February 25, 2010 was the day of the long knives for the University of the Philippines Philippine General Hospital (U.P. PGH) Executive Director Jose Gonzales, who was finished off quickly by the very same U.P. Board of Regents (BOR) that had voted and selected him last December 18, 2009.
The BOR, in a meeting held on February 25, 2010 declared the Dec. 18, 2009 election of Executive Director Jose Gonzales as being null and void and held a new election during which they elected Dr. Rolando Enrique "Eric" Domingo as the new PGH Director.
Here's a chronology of events, with comments:
Dr. Carmelo Alfiler, was on his second-three-year term as PGH Director, ending Dec. 31, 2009. Normally, PGH Directors should have a maximum of two terms, unless with exemplary or extraordinary performance.
The search process for new director started sometime in August, with initially just two candidates:
1) The incumbent director: Dr. Carmelo Alfiler
2) The former Chairman of the Dept. of Surgery: Dr. Jose Gonzales
A third candidate eventually emerged:
This was the incumbent Deputy Director for Administration (only for the last 2 years): Dr. Eric Domingo.
Comment: a lot of eyebrows were raised when Dr. Eric Domingo joined the candidates because he was close to Dir. Alfiler, and was still a neophyte in the UP-PGH Admin.
A few days prior to the Dec. 18 election of the BOR, Dr. Eric Domingo was "pulled out" from the list of nominees upon U.P. Manila Chancellor Ramon Arcadio's notification of to the BOR that Dr. Domingo was not qualified because his appointment in the U.P. College of Medicine was only part-time, and he was not tenured. Even when Dr. Eric Domingo was already taken out from list, he was calling Regents to vote for him, showing the obvious reason for his run: to take away votes from Dr. Gonzales in what they predicted would be a close fight. The group of U.P. President Emerlinda Roman probably knew before the election about the results of the possible vote, which now relates to a case filed against the Student Regent, which was related to her failure to enroll.
Before the vote, Regent Sarmiento raised the issue that the Student Regent is not enrolled and should not be allowed to vote. The BOR did vote, and the majority decided to allow the Student Regent to vote.
On the actual BOR election on Dec. 18, 2009 this was the resulting vote:
5 votes for Dr. Alfiler:
- Pres. Emerlinda Roman - Presidential appointee
- Regent Abraham Sarmiento - Presidential appointee
- Regent Nelia Gonzales - Presidential appointee
- Regent Francis chua - Presidential appointee
- Cong. Cynthia Villar - Chair, Congress Committee on Education
- Student Regent Charisse Banez - sectoral rep for students
- Regent Judy Taguiwalo - sectoral rep for faculty
- Regent Santos - sectoral rep for staff and employees
- Regent Pascual - sectoral rep for alumni
- Sen. Mar Roxas - Chair, Senate Committee on Education
During the Dec. 18, 2009 BOR meeting, three other appointments were made, aside from that of Director
1. U.P. Diliman College of Business Administration, Prof. Joselito Florendo, as Director, System Budget Officer.
2. Dr. Flordeliza Lantican, as Dean, College of Economics and Management.
3. Dr. Vicente Medina III, as Dean, College of Dentistry.
All three other appointees immediately received their notice of appointment, but none was received by Dr. Gonzales. At that time, CHED Chairman Angeles knew that the main supporter of Dr. Alfiler was Sen. Manuel Villar and his wife, Rep. Cynthia Villa, who has publicly said that Dr. Alfiler will most likely be the next Secretary of Health if Senator Villar becomes the next Philippine President.
Sensing the possible problem, CHED and BOR Chair Angeles asked Dr. Gonzales to come to his CHED Office on Dec. 21, during which time he administered his oath of office as PGH Executive Director, effective January 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012. He belatedly knew that Dr. Alfiler was also a personal friend and physician to the children of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
- On Jan. 4, 2010, first day of office after the holidays, Dr. Gonzales was supposed to be offically introduced to the PGH staff at the usual Monday flag ceremony. This did not happen because Director Gonzales was called to the CHED Office by CHED Chairman Angeles, who told him that the BOR is holding his appointment until the objection of Regent Sarmiento has been resolved.
- Chairman Angeles, who now obviously has changed his support for Dr. Alfiler, upon orders from President Arroyo, who is a personal friend of Dr. Alfiler. Chairman Angeles grilled Director Gonzales on why Senator Mar Roxas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, and also a U.P. Regent, voted for him. The Students and All UP Workers' Union did a rally in front of PGH protesting the holding back of Dr. Gonzales' appointment.
- On Jan. 5, 2010, Pres. Roman issued Memo No. PERR-2010-001 withholding the appointment of Dr. Gonzales as PGH Executive Director, and appointing Chancellor Ramon Arcadio as OIC PGH Director, until further advice. A flurry of protests was again started by students and workers, which eventually resulted in the decision to appoint Dr. Gonzales. Chancellor Arcadio administered the oath of office to Dr. Gonzales on January 7, 2010, and as Executive Director of U.P. PGH, he performed his official function, including the day-to-day operations of the U.P. PGH. The hospital was already running at near-normalcy, but the clinical department chair appointments were temporarily put on hold until the BOR dealt with finality on the issue during the January 25, 2010 BOR meeting.
- On January 29, 2010, Regent Sarmiento proposed to nullify the Dec. 18 election of PGH Director Jose Gonzales, and for which, the 4 sectoral regents walked out. The BOR meeting was stopped due to a lack of quorum. Students and the All U.p. Workers Union were actually rallying outside.
On the day of the February 25, 2010 BOR meeting, the BOR decided first on the matter of removing the Student Regent, Charisse Banez, from the BOR since she was not an officially enrolled student. Having made that decision, there were now only 9 BOR members counted in the meeting (5 presidential appointees, including CHED Chair Angeles, Rep. Cynthia Villar, and the three sectoral representatives). They then proceeded to vote for the nullification of the Dec. 18 election of Director Gonzales, and held a new election, resurrecting Dr. Eric Domingo as a contender again. The three sectoral regents abstained from the voting, and the 6 remaining regents all voted for Dr. Eric Domingo, who was earlier deemed not eligible for the position last December.
Note that the other elected positions decided upon in the Dec. 18 BOR meeting (Prof. Joselito Florendo, as Director, System Budget Officer; Dr. Flordeliza Lantican, as Dean, College of Economics and Management, and Dr. Vicente Medina III, as Dean, College of Dentistry) were not considered null and void. The BOR acted with swift dispatch this time, giving Dr. Domingo his appointment papers effective the same day, Feb. 25, and administering his oath of office on Feb. 26, 2010.
Dr. Domingo is supposed to be offically presented to the PGH community as the new Executive Director on Monday, March 1, 2010 but will be met by a rally of employees, faculty, and students who are protesting the unfair, unjust and oppressive moves of the BOR, so uncharacteristic of academic freedom and truth that U.P. stands for.
The political intervention of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senator Manny Villar in U.P. PGH is deplorable!
(William Romero, M.D. is a UP graduate, BS Zoology in 1977 and Medicine in 1981. He currently practices in the United States).