
- Another text message from the Chancellor soon followed informing Dr. Gonzales that "President Roman is calling for an urgent meet tomoro, Jan 4. Ur oath taking is postponsed for Tue, Jan. 5 at 2 pm."
- Around noontime on January 5, President Roman issued a memo, her first memo for 2010 with the subject "Appointment of Officer-in Charge of the Philippine General" supposedly on the basis of a letter of protest from Regent Sarmiento.
“We regard President Roman’s January 5 memorandum refusing to implement a BOR decision to appoint Dr. Gonzales as PGH Director as a very dangerous precedent. Here is one individual member of the Board, by the mere issuance of a memorandum, exercising a power that effectively frustrates the implementation of a duly authorized decision by the BOR.”
“We should not allow such autocratic actions to be exercised without resistance. We call for the immediate withdrawal of said memorandum and for the recognition of Dr. Jose C. Gonzales as the duly elected PGH Director starting January 1, 2010.”
Roman's memo is unfortunate, because “it is to everyone's interest that PGH is run independently of political interests,” said William H.E. Romero, M.D. in an email to the Diliman Diary. Romero, a U.P. graduate (B.S. Zoology 1977, Medicine 1981) who practices medicine in the United States, authored an online petition, 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 says 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.
The petition also points out that before the vote, the eligibility of the Student Regent, Ms. Charisse B. Bañez, to vote on Dr. Gonzales' appointment was deliberated by the Board in her absence and the decision was to allow her to vote. “This very issue is being protested by Regent Abraham Sarmiento, after the fact,” said the petition.
Roman's decision 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.
(Coming soon in the Diliman Diary: More questions regarding the University of the Philippines Foundation and the U.P. Business Research Foundation)