(From left to right: Student Regent Bañez and President Roman.
By Chanda Shahani
Tit for tat. The Student Regent Charisse Bernadine Bañez has now decisively answered the tax-payer funded University of the Philippines (U.P.) administration's attempts to disallow her vote cast as a member of the Board of Regents (BOR) in favour of the narrowly won selection of Dr. Carlos Gonzales as U.P. Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Executive Director with her own application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on February 22 before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) praying that she continue the unhampered exercise of her functions as Student Regent for 20 days or until the RTC resolves the issue with finality.
The hearing for the possible granting of the TRO is set on Feb 24, 2010, at 8:30 am at the sala of Judge Ma. Luisa Quijano Padilla, RTC QC Branch 215 and the decision is expected within the day. The granting of the TRO is seen as being especially urgent since the next scheduled BOR meeting is set on the next day, or on February 25, 2010 and the granting of the TRO would essentially determine whether Bañez remains as a voting member of the BOR or effectvely has her status whittled down to being a mere observer by the implementation of a BOR resolution penned by the U.P. administration removing her right to vote as a member of the BOR.
In her prayer, Bañez asked that “Immediately upon the filing of this application, this Honorable Court conduct an ex-parte hearing on plaintiff’s application for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order effective for twenty (20) days, restoring the parties to their last peaceable and uncontested status before the controversy started on January 29, 2010, and prohibiting and enjoining the defendants from: (a) disallowing the plaintiff, as Student Regent, from attending, participating in, and voting in the meetings of the Board of Regents; and (b) exercising her office as Student Regent.”
Bañez is citing the following facts and issues in support of her right to relief in court which, if successful, would result in a permanent injunction agains the implementation of the resolution of the BOR adopted in its 1253rd meeting held on January 29, 2010 disallowing her from participating in and voting in BOR meetings:
- The Resolution of the BOR disallowing Student Regent Bañez from participating in, and voting, in the meetings of the Board of Regents is invalid because there was no quorum in the 1253rd meeting of the Board of Regents held on January 29, 2010 and the votes cast in that meeting were invalid.
- While the BOR is composed of eleven (11) members, in the 1253rd meeting of the BOR held on January 29, 2010, there were nine (9) members of the BORs who were present, namely: Chairman Eduardo Y. Angeles, President Emerlinda R. Roman, Regent Abraham F. Sarmiento, Regent Nelia T. Gonzalez, Regent Francis C. Chua, Regent Alfredo E. Pascual, Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo, Regent Bañez and Regent Clodualdo E. Cabrera.
- Of these nine (9) members of the Board of Regents, there are three (3) Regents with expired terms, namely: Regent Sarmiento, Regent Gonzalez and Regent Chua.
- Regent Sarmiento was appointed by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as an “Acting Member” of the BOR on September 29, 2008.
- Regent Gonzalez was likewise appointed by President Arroyo as an “Acting Member” of the BOR on March 18, 2008.
- Regent Chua was appointed by the President as an “Acting Member” of the BOR on January 1, 2008.
- Citing Sections 16 and 17 of Executive Order (E.O.) 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987 Bañez stated that the President of the Philippines shall exercise the power to appoint officials as provided for in the Constitution and laws; and that the President may temporarily designate an officer already in the government service or any other competent person to perform the functions of an office in the executive branch, appointment to which is vested in him by law, when: (a) the officer regularly appointed to the office is unable to perform his duties by reason of illness, absence or any other cause; or (b) there exists a vacancy;
- E.O. 292 also states that in no case shall a temporary designation exceed one (1) year. However, Regents Gonzales, Chua and Sarmiento had already exceeded the one-year mark for their temporary designations as “Acting Members” of the BOR when they voted on January 29, 2010 to disqualify Bañez's eligibility to vote as a member of the BOR.
In her February 22, 2010 Complaint for Injunction with prayer for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, filed before RTC QC Branch 215, Student Regent Bañez said that for the purpose of determining attendance and quorum in the 1253rd meeting of the BOR held in Quezon Hall on January 29, 2010 at U.P. Diliman, only six (6) Regents should be counted, namely: Chairman Angeles, President Roman, Alumni Regent Pascual, Faculty Regent Taguiwalo, Staff Regent Cabrera and Student Regent Bañez.
In her complaint, she said that when Regents Taguiwalo, Cabrera and Bañez left the meeting, there were only three (3) Regents in good standing who were left, namely: Chairman Angeles, President Roman and Alumni Regent Pascual. She said that when the motion was put to a vote, there was no longer a valid quorum for the meeting. She added that the votes cast by Regents Sarmiento, Gonzalez and Chua were invalid votes because their terms as Regents have already expired after twelve (12) months from the dates of their appointments as acting members of the Board of Regents.
Even if the presence of Regents Sarmiento, Gonzalez and Chua were counted for the purpose of determining quorum, still, there was no quorum when the motion on the status of the Student Regent was voted upon because Regent Pascual was inside the toilet when the actual voting took place, the complaint read in part.
The complaint alleges that contrary to what is reflected in the draft minutes of the 1253rd meeting of the Board of Regents that Regent Pascual was present in the meeting when the motion and voting on the status of the Student Regent took place, the facts are that Regent Pascual went to the toilet before the motion was made and put to a vote. Upon his return to the meeting, he was surprised to find out that the motion and voting has already taken place in his absence.
Bañez said that there were only five (5) members of the Board of Regents who were present when the motion and voting on the status of the Student took place, namely: Chairman Angeles, President Roman, Regent Sarmiento, Regent Gonzalez and Regent Chua. Clearly, there was no valid quorum of six (6) when the motion and voting on the status of the Student Regent took place.
She is asking the court to to declare as invalid the resolution of the BOR to disallow her to participate in, and vote, in meetings of the Board of Regents “approved” in the 1253rd meeting of the Board of Regents held on January 29, 2010 and that the BOR should also be permanently enjoined from implementing this resolution.
The Diliman Diary has exercised due diligence in attempting to get the U.P. administration's side in the past. In an email dated February 23, 1010, the Diliman Diary asked Attorney Theodore Te, Vice President for Legal Affairs of U.P., to comment or react to the factual and other allegations contained in Bañez's complaint. However, as of press time, Attorney Te had not replied to the Diliman Diary's email.
On February 12, 2010, the Diliman Diary had earlier emailed the Facebook account of Dr. Lourdes Abadingo, the Secretary of the University, asking her to verify “upon very good authority” that “in the last meeting of the BOR (January 29) there was a quorum when the decision to disqualify the Student Regent was made. Is this claim by that authority accurate in view of the fact there was supposed to have been a walkout by some regents resulting in no quorum at all?”
In reality, the “very good authority,” who claimed that there was indeed a quorum when the decision to disqualify the Student Regent was made was no less than U.P. President Roman when she replied on February 8, 2010 to an email query on the matter to Dr. Silverio Cabellon, Chairman of the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society of America 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.” However, to date, there has been no reply or response by Dr. Abadingo to the Diliman Diary's query as to whether or not there was a quorum of the BOR when some mebers of the BOR tried to remove her as a voting member of the BOR.
The Diliman Diary also tried emailing Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, U.P.'s Vice President for Public Affairs, on February 12, 2010 for clarifications on U.P.'s statement on its own website at http://www.up.edu.ph/features.php? stating that the Student Regent was no longer eligible to act as a Student Regent with full powers and responsiblilities or to at least be put in touch with the author if the statement which President Roman said in her email to Dr. Cabellon was uploaded by Office of the Vice-President for Public Affairs; but Dr. Hidalgo has not replied to the Diliman Diary's email query to date.
With the filing of this case, Bañez could have potentially plunged the entire BOR into a crisis by asking the court to disqualify the three other “Acting Members” of the BOR whose terms of office have long since lapsed. However, she is instead asking the Court to conduct an ex-parte hearing on her application for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order effective for twenty (20) days,“restoring the parties to their last peaceable and uncontested status before the controversy started on January 29, 2010,” or in other words, maintain the status quo.
If the TRO is granted, then Bañez effectively will be allowed to vote on the draft BOR resolution removing her right to vote as a Regent in the BOR and if it is not granted, then President Roman's assertion that there was a quorum and a majority vote existed to remove her right to vote as Student Regent effectively removes Bañez's one vote in favour of the narrowly won selection of Dr. Carlos Gonzales as PGH Executive Director over outgoing PGH Executive Director Carlos Alfiler.
The potential elimination of Bañez's vote as a bona fide voting member of the BOR potentially creates 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: (http://www.up.edu.ph/features.php?i=176) 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.
A removal of Bañez's eligibility to vote could pave the way for the U.P. Administration to immediately implement Memorandum No. PERR-2010-001, issued byPresident Roman dated January 5, 2010, appointing Chancellor Ramon L. Arcadio as Officer-in-Charge of PGH, thus removing Dr. Gonzales as PGH Executive Director. Dr. Gonzales continues to acts as the Executive Director of PGH despite the existence of President Roman's memo.