Sunday, March 28, 2010

U.P. PGH Crisis Deepens with resignation of Associate Dean of the U.P. College of Medicine and Planned Mass LOA of UPCM Faculty over the issue of Academic Freedom

By Chanda Shahani

The Associate Dean for Planning and Research of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM), Dr. Abundio A. Balgos, has resigned.

The resignation, which took effect last March 23, 2010 was done “in protest of the death of academic freedom and BOR tyranny. President Roman and her BOR cronies hav been downplaying d U.P. Manila PGH protests re student regent and PGH Director (Jose) Gonzales ... After my resignation as UPCM associate dean to protest the death of academic freedom and BOR tyranny, 50 more UPCM faculty are sumbitting mass leave of absence on Monday (March 29, 2010) during the PGH flag ceremony protest rally to b joined by fac(ulty), students and all U.P. Workers Union,” Dr. Balgos said in a message posted in the website, U.P. Issues (

The UPCM Faculty are protesting the decision by the U.P. Board of Regents (BOR) to disregard their academic freedom as faculty which they formally expressed in a resolution of the College Council last March 2, 2010. In that resolution they said that the appointment of Dr. Jose C. Gonzales as Director of the Philippine General Hospital from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012 should be respected by the very same BOR that selected him on December 18, 2009 and then removed him on February 25, 2010.

The Diliman Diary has extensively covered the intricate politics and the background behind the arbitrary removal of Dr. Gonzales by the BOR (please see Diliman Diary, March 22, 2010 ( The issue at hand that is being strongly emphasized by the UPCM Faculty, however is that the BOR, which is currently dominated by allies of U.P. President Emerlinda Roman should respect the academic freedom of the majority of the UPCM Faculty to determine that Dr. Gonzales, who is regarded as being more senior and experienced than his replacement, Dr. Enrique Domingo, complete his term of office.

Is President Roman contradicting President Roman?

For President Roman, the essential contradiction is that by tolerating the use of legal manuevers by U.P.'s legal department to justify the removal of Dr. Gonzales by the BOR, she is essentially riding roughshod over the UPCM faculty's much-cherished academic freedom to employ its collective judgement and expertise in determining that Dr. Gonzales should serve out his full term as PGH Director because of his performance and qualifications.

The resignation of Dr. Balgos as Associate Dean, and the planned mass leave of absence by such a large number of UPCM Faculty is seen by observers as a combined vote of confidence for Dr. Gonzales, and a vote of no-confidence in the BOR's decision to replace Dr. Gonzales with Dr. Domingo.

President Roman has said in the past that the BOR should not get involved in matters involving the academic freedom and expertise of a particular subset of faculty belonging to a particular discipline. For example, in a December 18, 2009 letter she wrote to U.P. Diliman Sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo denying her appeal to overturn the decision of U.P. Diliman Chancellor Sergio Cao denying her tenure, Roman said that:

“Our tradition in the university of upholding and maintaining sacrosanct departmental autonomy do not allow us – rightly – to make a decision simply on the basis of the number of people supporting a particular proposition.”

“Upholding the autonomy of the Department of Sociology in its determination that Professor Raymundo should not be granted tenure is vital to maintaining the institutional autonomy guaranted under the U.P. Charter. This is also what the Department and the CEB (College Executive Board) have been insisting throughout the entire process."

"The implication of asking the President and the Board of Regents, at every turn, to substitute their judgement for that of members of the faculty of a department, unit, college or university is fraught with danger as it may transform a purely academic function into a political exercise.”  (

Other points in the UPCM College Council resolution

Other points in the UPCM College Council resolution commenting further about Dr. Gonzales said that:

  • He had already taken his oath of office as Director of Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines Manila before the BOR Chair on December 21, 2009 and before the UP Manila Chancellor on January 7, 2010;
  • Served as PGH director and has performed responsibly since January 4, 2010 with honor , integrity and transparency;
  • Under Civil Service Laws, Dr. Jose Gonzales can only be removed as PGH Director for due cause;
  • His removal as PGH Director is unjust and arbitrary, he should therefore continue to perform his duties and functions as Director of PGH.
The Final Reality in the PGH case: the U.P. BOR also enjoys its own Academic Freedom

But no matter how vocal protests become against the decision to remove Dr. Gonzales, the Diliman Diary has concluded that the U.P. System still holds one trump card over the UPCM Faculty - the U.P. System's institutional academic freedom outweighs Dr. Gonzales' legal complaint against being unjustly removed - or at least that's how the courts see it.

The Diliman Diary's legal consultant, Atty. Noel C. Ducusin has analyzed the issue of how academic freedom always benefits the institution over the individual litigant in a court of law, no matter what the circumstances are. This means that a case in courts regarding Dr. Gonzales' tenure may have difficulty in succeeding if the U.P. Administration invokes its institutional academic freedom. In court cases, judges routinely defer to the U.P. Board of Regents' presumed expertise in academic matters. The U.S. case of the Garcia v. Faculty Admissions Committee which has been extensively referred to in Philippine jurisprudence, summarizes this reflexive bias in this manner:

"There is, as previously noted, the recognition in the Constitution of institutions of higher learning enjoying academic freedom ...  Justice Frankfurter, with his extensive background in legal education as a former Professor of the Harvard Law school, referred to what he called the business of a university and the four essential freedoms in the following language: "It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation, experiment and creation. It is an atmosphere in which there prevail "the four essential freedoms" of a university - to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study." (Garcia v. Faculty Admissions Committee, 68 SCRA 277, G.R. No. L-407779, November 28, 1975).

The irony here is that because it is Dr. Gonzales who has filed an individual suit - and not the majority of UPCM faculty who have filed a class action suit - then the U.P. BOR has the luxury of preempting the UPCM's academic freedom argument by invoking its own institutional academic freedom in its defense against charges of unjust treatment of Dr. Gonzales. The U.P. Administration can easily say that it has the necessary expertise to determine who may teach , assuming for the sake of discussion that PGH is not just a hospital but is also a learning environment for UPCM students and that the court should defer to its institutional expertise on the matter. Based on Attorney Ducusin's extensive study of Philippine jurisprudence, the courts will, in all probability, defer to the academic institution's arguments.

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