Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SUCCESS! - The Diliman Diary finally gets copies of the Malacañang appointments of the three U.P. Regents

By Chanda Shahani

The Diliman Diary has finally been able to get copies of the March 2010 "midnight" appointments by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Board of Regents (BOR) of Regents Francis Chua, Nelia Gonzales and Abraham Sarmiento from the Malacañang Records Office even as the Office of the Secretary of the University has been acting in very slow motion on the Diliman Diary's requests for the same information.

Quezon Hall's reluctance to disclose copies of the Malacañang "midnight" appointments of the regents before this morning's regular meeting of the BOR is set within the context of several other regents questioning the legitimacies of these three regents. The U.P. Administration is mandated to disclose the action taken by the President in view of the fact that the previous action taken by the BOR in its last February 25, 2010 meeting was to recommend the appointment of these three regents to the President before the March 10 constitutional ban on presidential appointments. But in disclosing the presidential action, Quezon Hall also lays itself open to questions arising from the data contained in the presidential "midnight" appointment papers.

To let our readers get an appreciation of the implications of the information contained in the 2010 Presidential appointments, we have scanned the documents and put them side-by-side with the 2008 scanned Presidential appointments of the same regents (the 2008 copies were obtained during a press briefing held at the College of Social Work and Community Development on March 3, 2010 by the sectoral regents).

Below are the 2010 and 2008 scanned Presidential appointment papers of Regent Francis Chua (Left to right. To see an enlarged image just click on the scan ):

Below are the 2010 and 2008 Presidential appointment papers of Regent Nelia Gonzales (Left to right. To see an enlarged image just click on the scan ):
And below are the 2010 and 2008 Presidential appointment papers of Regent Abraham Sarmiento(Left to right. To see an enlarged image just click on the scan ):

The Diliman Diary's interpretation of the 2010 "midnight" Presidential appointment papers versus the earlier 2008 Presidential appointment papers is influenced by the operational word, "Acting," which is appended to the titles of all the regents when they were appointed in 2008.

In a March 1, 2010 report, Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo said she questioned in the February 25, 2010 BOR meeting the validity of the vote taken by six regents to remove Student Regent Charisse Bañez as Student Regent, and replace the duly selected Ezxecutive Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Dr. Jose Gonzales with a replacement, Dr. Enrique Domingo.

Regent Taguiwalo said that the three regents were appointed as "Acting" regents in 2008 and that under Executive Order 292, "acting" or "temporary" regents only enjoyed a one-year term. This means that the "Acting" regents were all former regents when they voted in the February 25 BOR meeting. Since only six regents voted in that meeting and three of them had expired papers, then the results of the votation were null and void.

Other developments:

  • The U.P. System's Vice President for Legal Affairs, Atty. Theodore Te has asserted in the website of the U.P. System (http://www.up.edu.ph/features.php?i=190) that the three regents enjoyed two-year and not one-year terms starting in 2008.
  • In the February 25 BOR meeting BOR Chairman Angeles stated that the BOR should recommend to Malacanang that the three regents be given regular appointments and it was President Roman who made the motion to do so. This action would be in accordance with R.A. 9500 or the U.P Charter of 2008 which requires that the BOR make such recommendations to the President of the Philippines.
  • But the copy of Regent Abraham Sarmiento's 2008 appointment signed by President Arroyo and showed that President Arroyo signed the appointment in September 29, 2008 and, adopting President Roman's and Atty. Te's logic, should expire only this coming September 29, 2010. Thus the submission by the U.P. Administration of Sarmiento's appointment papers for a “midnight” appointment” by President Arroyo before the March 10, 2010 constitutional ban took effect shows that the U.P. Administration publicly disagreed with Faculty Regent's argument that a one-year rule on such appointments was in effect, but privately agreed with her by submitting Sarmiento's papers to the Palace for a regular appoinment, as they had already expired on September 29, 2009. This is supported by the 2010 March “midnight” appointment which stipulates that the appointment is good only until September 29, 2010. It also means that U.P. itself is admitting that Regent Sarmiento was already a former regent when he voted on February 25, 2010 to render the Student Regent a former regent as well, and to vote for Dr. Enrique Domingo as the new Executive Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), replacing Dr. Jose Gonzales.
  • Regent Francis Chua's appointment was signed by President Arroyo on January 1, 2008, which means that since U.P. already impliedly agreed with Faculty Regent Taguiwalo's one-year argument by submitting Regent Sarmiento's papers for regular appointment, then Regent Chua's term likewise expired on January 1, 2009 and he was a former regent when he voted to remove the Student Regent and Dr. Gonzales.
  • Under the one-year rule, therefore, Regent Nelia Gonzales' appointment was signed by President Arroyo on March 18, 2008 and expired on March 18, 2009 and she was also a former regent when she voted to remove the Student Regent and Dr. Gonzales. The application of the one year rule means that every single decision of the BOR, including the removal of the Student Regent, the removal of Dr. Gonzales, and the appointment of Dr. Domingo may be questioned for the period when the terms of individual regents expired; potentially tilting the balance of voting in every instance, and affecting the validity of decisions previously made by the BOR.
  • Even if we applied the two-year rule instead of the one-year rule, there still would not have been a majority vote to recommend the three regents to Malacanang because Faculty Regent Taguiwalo said that only five participated in the voting, with BOR Chairman Eduardo Angeles, President Roman and Regents Chua, Gonzales and Sarmiento participating. But of the three Malacanang regents, only Regents Sarmiento and Gonzales were eligible to vote under the two-year rule, as their appointments would not yet be deemed expired; as Regent Chua's tenure would have expired on January 1, 2010 under the two-year rule. Neither did a majority vote exist to remove the Student Regent or remove Dr. Gonzales as PGH Executive Director and replace him with Dr. Domingo, because only four out of the five regents who participated in the voting were eligible to vote.
  • Additionally, President Arroyo reappointed Regent Gonzales on March 9, 2010 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.
  • Although the March 24, 2010 BOR meeting had not yet begun as of the posting of this dispatch, the issue of the legitimacy of regents' terms of office is an issue that is likely to be extensively discussed by the sectoral regents, such as Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo, Student Regent Charisse Banez, Staff Regent Clodualdo “Buboy” Rivera, Alumni Regent Alfredo Pascual and other regents such as U.P. President Emerlinda Roman, the U.P. Legal Office and the affected regents, such as Regents Abraham Sarmiento, Nelia Gonzales and Francis Chua.
  • A possible rendering of the February 25, 2010 vote by the BOR as null and void due to the lack of a majority vote taken due to the ineligibility of certain regents to vote means that Student Regent Charisse Banez's removal as Student Regent was null and void and that Dr. Gonzales' removal and Dr. Domingo's installation (in both instances) as PGH Executive director were also null and void.
The Diliman Diary will continue to provide updates to this story as it continues to develop.

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary. He finished A.B. Comparative Literature from U.P. Diliman)

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