Saturday, February 13, 2010

U.P. Officials Remain in Administrative Limbo as Board of Regents Members dispute facts of January 29 Meeting

(Japanese Oiginal Poster of "Rashomon" released on 
August 25, 1950 in Japan. Source:

By Chanda Shahani

The 1950's Japanese cult classic film, "Rashomon" is about the rape of a woman and the apparent murder of her samurai husband through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses, including the rapist and even a narrative through a medium representing a dead man. The stories are mutually contradictory, leaving the viewer to determine which, if any, is the truth as the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks as the four characters recount the events of one afternoon in a grove.

But now in 2010, some 3,000 kilometers away from Japan at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) at Diliman, several U.P. officials are being left in administrative limbo as members of the U.P. Board of Regents (BOR) perform their own version of "Rashomon." Some regents are disputing the assertion of U.P. President Emerlinda Roman that the BOR actually met at 9:00 a.m. as a corporate body on January 29, 2010, constituted a quorum and proceeded to vote to remove the eligibility of Student Regent Charisse B. Bañez to participate in BOR proceedings on the premise that she is no longer a U.P. Student and therefore no longer a Student Regent. All of this supposedly took place before several Regents walked out.

This version is being disputed by other Regents who say that the walkout itself removed any possibility of a quorum and consequently, any ballotting to remove the Student Regent never took place due to the lack of a quorum. If Roman's version holds sway, then the implication is that Bañez's votes on any issue from December 18, 2009 onwards would no longer be valid, as she was no longer a Student Regent on that date. If the dissenting Regents' version carries the day, then Bañez remains on board as a voting member of the BOR.


One potential casualty in this debate would be the more than 50,000 U.P. students who would be deprived of a representative in the BOR, as personified by the Student Regent. Republic Act 9500, or the Charter of the University of the Philippines requires 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.

Another potential casualty would include the legitimacy and binding selection of U.P. Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Executive Director Dr. Carlos C. Gonzales who was chosen by a vote of six (6) to five (5) over by the BOR last December 18, 2009 over outgoing Executive Director Carlos Alfiler. The potential elimination of Bañez's vote as a bona fide voting member of the BOR creates a real dilemma for Quezon Hall because it would result in a hung jury of five (5) remaining votes for Gonzales and five (5) votes for Alfiler and could reverse a de facto acknowledgement by Quezon Hall, published by on U.P. own website at: ( that Gonzales is the Executive Director of PGH which is based on the premise that six (6) and not five (5) Regents voted for him.

On the one hand, if Quezon Hall continues to maintain that Gonzales remains the Executive Director, then it also impliedly acknowledges the legitimacy of Bañez's vote as a Student Regent which contradicts its other claims, also on the U.P. website, that Bañez is no longer a U.P. Student or a Student Regent. On the other hand, by pushing its own interpretation of existing rules to remove Bañez, Quezon Hall could be seen as setting the stage to undermine a majority decision of the BOR for Gonzales by implementing President Roman's yet-unacted-upon January 5, 2010 memo installing U.P. Manila Chancellor Ramon L. Arcadio as Officer-in-Charge of PGH (please see Diliman Diary, February 5, 2010).

Roman has not officially declared whom she voted for in the December 18, 2009 balloting for the PGH Executive Director Position. According to the Manila Times.Net ( 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 Roman, as well as Regents Abraham Sarmiento, Nelia Gonzales and Francis Chua and Rep. Cynthia Villar of Las Piñas City through a letter.


In the meantime, Dr. Silverio Cabellon, Chairman of the The University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society of America (UPMASA) forwarded to the Diliman Diary an email to him by President Roman dated February 8, 2010 claiming that, “In the last meeting of the Board (January), there was still a quorum when the decision to disqualify the Student Regent was made. This can be attested by the Secretary of the Board.”

An email sent by the Diliman Diary to the Facebook Account of the Secretary of the University, Dr. Lourdes Abadingo, on February 12 asked Dr. Abadingo “if there was a quorum when the decision to disqualify the Student Regent was made. Is this claim ... accurate in view of the fact that there was supposed to have been a walkout by some Regents resulting in no quorum at all? On behalf of our readers a clarification on this question would be very much appreciated.” To date, there has been no reply by Dr. Abadingo to the Diliman Diary independently confirming the claims of President Roman.


Other regents are openly disputing Roman's claims that the BOR met on January 29 and voted to disqualify the Student Regent before four regents walked out resulting in a lack of a quorum. These regents were: Faculty Regent, U.P. Professor Judy M. Taguiwalo, Staff Regent Clolualdo E. Cabrera, Alumni Regent Alfredo E. Pascual, and Student Regent Bañez.

According to Staff Regent Cabrera in a February 12, 2010 email sent to Dr. Cabellon, the BOR never voted to disqualify Bañez: “Gud am! Bago ako lumabas ng BOR room natitiyak ko na walang naganap na botohan para idisqualify ang student regent sa nakaraang Jan. 29, BOR meeting.”

A more detailed account of what happened was given by Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo on January 31, 2010:

“The BOR meeting started with CHED Chair Angeles presiding. President Roman, Malacanang- appointed Regents Sarmiento, Chua, and Gonzales, Alumni Regent Pascual, Staff Regent Cabrera, Student Regent Bañez and myself were present.”

“The agenda of the meeting was approved with the inclusion of the UP Cebu High School issue in other matters. The minutes of the December 18 BOR meeting was also approved.”

“The first item placed on the agenda for discussion was the protest of Regent Sarmiento dated January 29, 2010. Regent Sarmiento protested the election of Jose Gonzales as PGH Director on the grounds that “The Student Regent is not only under suspension but is in fact not a student as defined by the University. Ms. Bañez tried to register for the second semester but (sic) was only on November 17, 2009 that she tried to register…… “

“We, the Sectoral Regents and the Alumni Regent, were not against discussing the current status of the Student Regent prior to deliberating on the matters on the agenda for the January 29, 2010 meeting. But we found it highly irregular that the question on the status of the Student Regent during the December 18 meeting, which had already been decided was being revisited for the purpose of nullifying the election of Dr. Gonzales as PGH Director.”

“The irregularity of the protest on the status of the Student Regent by Regent Sarmiento tying it with the election of the PGH Director, who was not the choice of President Roman, Regent Sarmiento, Regent Gonzales and Regent Chua, is better understood by what occurred after the December 18 meeting. The term of outgoing PGH Director Alfiler was to end on December 31, 2009. There was no issuance of the appointment of university officials right after the BOR meeting on December 18, when previous BOR decisions on appointments were announced on the same day as the BOR meetings (e.g. October 21 OSU Memorandum on Appointment of University Officials and November 23 OSU Memorandum on Appointment of University Officials). When I inquired about this failure to issue a similar memorandum on the December 18 decisions of the BOR on the appointment of University Officials, the Secretary of the University said that because it was the last working day of the year, the issuance would be made on January 4, 2010. This clarification was not consistent with the fact that the December 18 decision of the BOR on the appointment of UP Artists was posted on the UP official website on December 18 itself.”

“The memorandum on the appointments of new university officials made during the December 18 meeting came out only on January 4. Early on that day, Dr. Gonzales was informed by the UP Manila Chancellor that he (Dr. Gonzales)would take his oath of office at 2:00 pm of January 4. But prior to the scheduled oath-taking, the UP Manila Chancellor sent a message to Dr. Gonzales that his oath was reset for January 5 as President Roman wanted to meet with them in Diliman that afternoon. There was neither an oath taking on January 5 because on that day President Roman issued Memorandum No. PERR-2010-001, appointing Chancellor Ramon L. Arcadio as Officer-in-Charge of PGH. The Sectoral Regents immediately issued a statement dated January 6 protesting the deliberate refusal of President Roman to install Dr. Jose C. Gonzales as PGH Director, duly elected by the Board of Regents. There was an emergency meeting held at the Manila Hotel in the afternoon of January 6 attended by Chairman Angeles, President Roman, Chancellor Arcadio and Dr. Gonzales. At noon time of January 7 at the height of the protests of PGH personnel, medical students and staff against the refusal to install Dr. Gonzales as Director, the formal notification of appointment of Dr. Gonzales dated December 18, 2009 was sent to the UP Manila Chancellor. At two in the afternoon of that day, Dr. Gonzales took his oath before the Chancellor with other university officials and staff of PGH in attendance.”

“One cannot but surmise, given these series of events, that some very powerful people are intent on preventing the installation of Dr. Gonzales as PGH Director. The protest of Regent Sarmiento was clearly aimed at nullifying the election of the PGH Director but it has been overtaken by events. The fact is Dr. Gonzales has taken his oath of office for a fixed term of three years and has actually discharged his duties for more than three weeks. He cannot be removed or suspended except for cause as provided by law. Moreover, an appointment once made and completed, is not subject to reconsideration or revocation.”

“When a Regent moved for a vote supporting Regent Sarmiento’s protest against the Student Regent’s participation in the December 18, 2009 meeting and nullifying the appointment of Dr. Gonzales, the Staff Regent, Alumni Regent, Student Regent and I protested. But there was no more room for discussion as one of the Regents insisted on putting an end to more talk and to proceed to the voting. I asked for a break and conferred with the other Sectoral Regents and the Alumni Regent. We discussed the consequences of participation in the unlawful removal of an elected University official, without cause and without due process, as proposed by Regent Sarmiento, and the subsequent election of another PGH director in spite of the fact that the post is not vacant. I decided that I could not countenance being part of a process which was clearly aimed at reversing the decision on the choice of the PGH Director made last December and which could be considered illegal. It left me physically ill. I opted to leave the meeting.”

“The Staff Regent, Student Regent and Alumni Regent after a while also left leaving the meeting without a quorum.”

“We are open to deliberating on the status of the Student Regent but it should not be used to overturn a decision not palatable to the powers that be.”

“Let me reiterate: we, the Sectoral Regents and the Alumni Regent, were open to a discussion of the current status of the Student Regent prior to deliberating on the matters on the agenda for the January 29 meeting. But what we found highly irregular was that the question on the status of the Student Regent involved the nullification of decisions of December 18, in particular the selection of the PGH Director, undermining the integrity of decision-making processes in our institution.”

“Our university faces a range of burning issues which we as Regents, through our collective wisdom, must deliberate and decide on. But we must do so with the highest respect for due process and respect for decisions, especially on appointments, arrived at by the Board even in the rare case that the decision goes against the wishes of the highest executive official within or outside UP.”


The University Student Council of U.P. Diliman said in a February 5 statement that, “Currently, even President Roman and the Malacanang appointees in the BOR have their own interests in making the SR position vacant. They have currently cited the ratified CRSRS to discredit our SR (Student Regent), but we must not forget that nine months ago, they had explicitly violated the same document when they kept our SR from representing us in the Board for two months. They have proven to us that they can implement the rules when it suits them; they disregard the same rules when it is in conflict with their interests.”

“Their interests lies in the Directorship of the Philippine General Hospital and the micro-privatization of PGH. The PGH Directorship became a highly-contested position during the BOR vote-casting last December 2009, such that some members of the BOR who lost in the vote tried to move to rescind and invalidate the decision to appoint Dr. Jose Gonzales as the new PGH Director, in order to field their own bet. Pres. Roman even issued a memorandum in January to hold the oath-taking of Dr. Gonzales but was defeated by the mass movement in UP Manila. Now, despite the decision of the BOR to permit our SR to participate and vote in the December BOR meeting, they are now moving to invalidate all BOR decisions since November where our SR have participated, including the votation for the PGH Directorship.”

“The ill motives are clearly laid down in front of us. We shall be disenfranchised of our right to representation as Ms. Bañez is attacked and discredited just so the few can secure their interests in the BOR. This move from the administration to discredit our SR is a curtailment of our right to genuine representation as they are aware that Ms. Bañez does not have a successor and that the GASC (General Assembly of Student Councils) shall not convene until April 2010 to select a new SR.”

“They have proven once again, that for the powers that be led by Pres. Roman and the Malacañang bloc, self-interest gains more weight than our fundamental right to be represented. They have committed a grave disrespect not only to Ms. Banez and the institution she represents, but as well as to the University that expects a transparent and democratic governance from its administration.”


Other issues affected by a successful removal of Bañez that could potentially result in a hung jury, according to Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo are the selection of a new Chancellor for U.P. Mindanao and the appeal to the BOR by U.P. Diliman Sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo for tenure after her appeal was previously turned down by President Roman and U.P. Diliman Chancellor Sergio Cao.


On February 4, 2010 the U.P. administration said in the U.P. website with a headline entitled, “Further clarifications on the issue of the Student Regent and other matters” that Bañez was not qualified to sit as Student Regent:

“There is no irregularity involved here. Regent Sarmiento had indicated his intention to file the protest as early as December. The protest was included in the agenda of the January 29 meeting. This Agenda was unanimously approved by the Board. It therefore came as a surprise to the rest of the Board when some regents chose to leave the meeting when the protest was being taken up, resulting in the absence of a quorum.”

“… As of 29 January 2010, Ms. Bañez has not enrolled for residency and is not on leave of absence. She is not a bona fide student of the University, as defined by the CRSRC, and thus not qualified to sit as Student Regent, an Office whose occupant, under the UP Charter, must come from the ranks of the students.”

U.P.’s website said that 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 (underscoring supplied by the U.P. website
  • death, illness or any other cause which prevents him/her from discharging functions
But clearly, Bañez has not been permanently disqualified from the University which is a specific act known as “dropping a student from the rolls,” and requires the Secretary of a student’s college to undertaken the necessary action. If this had already occurred, then U.P. would have cited this as one of the conditions currently existing in the case of Bañez in order for the position of Student Regent to be declared vacant.

Additionally, the mere fact that Bañez showed up for the January 29, 2010 BOR meeting and had the necessary energy to participate in a “principled walkout,” along with other Regents showed that she was neither conclusively dead nor so grossly ill such that she was not able to discharge her functions as a BOR member.

The bone of contention rests on the second condition being cited by the U.P. administration which says that Bañez’s “incapacity to enroll or file an LOA the following semester” necessarily leads to her disqualification. However the burden of proof rests on the U.P. administration through U.P.’s Legal Office to show that the condition of “incapacity” existed in the case of Bañez. One well-known online dictionary defines the legal term of incapacity as "the quality or state of being incapable; especially: lack of physical or intellectual power or of natural or legal qualifications ( Additionally, while the CRSRS requires that a student be currently enrolled at the time of nomination, it is not clear about what the Student Regent's status must be during the entire term of the Student Regent's incumbency. This is a grey area leading to a possible test case.

Moreover the mere fact that Bañez has not been dropped from the rolls of the University which means that she is still a U.P. student nor had any pre-existing mental or physical conditions that would render her unfit to function as a regent highlights the challenge that U.P.'s legal department faces to credibly justify the U.P. administration's policy to remove the Student Regent as a U.P. student and as a regent

Bañez has also filed an application and appeal for Residency and then an LOA, both pending the approval of the UPLB Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco even before the January 29 BOR meeting. Contrary to the claims of the UP administration, Bañez says that she has never withdrew her application for residency.

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