Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Undemocratic Governance by the University of the Philippines System Leadership is Lambasted by Faculty, Staff, and Students at U.P. Diliman Press Briefing

U.P. Faculty, Staff and Students giving their
thumbs down to the incumbent U.P. Administration
By Chanda Shahani

From the joyous year-long 2008 University of the Philippines (U.P.) Centennial Celebrations peaking with the passage into law of the U.P. Charter of 2008 (R.A. 9500). To this. Perhaps U.P. President Emerlinda R. Roman should start popping a series of Extra-Strength Tylenol tabs as prophylaxis for a projected series of headaches; as a growing number of U.P. System Faculty, Students and Staff are becoming increasingly vocal about what they call her leadership's lack of democratic governance consequently creating a host of long-term problems for the premier state university and its constituents.

A press briefing was held on March 3, 2010 at the 3rd floor of the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) at U.P. Diliman to represent a coalition of groups including the Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo, Student Regent Charisse Bañez, Staff Regent Buboy Cabrera, Dr. Jose Gonzales of the PGH, several PGH doctors, concerned University of the Philippines (UP) faculty and students, and the All U.P. Workers Union. They have all been united by converging interests centering on the following key issues involving decisions involving the U.P. System Administration which they are questioning.

Some of the key highlights of the briefing include:
  • For the first time in UP’s history, students were stripped of their representation from the UP Board of Regents (BOR) as the current student regent was prevented from attending the board meeting and removed from her position due a technicality.
  • For the first time in UP’s history, three regents overstayed their temporary designations to the BOR which lapsed in 2009.
  • For the first time in UP’s history, the appointment of a University official was revoked without due cause. In UP Manila, the sitting PGH director, Dr. Jose Gonzales, was removed from his post a month after he was appointed by the board and sworn in as director.
  • For the first time in UP’s history, classes as large as 300 will be the norm at UP Los Baños, leading to a degradation in each student's quality of education.
Jacqueline Eroles, the University Student Council of U.P. Diliman Vice Chair said during the press briefing that Student Regent Charisse Bañez was removed due to a technicality by several members of the BOR, acting as one, in order to nullify her swing vote in favour of U.P. Executive Director Jose Gonzales who they did not support.

She commented that copies in the press kit of several students' Form-5s which are U.P. students' proof of enrollment showed conclusively that unlike Student Regent Bañez, other students at U.P. Los Baños were allowed to enroll late beyond the claimed absolute and non-negotiable deadline of November 17, 2009 of the U.P. Administration for all UPLB students. One student enrolled for residency on February 2, 2010 and the other enrolled on February 16, 2010. Thus the unwillingness of the UPLB administration was due to pressure from the U.P. Administration which was not to give the Student Regent equal treatment as other UPLB students which was in turn was directly linked to her independent stand on the issue of who should be U.P. PGH Executive Director.

During the press briefing, Student Regent Bañez was even more emphatic in characterizing the linkage between her attempted ouster as Student Regent and Dr. Gonzales as Executive Director of U.P. PGH: "Malacañang at Roman itaksil sa Pamantasan. Education not for sale. U.P. not for sale," she said.

In a March 1, 2010 report also released during the media briefing, Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo said that she raised the issue during the February 25, 2010 BOR meeting, of the legitimacy of the three Malacañang appointed regents, Abraham Sarmiento, Nelia Gonzales and Francis Chua. She said that all three were appointed as "acting" regents on September 2008, March 2008 and January 2008 respectively by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Faculty Regent Taguiwalo cited the Administrative Code of 1987 (E.O. 292) which said that the President of the Philippines has the power to "issue temporary designations" but "(i)n no case shall a temporary designation exceed one (1) year."

She said that Vice President for Legal Affairs Atty. Theodore Te said during the February 25 BOR meeting that this issue could not be tackled by the BOR because the status of the three is included in a court case filed b y the Student Regent in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court and any discussion would be considred sub judice and that "temporary designation" is different from an acting appointment based on Supreme Court rulings. Taguiwalo said she consulted a lawyer afterwards, who showed her an excerpt from a Supreme Court ruling, Pimentel vs. Ermita (GR 164978 13 October 2005) which expressly ruled that "Acting appointments cannot exceed one year as expressly provided ... (in) EO 292."

However, based on Atty. Te's explanation, the BOR Chairman, Eduardo Y. Angeles denied Faculty regent Taguiwalo's motion, she said in her report. She said that during the whole process of deliberations made by the BOR, the three regents with expired appointments remained as regular voting members even as they voted for the selection of Dr. Enrique Domingo as the new Executive Director of PGH; consequentially removing Dr. Gonzales as PGH Executive Director, and also approving the minutes of the January 29, 2010 BOR meeting which contained a draft resolution nullifying the legitimacy of Student Regent Bañez's vote for Dr. Domingo during the December 18, 2009 BOR meeting and which provided the basis for the removal of Dr. Domingo.

Regent Taguiwalo said that she put her objection on record to the participation of the three Regents on the grounds that their appointments have already expired. The U.P. Administration is claiming that a unanimous vote of the BOR on February 25 resulted in the removal of Dr. Gonzales and the approval of a draft resolution voiding the legitimacy of Student Regent Bañez's right to vote from December 18, 2009 onwards on the grounds that she is no longer a student and therefore no longer a Student Regent. That may be an exaggeration. Nine regents attended the February 25 BOR meeting but three regents - Staff Regent Cabrera, Faculty Regent Taguiwalo and Alumni Regent Pascual abstained from voting leaving six regents who particpated in the voting. However three regents had expired appointments at the time of the voting, meaning that only three regents voted on February 25 which does not constitute a majority of the BOR.

"Parang sampal sa mga doctors ng PGH ang ginawa nila," said Dr. Jonas del Rosario, an Assistant Professor of the Department of Surgery at the U.P. College of Medicine who spoke during the press conference. He was referring to the ouster of  Dr. Jose Gonzales by the BOR last January 29, 2010 or about a month after he won in the voting by the BOR for the selection of a new Executive Director last December 18, 2009. "They are not respecting the civil service law," he said.

A March 2, 2010 resolution of the College Council of the U.P. College of Medicine also threw its support behind Dr. Gonzales. A resolution of any College Council in the U.P. System is considered especially important, by U.P. standards, in view of U.P.'s historic commitment to the principles of college and departmental autonomy. The resolution said that "Dr. Gonzales has already served as PGH director and has performed responsibly since January 4, 2010 with honor, integrity and transparency."

The resolution said the College Council resolved to "recognize and support Dr. Jose Gonzales as the duly appointed UP PGH director from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012 in accordance with his original appointment."

A statement dated March 3, 2010 and released by CONTEND during the press briefing criticized President Roman for her "unrelenting effort to transform the University into a private commercial educational institution." One example is the proposal for large class sizes of 150 to 200 in general education courses starting in UPLB which "considerably lowers the expectations for quality while blatantly hewing to the logic of mass marketing."

The CONTEND statement openly criticized President Roman,  a faculty member of the U.P. College of Business Administration in Diliman with a Ph.d. in Business Administration from the same college, for "her unrelenting effort to transform the University into a private commercial educational institution ... Her philistine imposition of the narrow parameters of profitability for measuring or evaluating academic excellence in the University is simply unacceptable for any institution dedicated to teaching, learning and the deepening of knowledge. Her desire to transform the University into a privatized educational corporation is incompatible with the ideals of the University to serve the people and provide education for the poorest and least privileged in Philippine society."

A press kit handed out at the ground floor of CSWCD at the same time of the press briefing by the U.P.'s Office of the Vice President of Public Affairs contained several statements from the Office of President Roman to the Philippine Collegian, specifying President Roman's actual comments on many of the same issues, and also posted on U.P. own website at: Here are her comments:
  • On the complaint of Student Regent Bañez for a temporary restraining order where she said the votes cast in the January 29 BOR meeting to remove her eligibility to vote as Student Regent starting December 18, 2009 were invalid in the January 29 BOR meeting because there was no quorum: "The minutes of the January meeting of the Board were approved by the Board in its February meeting. Nobody questioned the quorum precisely because there was a quorum. Ms. Bañez was wrong when she said there was no quorum," Roman said.
  • On the issue of the report of Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo where she raised an issue regarding the legitimacy of the three Malacañang-appointed regents since they have expired terms. Roman said that, "The terms of the three regents appointed by Malacañang are the subject of a court case filed by the Student Regent. This case is before the court now. Therefore I shall not be able to comment on this. Suffice it to say that our arguments regarding their tenure have been firmed up and U.P.'s lawyer will present these to court."
  • On the issue of Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo objecting to Regent Nelia Gonzales' motion to appoint another PGH Director other than Dr. Gonzales, since the board cannot remove an official who has taken his oath of office except for cause, Roman said that: "The rule they are citing does not apply in the case of Dr. Jose Gonzales. His appointment has been voided by the Board because Ms. Bañez was not qualified to vote by virtue of her not being a student at the time of the election. If Ms. Bañez' vote is not counted, Dr. Gonzales would have lost in the vote. Hence the need to elect another director."
  • On the issue of the Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo being unable to understand why the Chancellor of U.P. Los Baños continues to deny Bañez’s appeal for late filing of residency as it had been granted to other students similarly situated nor has President Roman advised the UPLB Chancellor to grant the appeal as it would ensure continued student representation in the BOR, Roman's reply was:

    "Judy Taguiwalo chooses to blame me for everything. I don‘t know what her motive is. She may not be fully aware of all the rules. For example, application for residency is decided finally by the Chancellor, not by the President. Does she expect me to tell the Chancellor to approve Ms. Bañez’s appeal even if the student has not complied with the requirements?"

    "The Chancellor informed me that Ms. Bañez applied for residency on December 16 (way beyond the last day for registration which was November 17) and this letter did not reach the Chancellor until January (remember, UP was on vacation starting the 19th). On January 11, Ms. Bañez‘ representative (a certain Ms. Elena Carlos) withdrew her application for residency. Ms. Bañez has denied withdrawing this application but Ms. Carlos signed the withdrawal of the application. So what was there for the Chancellor to act on if she withdrew her application?"

    "Instead Ms. Bañez, represented by her lawyer, chose to go on leave of absence. The lawyer wrote to her dean on January 12 (the day after Ms. Carlos withdrew her letter applying for residency) about Ms. Bañez "intention" to go on leave. Note that it was not even Ms. Bañez who wrote and applied for a leave. It was her lawyer. This was denied by her dean because she did not comply with the requirements to go on leave. According to College rules, she has to submit her clearance, and her parents‘ permission for her to go on leave."

    "Now the Faculty Regent wants me to tell the Chancellor to approve Ms. Bañez‘ appeal even though the requirements are not complied with? I am very surprised by this. Why doesn‘t she instead advise the Student Regent to comply with the requirements? Why does she tolerate the non-compliance with the rules by Ms. Bañez and instead ask me to pressure the Chancellor to approve Ms Bañez leave?"

    "The latest news is that Ms Bañez has again changed her mind and is filing for residency again!"

    "The rules for the selection of Student Regent were formulated and ratified by the students themselves. You have rules for the SR to continue to qualify. My question is: why did Ms Bañez not work on this during the registration period? Her reason was that she was busy. Could she not have spent a day to work on this? Or did she think it was not important to comply with the rules? By her action or non action on her enrollment, residency or leave (yes, she acted but much too late) there is no one representing the students in the Board. Should we be blamed for this? What about her? What is her culpability here?"
(Chanda Shahani is the Editor of the Diliman Diary).

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