Monday, March 15, 2010

An Open Letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer regarding the University of the Philippines V.P. for Legal Affairs Theodore Te's March 15, 2010 letter regarding Student Regent Charisse Bañez

(Quezon Hall, U.P. Diliman)


March 15, 2010

Mr Jorge V. Aruta
Opinion Editor
Philippine Daily Inquirer
1098 Chino Roces Street
corner Mascardo Street
Makati City, Metro Manila

Dear Mr. Aruta:

The Diliman Diary ( is a community blog that covers the Diliman area which includes the University of the Philippines, the Katipunan stretch bordering Ateneo and Miriam College, and associated communities. Despite our extremely limited number of writers, we have been doing our best to cover developments in the University of the Philippines, as we believe that it is our public duty to report to our readers how their tax remittances are being put to use by the public institutions located in their community (whether wisely or not too wisely). We also feel obligated to report all sides of an issue and to add more information when less information is in danger of distorting a holistic appreciation of the facts at hand.

In this regard, therefore, I would like to comment on the portion of the statement of Atty. Theodore Te, Vice President for Legal Affairs of the U.P. System who has posted an open letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, dated March 15, 2010 on the government-owned and tax-payer funded U.P. website at ( where he said that:

“On the three regents whose continued stay in the BOR (U.P. Board of Regents) has been questioned by (Student Regent) Ms. (Charisse) Bañez indirectly in her Complaint for Injunction, it is sufficient to say simply that two of those regents were appointed before the UP Charter took effect and so their term of office is defined by the law prevailing at that time, which prescribes that they stay in office up to two years or until replaced. For the third regent whose acting appointment was issued in September 2008, the acting appointment is for a public office with a fixed term, two years; that term ends in September 2010. The only effect of an acting appointment is that the holder of the acting appointment can be replaced at any time before the two year period. None of the three regents holding acting appointments have been replaced. By law, their continued membership in the BOR is legal and they remain fully qualified. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Bañez.”

Unfortunately, the above statement does not go into the details, including the timeline, which is important in understanding who among the once-upon-a-time regents remained regents during critical voting periods and whether they continue to exist as regents, and whether they will continue to remain as regents. For the sake of the taxpayer, this issue needs to be clarified and not obscured.

If Atty. Te was so sure of the strength of U.P.'s legal position on the validity of the terms of all the regents; spanning the continuum of the disputed period, then why did the U.P. System submit the three regents' names for “midnight” appointments at the last minute to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and only after the Student Regent brought up the issue in a court case she filed with RTC # 215 in Quezon City on February 22, 2010? Glaring gaps remain on the legitimacy of certain regents' eligibility to vote during critical periods when important decisions were made, such as the removal of the Student Regent and the removal of the Executive Director of the PGH. It is during these periods when regents morphed into former regents only to be legitimately (or in one case not legitimately) appointed regents anew.

The “midnight” appointments are official and therfore a given and are a fact and this has been covered by the Diliman Diary at:

Here are the details, as confirmed by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Leandro Mendoza to the Diliman Diary as well as actual documents:

  • Regent Francis Chua's appointment was signed by President Arroyo on January 1, 2008, which means that if you follow U.P.'s two-year argument, then his term expired on January 1, 2010, and his vote to remove the Student Regent on February 25, 2010 was null and void since President Arroyo only signed her “midnight” appointment on March 1, 2010 for a period of two (2) years.
  • Regent Abraham Sarmiento's appointment was signed by President Arroyo on September 29, 2008 but the Office of Secretary Mendoza stressed that President Arroyo signed Regent Sarmiento's “midnight” appointment on March 9, 2010 but good only until September 29, 2010.” Why then did the Board of Regents recommend Regent Sarmiento for reappointment at a time when he was supposed to be enjoying the length of his term from September 29 2008 to September 29 2010? Would not Arroyo's appointment have been redundant? That is, unless U.P. itself is admitting that Regent Sarmiento, was already a former regent when his papers were submitted by U.P. itself, to President Arroyo for reappointment which impliedly means that it was supporting Faculty Regent Taguiwalo's position that the one-year and not the two-year rule applied (, meaning that his papers expired in September 29, 2009 and that he was a former regent when he voted on February 25, 2010 to render the Student Regent a former regent as well. The other alternative is that President Arroyo, upon U.P.'s recommendation, committed a faux pas when she reappointed a Regent whose term had not yet expired. The Diliman Diary's analysis of this is that if this is the case, then this is an attempt to extend Regent Sarmiento's term beyond the alloted two year period (from September 2008 to September 2010) so that he can be counted upon to vote for the next U.P. President, when U.P. President Emerlinda Roman's term ends in November, 2010.
  • Regent Nelia Gonzales' appointment was signed by President Arroyo on March 18, 2008 and expires on March 18, 2010 but President Arroyo reappointed Regent Gonzales on March 9, 2010 for a period of two (2) years or nine (9) days BEFORE Regent Gonzales' term expired. This could render President Arroyo's appointment of Regent Gonzalez null and void, and with the March 10, 2010 ban on Presidential appointments already in effect, U.P. will have to wait until the country finishes electing a new President when the presidential elections start on May 10, 2010, before the newly elected President fills up Regent Gonzales' vacant slot with the same or a new appointee.
In support of my statements, I am attaching the scanned copies of the three regents' appointment papers in 2008 (Diliman Diary Readers please refer to the embedded scans in this post).

I am of the opinion that more scrutiny on this issue by a newspaper of the Inquirer's caliber is needed since it has the necessary expertise and resources to scrutinize the politics in U.P. in greater depth, and this is always to the country's advantage.

The Office of the Executive Secretary informed us that the appointment papers have already been forwarded to U.P., but this has not yet been announced officially by the U.P. administration through its website. Nevertheless, it is always possible to verify this and to dig much deeper in depth to get to the heart of the story. I am sure the U.P. officials won't mind this at all. As Atty. Te says: "The UP has been transparent on this issue. A factual chronology is available on the University website; UP officials are always available for comment or reaction."

Thank you very much.

Best regards,

Chanda Shahani
The Diliman Diary

Copy furnished:

Atty. Theodore Te
Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo
Other U.P. Alumni


  1. A March 16, 2010 email from Dr. Benigno Agbayani, UP-PGH:


    Maraming salamat. You are what all good journalists should be. Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your letter.


    Benigno A. Agbayani Jr. MD, FPOA

  2. A March 15, 2010 email from Dr. William H. E. Romero, USA:

    March 15, 2010

    Dear Mr. Chanda Shahani,

    Congratulations on your incisive rebuttal of Attorney Theodore Te's Open Letter in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In his open letter, Mr. Te deliberately omitted the exact dates of the appointments of the Malacanang-appointed regents, Regents Sarmiento, Chua and Villar, to mislead the readers into thinking that their appointments were still in effect.

    Whether one follows the two-year appointment rule in the old UP Charter, or the apply the one-year maximum term for acting or temporary appointments, Regent Chua was an "impostor" to borrow College of Law Former Dean Raul Pangalangan's words, at the BOR meeting on February 25. Regents Sarmiento and Villar's appointments would still be valid with the two-year rule, but not with the prayer of the Student Regent in her court case that an acting member has only a one-year term.

    Notice that these same regents, with President Emerlinda Roman, sought to disqualify the Student Regent for her failure to maintain her student residency in the University.

    Now, the kicker: why reappoint a member whose appointment has not lapsed? By these reappointments, they only have strengthened the argument that indeed all three of them were "impostors" at the February 25, 2010 meeting.

    "Oh what a tangled web they weave, When first they practice to deceive.”

    They are so confused at this point that they are shooting in the dark.

    Please continue seeking the truth that the University of the Philippines may again be able to live with itself.


    William H. E. Romero, MD


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