The University of the Philippines (U.P.) Board of Regents (BOR) is caught in an administrative and legal controversy that has been the talk of the UP Community for the past few weeks. The issue of the nullification of the December 18 election of the Executive Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Dr. Jose Gonzales and the removal of Student Regent Charisse Bañez due to a technicality however, goes beyond UP itself.
Being a microcosm of the Philippines, U.P. is not only caught in a string of bad practices but a defiance of democratic governance and a trampling of Republic Act 9500 or the 2008 U.P. Charter.
Here are the higlights of discussions sponsored by Student Regent Charisse Bañez, Staff Regent Clodualdo “Buboy” Cabrera, and Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo during the Third UP Sectoral Regents’ Forum held on March 22, 2010 at Recto Hall, Faculty Center, U.P. Diliman:
The Student Regent’s issue was discussed in detail. Last February 25, 2010, the Student Regent was removed by a vote of six regents during a BOR meeting on the grounds that she was no longer a student and therefore could not act as a Student Regent since the last December 18, 2009 BOR meeting when she voted in favour of ousted PGH Director Jose Gonzales.
Ms. Bañez clarified during the forum that she has already applied for residency but has not heard of any word with regards to her application even up to now. She said that for enrollment prurposes, it was only the UP Los Baños College Secretary’s signature that was needed for the rest of the student population; but that in her case her papers were forwarded to the office of UPLB Chancellor, Luis Rey I. Velasco, a known ally of President U.P. President Roman. Chancellor Velasco was quoted as asking the Student Regent’s camp “Alam niyo bang wala na kayong Student Regent? Ano nang gagawin ninyo ngayon?” Left with no more avenues, students from UP Diliman, Los Baños and Manila marched to the Commission on Higher Education and Development yesterday to assert their rights. CHED Chairman Emmanuel Y. Angeles also conceurrently holds the position as U.P. BOR Chairman. Another protest, the UP Democratization Movement is also set to happen on March the 24th.
(UP-PGH FMAB contract signing by Pres. Roman and
Dr. Edwin Mercado, CEO of the Daniel Mercado Medical
Center (DMMC) on June 18, 2009 Source: http://www.dmmcinc.com/uppgh.html)
Why the Student Regent was removed
Apart from the residency issue, the Student Regent would not have been removed from her office if not for the December 18 election involving the PGH directorship. Dr. Jose Gonzalez was elected on the said date but by February 25, his appointment was nullified by the same body who voted for him a few weeks before. Serving only a mere 7 weeks as PGH Director, Dr. Gonzalez was “replaced” by Dr. Eric Domingo, who according to insiders was supposed to run for Congress representing the province of Pampanga. People who attended the forum was shocked by this revelation – the issue was no longer only about the BOR being drunk in power, it was already an intricate web involving the President of the Philippines herself.
U.P. President Emerlinda Roman and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
U.P. President Emerlinda Roman won the election for UP President in 2005 against a Malacañang candidate. With promising beginnings, President Roman was well-received by all UP sectors much like President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after Edsa 2. President Roman, however, is accountable for the tuition hike, the large class project in UPLB, and laboratory fees for Physical Education subjects. The latter did not go through due process and is now for approval in the next BOR meeting which is scheduled on March 25, 2010.
Much like President Arroyo, the U.P. Administration is now manipulating everything and everyone around itself to work for itsr own agenda and whether what it is doing is legal or not, according to critics, it can always use legal jargon to fight those who oppose it.
These glaring similarities between Quezon Hall and Malacañang is not just an idle comparison. It also means that even the University of the Philippines which is supposed to be a true champion of freedom and democratic rights can have this ideal thwarted within its own backyard.
Other Details of the Third UP Sectoral Forum
Governance issues with regards to the BOR and the UP Diliman University Council on the withdrawal of graduation of students found guilty of misconduct were also discussed but not in detail. According to the Student Regent, these students will not be able to graduate because they have cases at the Student Disciplinary Tribunal. The issue of UP Mindanao Chancellor Gilda Rivero’s second term was also discussed along with the lack of consultation of the BOR recommendation for new appointees.
(Sigrid Salucop is a freelance writer and a B.A. Public Administration graduate from U.P. Diliman)