Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Diminishing Public Character of the University of the Philippines: Some Thoughts of an Alumna of Class 1970 on U.P. as the National University

(The Oblation at U.P. Philippine General Hospital
Photo by: Dr. Iggy Agbayani)

By Judy M. Taquiwalo
Faculty Regent
University of the Philippines

(Editor's note: The following article was originally rendered by Regent Taguiwalo in a Presentation to the UP Alumni Association 2010 UP Alumni Council Meeting June 25, 2010, Bahay Alumni, UP, Diliman, Quezon City and is uploaded here with her permission).

I belong to UP Class 1970 which is commemorating its 40th jubilee this year. I would like to share with you the wonderful news that I received my senior citizen card last February and am now looking forward to enjoying the full 12% VAT exemption starting July 6 when the expanded VAT law is implemented.

I would like to thank the UP Alumni Association for giving me this opportunity to look back to the time when we were young and strong and having senior moments was the farthest thing on our mind. .

What were some of the images and sounds of my undergrad days in UP Diliman The Catholic Chapel and UPSCA, the first organization I joined during my freshman year in Diliman; miniskirts and colored net stockings for the women, the shirt jack and pencil pants for men, British pop songs and pop groups with the Beatles leading the pack, Neil Armstrong announcing from the moon “ one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”, the national euphoria over Gloria Diaz selection as the first Filipina to be crowned Miss Universe, the earthquake which turned to ruins the Ruby Tower in Manila.

But there was uniqueness not only in the culture but also in the politics and mood of those times. There was massive disenchantment with the capitalist model of development which had put the market as the key to development and a premium on material goods and individualism. This disenchantment would partly account for the upsurge of social movements whose content and global magnitude was staggering: the anti Vietnam War movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement and the student rights movement in universities worldwide.

In the University of the Philippines, a strong nationalist movement emerged. The Philippine Collegian with Miriam Defensor (now Santiago) the first woman editor of the paper, carried the expose of then Sen. Lorenzo Tanada on the Americanization of the university under President Carlos P. Romulo citing among others the differences in salary and housing between American visiting professors and Filipino UP faculty. The Collegian was also instrumental in exposing the collaboration between UP Los Banos and Dow Chemicals in experimenting with napalm which was used by the United States in the Vietnam war.

A strong democratization movement in the university also emerged in 1969 during the start of the term of Salvador P. Lopez as UP President. A general strike on February 4, 1969 , launched by the broadest alliance of all student organizations on campus led by the UP Student Council and the Council of Leaders and supported by a number of prominent members of the faculty, was successful in asserting major democratic demands. These included the recognition of all student organizations on campus and making faculty advisers as optional not a requirement, student management and control of funds of the Student Council and the Philippine Collegian; transparency in the financial transactions of the university and opening of the university’s books of accounts to the public, tenure for faculty and non-academic personnel, additional medical insurance for the UP constituents, the removal of several key UP officials including then University Secretary Iluminada Panlilio, offices for student organizations; among others. . According to the Philippine Collegian in its February 6, 1969 issue, President Lopez critiqued the colonial character of the Board of Regents and suggested that the Board should be primarily composed of faculty and students, instead of businessmen. ‘

These movements inside the University and the succeeding First Quarter Storm 1970 , the UP Diliman Commune in 1971 and martial law in 1972 would transform many in my generation of UP students , to reject a life of individualism and consumerism, for a life, in the midst of the masses of our people, of resistance to tyranny and foreign domination Many of my UP contemporaries would suffer torture and imprisonment while still others would die in various fighting fronts in our country during the long harsh night of the Marcos dictatorship.

Members of my UP generation were not the first, nor the last from the University who aspired to live up to the ideals of the University as social critic and the ideal of service to the nation as symbolized by the Oblation.

This brief history and context and my emphasis on UP as social critic and in the service of the nation frame my views on UP as the National University.

Through the years the University of the Philippines has been widely recognized as the country’s “premier state university” which highlighted the public character of the university and its high academic standards

With the passage of a new UP Charter in 2008 , the university has abandoned its description as the country’s premier state university and is now officially known as the national university. Removing the description “premier state university” and replacing it with national university, according to University officials, aims to highlight UP’s national presence, the breadth and scope of its academic offerings and to assert that UP is the best not only among state universities but among all higher education institutions of the country. On the other hand, the term national university and the loss of the designation of UP as a state university in the name actually calls attention to the diminishing public character of UP, a process which has accelerated in the past decade.

Some of the manifestations of the diminishing public character of the University are the transfer to the students of a larger part of the cost of their education through increased tuition and the imposition of various fees such as higher and/or new laboratory fees , joint ventures with big business, the selling of naming rights, the privatization of former university services such as the University Food Service and the UP Printery, contracting a private entity to set up laboratory, pharmacy and radiology inside the PGH compound in exchange for providing space to UP doctors for their private practice, the private management of university dorms are only some examples of the accelerating and diversified ways of privatization of the University of the Philippines.

(No to commecialization parking sign
at Yakal Residence Hall, U.P. Diliman
Photo by: Chanda Shahani)

You may ask, what’s wrong with these if they generate badly-need resources for UP? Let me share with you some of my thoughts on the negative impact of the ongoing process which is eroding the public character of UP as a state university.

1. Transferring more and more the burdens of resource generation to the students is going to change the profile of the student population of the university. It was already difficult during my time, when tuition was a low P185 per semester for a family like mine whose father was a school principal earning P300 per month to cope with the cost of education, it is so much more difficult at present for children of the middle class and the lower income class to enter UP with an average tuition of P1,000 per unit. The 2006 reformulated socialized tuition scheme projected only about 10% of new UP students would be covered by the free tuition with allowance. Some of my colleagues foresee the day when UP would be like Ateneo with majority of the students coming from higher income families and a minority of poor with scholarships.

2. The corporatization of the university structure and governance.

a. Already Section 24, “Management of Funds” of the UP Charter, designates representatives of big business as investment advisers to the university through the creation of a so-called “independent trust committee” composed of the UP President and representative each from the Bankers Association of the Philippines, the Investment Houses Association of the Philippines, the Trust Officers Association of the Philippines and the Financial Executive Institute of the Philippines. This independent trust committee, a new structure in the university, “shall provide the Board with direction on appropriate investment objectives and permissible investments with the view to preserving the value of the funds while allowing the University to earn a reasonable return thereon. The Charter has now institutionalized the University going into business as an important mission.
b. The criteria for the selection of the college Deans, the primary academic leaders of the various degree-granting units, now also place high emphasis on the “resource generating” capability of the nominees.
c. An increase in the number of Vice Presidents and Assistant Vice Presidents as well as Executive Assistants in the UP System administration has also been noted. A case in point is the transformation of the title of the UP General Counsel into the Vice President for Legal Affairs indicating perhaps the expanded role of the legal office not only in academic and disciplinal questions but in the matters of contracts and agreements with business entities.

3. The increase in the number of contractual workers of the university as non-academic but vital services necessary for running the university are being privatized. Contractual workers have no job security, limited benefits and in most cases are “discouraged” from forming or joining unions.
4. The trend towards developing greater dependence on the private sector, particularly big business and foreign corporations, in generating funds, rather than in more vigorous engagement with the state. The danger of this trend is the question of accountability: the private sector is basically accountable to its investors; the state is accountable to the public and individuals could be removed via elections.

For a number of us in the university, the most dangerous impact of the diminishing public character of the university is the erosion of the ideological mooring of service to the country and to the people among the students and among the faculty with the prominence being given to market rates as the standard for tuition and for salaries. Already, some quarters in the university have adopted “Iskolar para sa bayan” rather than Iskolar ng Bayan, a term which emerged during the height of martial law and which captures the fact that UP students are subsidized by the public and have an obligation to serve the people. This is not true for the term “iskolar para sa bayan” which can encompass Ateneo’s description of “person for others”

The salary of the UP faculty is constantly compared to the salary of Ateneo and La Salle professors, to emphasize the comparatively lower pay of the latter and/or to explain the resignation of a number of UP faculty. The emphasis on economic standards alone will never be sufficient to retain professors in the university as private corporations, big private universities charging astronomic tuition and transnational corporations will always have the capacity to pay more than UP.

Improvement of salary and benefits for UP faculty and personnel are of course necessary but not at the expense of the students and the erosion of the public character of the university that distinguishes it from Ateneo or La Salle. I have talked to retired UP professors who spent the best parts of their lives in the University and heard them recount why they were happy in the university and why they stayed. It was never about the money but of the joy of teaching bright students in an atmosphere of academic freedom and collegiality in a secular university with the highest stature in the country, Housing on campus, study privilege for children and the privilege to enjoy the acacia and the fire trees along the academic oval and were additional and important incentives.

It is difficult but not impossible to demand from the state higher subsidy to the University. The passage of the third Salary Standardization Law last 2009, which would bring about annual increases in salaries of government personnel in government agencies, was a product of intense and consistent lobbying by public sector workers including the university’s workers unions.

Tomorrow, June 26, is the 4th year of the abduction and disappearance of two UP students, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, two of the more than 100 victims of enforced disappearances during the Arroyo administration.

Let me therefore end by sharing an excerpt from the statement “Soul Searching, A Statement for the July 20, 2006 Activity for the Missing Students”

It is now easier to take stock of the conditions that shape a university’s soul. Unlike other institutions that are primarily driven by the inertia of capital and power, a university ideally enjoys relative isolation from these imperatives to allow it to fulfill its important
role as a social critic and repository of social memory. This historic role has been played by UP time and time again. Generations of UP students and faculty have lived these ideals of speaking the truth against power whether it be against foreign domination, corruption or tyranny. Many of the activists, nationalists, and intellectuals that help chart the destiny of this nation towards more democratic ideals came from the university. In an apt symbolism represented by the Oblation, countless have martyred themselves offering their lives for the ideal that the university stands – the courage to speak the truth when no one dares to, and to sacrifice one’s life for such convictions. It is the capacity of the university to witness for the truth that gains for it a soul. Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan are embodiments of this core of university traditions.”

In sum, the challenge to UP as the national university is to retain its soul by arresting the ongoing processes which are diminishing the public character of the university, by arresting the drift of UP Naming Mahal turning into UP Na Naging Mahal and to continue to call on its constituents that “UP ang galing mo, ialay sa bayan.

Post script: I have been requested prior to my presentation this morning to suggest concrete ways by which the UP Alumni Association can assist the university. I have two proposals which would contribute to help arrest the diminishing public character of the university:

1. For UPAA to assist the University in lobbying for a higher 2011 budget. The Administration is proposing an P18 billion budget. At the minimum, the 2011 budget should be higher than the 2010 UP budget.
2. For UPAA to assist the University in filing and lobbying for a bill that would earmark to UP a percentage of current revenues generated from corporate taxes on top of the regular budget allocation.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Interlocking Directorates between the University of the Philippines and U.P.-based foundations present a compelling case of for intensifying and further scrutinizing financial audits of these foundations, says COA. The Diliman Diary digs further into the details and shows why.

(To see the complete Amended By-laws of the
U.P. Foundation, please click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/28zcvyc)

By Chanda Shahani

Conflicting interests between U.P.-based foundations and the University of the Philippines (U.P.) may be costing the Filipino taxpayer lots of money, the Commission on Audit (COA) said in is 2008 Consolidated Audited Annual Report posted on its website: (http://www.coa.gov.ph/Audit/AAR.htm).

COA said the absence of a policy regarding UP affiliated foundations raised doubt on funds accountability over an estimated P55 million and $95,968.32 received by these foundations from 2003 to 2007 in behalf of the University. COA said these funds were not fully disclosed or reported to the University or covered by contract or agreement given that members and officers of the foundations are at the same time incumbent faculty members and officers of the University.

COA, mincing no words, described the relationship between the foundations and U.P. as an “undue advantage” that defeats a fundamental principle of accounting and control which is that too much power cannot be concentrated in the hands of one set of individuals without independent oversight by an independent body. COA has been asking the U.P. Administration for several years to see the financial records of these foundations, but no records have been released as per the 2008 CAAR. COA's Supervising Auditor for the U.P. System, Sofia Gemora, told the Diliman Diary that it will release the 2009 CAAR in June of this year and upload this onto COA's website.

The COA report may just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Diliman Diary took the 2008 CAAR's findings and screened them against a convenience sample of two prominent foundations in U.P. Diliman, the U.P. Foundation and the U.P. Business Research Foundation, in order to see if they met criteria of financial relevance and magnitude, which we arbitrarily set at a minimum PhP 1 million in unaudited funds raised, and if which met, would compel us prod COA to put these foundation's activities under even greater scrutiny, in the name of the public interest.

The Diliman Diary has found that the U.P. Foundation and the U.P. Business Research Foundation have high-ranking university officials as its officers, and that said University-based foundations are accepting large amounts of monies and revenues from external sources; without yet immediately allowing financial accountability or oversight from COA.

The U.P. Foundation's Chairman and President is the U.P. President, according to its Amended By-laws obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission, (the first page of which is embedded above, while the remainder is embedded in this link: http://tinyurl.com/28zcvyc) while its Director is U.P. Diliman College of Business Administration (CBA) Professor Gerardo B. Agulto according to U.P.'s own website (http://www.upd.edu.ph/officials.htm). The U.P. Business Research Foundation's Executive Vice-President and Trustee is CBA Dean Erlinda S. Echanis, according to the CBA's own website at: http://www.upd.edu.ph/~cba/admin_BRF.htm.

The only exceptions to the general rule of U.P.'s lack of transparency have been the release of documents relative to U.P. Diliman's National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) and the School of Labor and Industrial Relations; projects with private foundations which enjoyed multilateral agency funding which resulted in the release of the financial documents to COA (Please see Diliman Diary, December 12, 2009 at this link: http://diliman-diary.blogspot.com/2009/12/2008-coa-report-opens-maze-of-questions.html). Otherwise, COA has been left in the dark about the activities of other foundations operating with impunity within the U.P. System.

From the above facts, it appears that the University of the Philippines Foundation, Inc. (UPFI) enjoys a relationship with the University of the Philippines System which is “as close as lips and teeth,” to paraphrase Mao Zedong who once famously described China's close relationship with North Korea.

Such a relationship may lead to a potential conflict of interest and potentially compromises the financial interests of the State because the officers of the U.P. Foundation are also high-ranking officials of the U.P. System; which may give them undue advantage in utilizing the resources of the University to generate revenues without having to account for them, under the current system, as the U.P. Foundation currently does not subject its books of accounts and other financial statements to oversight or audit by COA.

The Amended By-laws of the U.P. Foundation state in Article VI that “The President of the University of the Philippines System shall be the Chairman and President” of the U.P. Foundation. Section 5.02 of the Articles and By-laws of the U.P. Foundation state that the U.P. System President, the Chancellors of its four autonomous units and three members of the Board of Regents shall sit on the Board of Trustees. Additionally, its current Executive Director, Gerardo A. Agulto, Jr., is a professor of the U.P. Diliman College of Business Administration. Other previous directors of the U.P. Foundation have also been drawn from the faculty of the CBA.

COA's 2007 CAAR says that it submitted guidelines to accredit U.P.- affiliated foundations last April 23, 2008; and added that for existing agreements with U.P. affiliated foundations, U.P. did not clearly delineate its respective relationship and functions with various foundations related to financial and operational arrangements particularly on collection of fees for various seminars, training, research and other activities.

Both the 2008 and 2007 CAARs are effectively seeking explicit provisions on all MOAs between U.P. affiliated foundations (both existing and incoming) and U.P.; saying that such MOAs would explicitly address the issues of how the proceeds of the training programs being conducted by the U.P. affiliated foundations will be shared and accounted for; formalizing the arrangements with the foundations defining the functions and responsibilities of both parties, including how to account for the fees and charges being collected from reviewees.

U.P. President Emerlinda R. Roman has established a committee to issue guidelines on the accreditation of foundations under Memorandum No. PERR 05-20, which is purposely created to specify policies governing the arrangement with foundation partners; however the lack of action of action and follow-up for the past two years on the part of the Office of President Roman and the U.P. Legal Office in preparing new MOAs (where none existed before) or amending existing MOAs for signature between the U.P. and U.P. affiliated foundations is now being criticized by the COA.

The lack of progress in signing the MOA up to now is especially troubling because President Roman, under the amended By-laws of the U.P. Foundation is concurrently Chairman and the President of the U.P. Foundation and she therefore has the power to fast track the signing of such MOAs.

Any significant delay in having these MOAs signed will effectively prevent any financial records being subjected to immediate COA scrutiny, especially for the duration of the remainder of President Roman's term, which ends in February 2011, inviting criticisms from independent observers, including COA.


The Diliman Diary attempted to get the side of the U.P. Administration before its original deadline for this story (June 2, 2010), and had a letter received on May 27, 2010 by the Office of the Vice-President for Public Affairs (Please see the letter embedded above) while making several telephone calls to follow this up; only to be told that they had referred the matter to the Office of the Vice-President for Legal Affairs. “We will get back to you in writing,” a lawyer from the Office of Legal Affairs told us. Asked if the response would come before the June 2, 2010 original deadline, the lawyer repeated that, “We will get back to you in writing.” The Diliman Diary left behind phone numbers (land line and cell phone) and an email and a physical address. To date, more than two weeks after the orignal deadline, there has been no response on the issue of the apparent delays in the signing of the MOAs from the U.P. Administration.

By way of an experiment which began as early as 2004, this writer and fellow Diliman Diary writer (print edition), Loujean S. Gemanil, both U.P. alumni, donated PhP 100.00 each to the U.P. Foundation (Please refer to the attached receips embedded above). In response, U.P. Foundation's Executive Director, Professor Gerardo A. Agulto, Jr. sent this writer and Ms. Gemanil letters dated February 12, 2004 acknowledging the receipt thereof of our donations of PhP 100.00 each. 

A donation of at least PhP 100.00 apparently meant that U.P. Foundation allocated this to the publication of the U.P. Carillon Newsletter with the letter adding, “Please accept our sincere appreciation for your support to the University and the individual beneficiary (ies) involved (for whom we also write this acknowledgement).”

Sometime later the next year or in 2005, Ms. Gemanil and this writer received one 2004 Annual Report of the U.P. Foundation. The annual report also contained one loose leaf xerox copy (xerox front and back) containing the U.P. Foundation's Statement of Changes in General Fund Balance for the Nine Months Ended December 31, 2004 and the other side contained the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and General Fund Balance as of December 31, 2004 (Please refer to the embedded scan above).

A closer examination, in fact, of the Statement of Changes in General Fund Balance for April 1, 2004 to December 31, 2004 with Comparative Year ending March 31, 2004 figures shows no reference to the Carillon Newsletter; although it may be inferred that this is tucked included under the category, Financial Assistance to the U.P. System.


Page 29 of Annex D of the 2004 report, moreover, contains the audited financial statements of the U.P. Foundation as of March 31, 2004 and 2003 respectively. Taking a closer look at the Statement of Changes (Please see he embedded scan above), we can see that in 2003 Financial Assistance to the U.P. System was PhP 49,491.00 in 2003 and PhP 61,322 in 2004.

The very small amounts of assistance to the U.P. System do not square well with Article 10 of the U.P. Foundation's Amended Articles of Incorporation (to see the complete Amended Articles of Incorporation of UPFI, please click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/24qzh7a) which state that:
“at least sixty (60) percent of its gross income as defined in the Internal Revenue Code and unrestricted donations ... shall be devoted to undertaking, directly financing or assisting pure, fundamental or applied research, development work and/or economic evaluation and/or granting scholarships for scientific and technological manpower training, including the establishment of professorial chairs.”

Following this stipulation in the U.P. Foundation's own Amended Articles of Incorporation, then in 2004, the U.P. Foundation should have remitted 60% of PhP 5,558,829 to the U.P. System, which represents the the gross income of the fund for 2004 or the amount of PhP 3,335,297.4 instead of a mere PhP 61,322.00 representing a mere 1% remittance to U.P. which is to the gross financial disadvantage to U.P.

Following the traditions of crusading journalism pioneered by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pultizer in the 1800s, the Diliman Diary has found it appropriate to send a very detailed memo on December 18, 2009 to COA (utilizing the same basic information contained in this article), urging them to put the U.P. Foundation and the U.P. Business Research Foundation under the auditing microscope in time for the release of the 2009 CAAR sometime in June 2010.

The Diliman Diary informed COA that Article 10 of the U.P. Foundation's Amended Articles of Incorporation also state that “no more than thirty (30) percent of the gross income and not more than ten (10) percent of unrestricted donations to the Foundation shall be devoted to general and administrative expenses.” The audited financial statements of the U.P. Foundation as of March 31, 2004 shows in the statement of changes that the total deductions from the fund which would fit the definition of general and administrative (G&A) expenses (excluding Financial Assistance to the U.P. System) is PhP 3,311,313.00 and represents fifty-nine (59) percent of the U.P. Foundation's gross income in 2004. This percentage of gross revenue is way too high and violates the U.P. Foundation's own stipulations on putting a percentage of revenue cap on general and administrative expenses. This excess of corporate fat in the U.P. Foundation is of gross disadvantage to U.P. itself because the very high G&A expenses eats away and into the gross income amount that should be remitted to U.P. 

On a related note, page 2 of the President's message in the U.P. Foundation's 2004 Annual report , by then U.P. President Francisco Nemenzo states that “there was a moderate improvement in interest rates in 2004 as compared to 2003. The Foundation earned an after-tax 8.2% return on investment. Interest income increased to PhP 28.2 million, PhP 2.7 million greater than the earnings in the previous year. The Foundation's funds and those held in trust were invested for the most part in government securities, in accordance with established investment policies that put priority in safety over high returns.” 

“The Foundation's financial assistance to the University climbed to PhP 27.2 million, 25% higher than the 2003 level.”

Nemenzo's statement that the U.P. Foundation's financial assistance to U.P. climbed to PhP 27.2 million in 2004 is also not supported by the financial statements. However, Nemenzo, an avowed Marxist and professor of political science, could hardly be expected to countercheck accounting-related documents that would form the basis of his official message.

The only part that the Diliman Diary has been able to independently verify is President Nemenzo's statement that interest rates improved in 2004 to 7.34% for its 91-day T-bill rate compared to 6.03% for the previous year, as borne out by published data on interest rates during that period from the Bureau of Treasury (http://www.treasury.gov.ph/statdata/yearly/yr_gsyieldrates.pdf).

However, questions are nevertheless raised by the interest rates increase: What kind of T-Bills and corresponding interest rates, tenors and maturity dates matured in 2004? in 2003? In other words, what was the basis for the increase in income claimed by Nemenzo, who was not only U.P. President, but also Chairman and President of the U.P. Foundation as of March 31, 2004? Was the improvement in performance due to decisions made in 2003 or in previous years, given the fact that the maturity dates and periods of government securities can range from 91 days to 25 years? What about the breakdown of the investment decisions made in 2003? Were they favourable to U.P., and therefore, the government?

Only an audit by an independent authority can verify the accuracy of official reports and documents given by the U.P. Foundation to its donors; even as it uses the official name of the university to carry on with its business.

Article eight of the Amended Articles of Incorporation of the U.P. Foundation states that, “the Foundation shall have no capital stock and no part of its net earnings or income shall inure to the benefit of any individual, contributor or member.” But we cannot verify if this is what occurred as the only financial records on file of the U.P. Foundation are its 2003 and 2004 financial statements. A check with the records department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shows that the U.P. Foundation has no financial records available for the years 2005 to 2007, which is in violation of SEC regulations and ties COA's hands from auditing the U.P. Foundation. 
A check into the past archived websites of the U.P. System, such as: http://web.archive.org/web/20050708035001/http://www.up.edu.ph/
which is an intenet archived website of the U.P. Sysem as of April 5, 2008 shows that the front page of the U.P. website, which is owned by the government and therefore subject to oversight by COA, was openly marketing and promoting donations to the U.P. Modernization Fund Campaign, (administered by the U.P. Foundation as admitted to by President Nemenzo in Annex D, page 2 of the 2004 annual report of the U.P. Foundation).

In fact a download of the link to the U.P. Modernization Fund openly states that interested donors can directly contribute to the U.P. Modernization Fund Campaign by making a check payable to the U.P. Foundation, Inc. payable in Philippine pesos or United States dollars.

The download also reveals the existence of a foundation in the U.S.A. named “Friends of the U.P. Foundation,” which encourages U.S. based donors to make tax-deductible donations to the Friends of the U.P. Foundation, the donations which would fall under COA oversight if they continue to collect funds in the name of the University. The downloaded document, entitled U.P Modernization Fund Campaign states that “donations for an endowement will be held in perpetuity, and onlyinterest income will be used to support the purpose for which the donation was given ... The U.P. Foundation, Inc. is a non-stock, non-profit organization established to assist U.P. in generating financial support. The Foundation is responsible for the fiscal management of the U.P. Modernization Fund.”

If the U.P. Foundation was not generating large amounts of revenues by utilizing the assets and prestige of the U.P. System, and therefore of the State, then it might be possible to overlook its lack of financial accountability to COA, under the principle that the amounts involved lacked sufficient magnitude, and were not important enough to warrant a journalistic investigation, not to mention a full-blown audit by COA.

Large amounts of United States dollars may in fact have been raised by U.P. President Emerlinda R. Roman, as claimed by the Friends of the University of the Philippines Foundation in America, Inc. (FUPFA) on its own website at:
when she visited the United States and other countries.The website estimates that:
  • Almost $ 200,000.00 was raised by President Roman in 2005 during a trip to the U.S.
  • More than $ 250,000.00 was raised by President Roman in 2006 during a trip to the U.S.
  • More than $ 320,000.00 was raised by President Roman during a trip to the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong

In 2007, the website said President Roman was appointed as chairperson of FUPFA's Board of Trustees, along with a new set of officers, thus making COA ovesight over FUPFA transactions via a MOA with U.P. necessary, in view of the large amounts of money involved that were raised for and on behalf of the University.

COA has said as much. In its 2008 CAAR, COA has taken the stand that it needs to be involved in monitoring (through a series of MOAs with the University) of the revenues and expenditures of university-affiliated foundations. COA is justifying this stand by citing Section 42 1 (B) Book V (B) of the 1987 Administrative Code which provides that “except as may otherwise be specifically provided by law or competent authority, all money and property officially received by a public officer in any capacity or upon any occasion must be accounted for as government fund and government property. Government property shall be taken up in the books of the agency concerned at acquisition cost or at appraised value.”

COA has also cited Section 122 of GAAM Vol. I, in its 2008 CAAR which states that “Receipts from non-tax sources authorized by law for specific purposes, which are collected/ received by a government office or agency acting as trustee, agent guaranty for the fulfillment of an obligation, and all other collections classified by law or regulations as trust receipts shall be treated as a trust liability of the agency concerned...”

COA personnel interviewed by the Diliman Diary said an independent oversight by an independent body cannot be done by any other entity other than COA itself, because the 1987 Constitution states in Article IX D Section 2(1) that:

“The Commission on Audit shall have the power, authority, and duty to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned or held in trust by, or pertaining to, the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters, and on a post-audit basis: (a) constitutional bodies, commissions and offices that have been granted fiscal autonomy under this Constitution; (b) autonomous state colleges and universities; (c) other government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries; and (d) such non-governmental entities receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly, from or through the Government, which are required by law.”

The case of the U.P. Business Research Foundation (UPBF) is quite similar to that of the U.P. Foundation. It is a university-affiliated foundation that openly advertises its activities on the state-owned University of the Philippines College of Business Administration (CBA) website which is a subdomain of the U.P. System website at: http://www.upd.edu.ph/~cba/admin_BRF.htm. According to the website:

“The UPPBRF is responsible for the establishment of Professorial Chairs. Professorial chairs and faculty grants help advance education and their teaching and research endeavours. A chair may be established with an endowment fund to be managed by the Foundation. The income from the fund shall provide financial support to a deserving faculty member of the U.P. College of Business Administration. Professorial Chairs may be named in honor of illustrious alumni or prominent representatives of private business and public management sectors. The chairs may also carry the name of the company sponsor.”

“In line with the centennial year celebration of the University of the Philippines, Centennial Professorial Chairs have been established. A Centennial Professorial Chair is immediately established with a single donation of at least P1,500,000.”

According to the website, UPBRF established 37 Centennial professorial Chairs. At a value of at least PhP 1,500,000 per Centennial Professorial Chair, the amounts generated amount to at least PhP 55,500,000.00.

The website also makes reference to Professorial Chairs established by the U.P. Foundation, Inc., for UPBRF but makes no clear reference to the amounts given by the U.P. Foundation, Inc. or how they are spent.

The following links on the CBA website indicate that several individuals simultaneously hold ranking positions within UPBRF as well as the U.P. College of Business Administration. (Please click on the following links:  http://www.upd.edu.ph/~cba/admin_BRF.htm and http://www.upd.edu.ph/~cba/faculty.htm and http://www.upd.edu.ph/~cba/admin_AS.htm). The Diliman Diary invites its own readers to make their own inferences and draw their own conclusions on this publicly posted data.

Additionally the 2008 audited financial statements submitted by the UPBRF to the SEC (please see http://tinyurl.com/38h97w8) which was submited to the SEC on April 12, 2009 also supports a pattern of parallel management by and between UPBRF and CBA or what lawyers like to call, "interlocking directorates."

It would thus be appropriate to state that there is a strong relationship between the CBA and the UPBRF and that many of the CBA's key officials are also key officials of the UPBRF, thus necessitating the implementation of the signing of a MOA between the UPBRF and the UPCBA which should also result in the necessary financial statements being examined by COA.

The Statement of Revenues and Expenses for the Years 2008 and 2007 (Ended December 31) of the 2008 audited financial statements submitted to SEC by UPBRF show that gross revenues were PhP 29,653,235.00 in 2007 and PhP 41,217,408.00 in 2008. In 2008; we can see in the Notes to Financial Statements that donations and grants totalled PhP 25,142,713.00 This does not seemingly square well with the minimum estimated cumulative donations in 2008 (the Centennial year of U.P.) amounting to PhP 55,500,000.00) stated in the CBA's own website.

One rational explanation for this could be properly explained by Page 3, Notes to Financial Statements, of the 2008 audited financial statements submitted to SEC by UPBRF which states that the UPBRF's external auditors (Diaz, Murillo Dalupan and Company) recognize revenue – in three different modes:

1)  a) Upon receipt (for donations and grants), rather than when earned;
     b) Related program expenses are recognized when the obligations are incurred;

2) Rent income is ecognized using the accrual method based on existing lease agreements;

3) Interest income is reconized on a time proportion basis, net of applicable final tax.

Thus, one valid explanation for the discrepancy between Note 10, Page 10 of Notes to Financial Statements which states that donations and grants totalled PhP 25,142,713.00 in 2008 as contrasted with the minimum estimated cumulative donations in 2008 (the Centennial year of U.P.) amounting to PhP 55,500,000.00) as implied in the CBA's own website could simply be that many donors gave pledges with varying due dates or even post-dated checks for Centennial Professorial Chairs (PhP 1.5 million per chair) and that revenue was simply recognized as the funds were collected and deposited over a period of time.

But this is nevertheless still speculative, and depends entirely on a presumption of regularity. The reality is that the ordinary taxpayer and other concerned parties will never know what proportion or percentage of the estimated PhP 55,5000.00 million received for the Centennial Professorial Chairs was received in 2008 unless COA itself intervenes and can see the schedules of payments with respect to donations and grants for the Centennial Professorial Chairs and check whether the entries on the books are recorded in the same accounting period as the donor checks are dated and deposits made.

Additionally, another limitation of the method is that while related program expenses are recognized when the obligations are incurred rather than when they are disbursed; we have no way of knowing whether these expenses were immediately settled within the subject year or these payables were “stretched” into the next year resulting in potentially higher cash reserves available to UPBRF within that subject year. For example, the item “Service and Awards” in the Statements of Revenues and Expenses for 2008 reached PhP 349,515.00. What were these expenditures for? Or why should “Miscellanous” reach a staggering PhP 986,919.00 in 2008? Were these used to buy paper clips? Snacks? A cup of coffee or two? For all we know, these may be entirely legitimate expenses; but we will never know this unless we can see the details because the limitations faced by the auditing firm, Diaz, Murillo, Dalupan and Company is that they can only give an on opinion of these financial statements based on an audit with the assumption that management is giving an accurate and fair representation of these financial statements and that necessary internal controls were implemented.

Thus the U.P. Foundation it appears from the above mentioned facts very much an alter-ego and fund-raising extension of the U.P. System and thus subject to COA audit because such is admitted to in its own Articles of Incorporation and By-laws as well as its extensive use of the U.P. System's personnel, assets, resources and good name to generate funds.

Similarly, the U.P. Business Research Foundation appears to be very much a legal and fund-raising extension arm of the U.P. College of Business Administration, and thus subject to COA audit because such is admitted to in its own website and is also admitted to in the UPBRF's 2008 audited financial statements submitted to SEC on April 12, 2009 where the Statement of Management Responsility for Financial Statements was signed by CBA officials who were also acting as UPBRF's officials as well .

Section 5.02 of the UPBRF's Articles of Incorporation (to see the entire document, please click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/23gldn6) stipulates that the Dean of CBA automatically and always assumes a place on UPBRF's Board of Trustees. Additionally, Article VI designates the power of the Executive Director as having “the general charge of the ordinary and usual business operations of the Foundation.” As of April, 2009 the Executive Director was none other than CBA Professor Rafael A. Rodriguez, and as of the time of this writing, it is CBA Professor Gerardo B. Agulto.

COA's Supervising Auditor for the U.P. System, Sofia Gemora said it is without any doubt whatsoever that UPBRF should be held to account for its financial transactions by COA and even the evidence of research and output by professors for professorial chairs that are awarded; as the UPBRF is a virtual extension of the UPCBA and even the University System.

Section 8.02 of the UPBRF's Amended By-laws (to see the entire document, please click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/2eq3g8f) states that “disbursements for professorial chair awards shall be made in accordance with a program of expenditures to be prepared by the Dean of the U.P. College of Business Administration, such program to be based on the needs of the College, funds availability and the criteria approved by the Foundation.”

Even the U.P. Board of Regents of the University is involved with the UPBRF in that Section 8.03 admits that in the case of a professorial chair holder, “the actual selection of the chair shall be made within established procedures in the University of the Philippines, originating from the College and eventually being submitted to the Board of Regents for final approval.”

An even more detailed examination and comparison of the By-laws of the UPBRF together with the 2008 Statement of Revenues and Expenses of the UPBRF shows that UPBRF was, according to its By-laws, required to “endeavor that not less than fifty-one per centum (51%) of its gross income shall be devoted exclusively to the undertakings directly financing, or assisting fundamental, pure or applied research, development work and/or economic evaluation and/or granting of scholarships for scientific and technological manpower training, including the stablishment of professorial chairs in the pursuit or accomplishment of any or all the activities mentioned in the Articles of Incorporation.”

But a closer look at the 2008 Statement of Revenues and Expenses of the UPBRF shows that its gross revenue was PhP 41,217,408.00 and thus by definition, 51% of that amount or PhP 21,015,778.08 should have been devoted to the undertakings stipulated in its Articles and By-laws However the total expenses for 2008 was only PhP 12,742,637.00 which already shows that there is a disbursement problem in terms of an allocation for legitimate expenses as defined in the By-laws of UPBRF thus leading to an excessive accumulation of funds that should logically be dispersed.

The huge amount of unabsorbed cash should not just be allocated for the faculty of the U.P. Diliman CBA and its faculty; but should logically be shared with other schools of management in the U.P. System such as U.P. Baguio, Los Banos, Cebu, Manila, Visayas and Mindanao, as this is not disallowed by UPBRF's Articles and By-laws.

COA's Gemora thanked the Diliman Diary for providing it with a detailed memo (which also forms the the basis of this article) of its observations on the interrelationship between the U.P. System, the U.P. Foundation, the U.P. Diliman College of Business Administration and the U.P. Business Research Foundation last January, 2010 and said it was “very helpful.”

She added that U.P Foundation and UPBRF officials had scolded her and her staff in the past for attempting to get financial statements of the two foundations, adding that more details on their audit will be forthcoming when the results of the 2009 Consolidated Audited Annual Report (CAAR) are released on the official website of COA (http://www.coa.gov.ph/Audit/AAR.htm) sometime in June, 2010.

Notice of full disclosure: This writer has previously litigated against the above individuals and several others. The details may be accessed through this link: http://tinyurl.com/32utdtu.

Update: For the Diliman Diary's November 5, 2010 coverage of the Commission on Audit's 2009 Consolidated Audited Annual Report on the U.P. System, including COA's report and recommendations on U.P.'s university-affiliated foundations, please click on this link: http://diliman-diary.blogspot.com/2010/11/breaking-news-coa-releases-2009-audit_05.html

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary. He has a master's degree in entrepreneurship (M.E.) from the Asian Institute of Management).

Diliman Video of the Week: SEXMOAN Adventures: (A Kapampangan documentary)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Discover how Figaro started: Passion is the Key to the Success of any business

By Katherine Verances Marfal

In November of 1993, seven friends who shared a common love for coffee started the Figaro Coffee Company. The idea took root from their passion to experiment, brew, taste, and share their joys of sipping a good cup of coffee with the rest of the world.

They put up a small kiosk that served the public good quality coffee blends. The concept on how the store would operate was culled from their travel experiences abroad, especially in Europe. At the start, they themselves manned their small shop in a mall in Manila.

Fortunately, there are some business principles that they employed right from the start; and these are:

  • High quality and personalized service;
  • Superb coffee mixes and pastries;
  • Useful tips to customers on how to brew and mix good coffee drinks at home.
These business principles produced loyal and devout customers from a discriminating clientele.

They also made the ambiance of their stores small, compact, cosy and relaxing- ideal for zipping and savoring the exquisite taste of their coffee.

They noticed that most of their costumers are coffee lovers and connoisseurs that usually belong to the moneyed class. These are businessmen, tourists, politicians, and others, who have extra money to spend on some luxuries – like on somewhat expensive coffee drinks. Thus, Figaro’s operation was tracked into catering to these kinds of customers. Figaro management and employees are aware that high quality coffee mixes and superb services must be given to these kinds of customers.

At first, they were apprehensive that there were no sufficient numbers of this kind of regulars that are available to make their operation economically viable. And also, considering that there are many other establishments similar to Figaro, who have the same line of operation approach further reinforced their fears. But their love of coffee, and their love for what they are doing pushed them through over their initial business obstacles. To their pleasant surprise, there are plenty of people who like coffee, and who have extra money to spend on this.

From a small kiosk in Manila, the Figaro Coffee Company has now 50 stores all – not only all over the Philippines - but in different parts of Asia.

But due to the recent economic crunch, a flat growth in their quarterly sales was noticed. Thus, the Figaro management and employees had to make some adjustments in their business thrusts. They began to offer meals that are affordable to those in the lower economic class bracket. Though this is not a sure fire way to solve their prevailing economic woes; their resolve to survive is very strong because of their passion on what they are doing, and this is blending quality coffee.

Miss Kathryn Joi Robles, heir of the Sta. Lucia Real Estate business empire, is also Figaro Magsaysay’s Managing Director, and she has these to say about the operation of their coffee stores:

  • All those who are involved in store operation must be interested and are enjoying what they are doing.
  • Employees are carefully selected and given sufficient trainings before they are given assignment in the stores.
  • Sufficient incentives and understanding must be given to the rank and file employees by the management.

(Photos by: Katherine V. Marfal)

And to conclude and to emphasize, it is important for any one who will start a business for him to love what he will be doing during its operation. This will tide him over some problems that he will encounter, and push him to persevere towards attaining his business goals.

(Katherine Verances Marfal is a freelance writer. Among the publications she writes for are the Manila Bulletin, Sports Digest, Panorama and Pilipino Star Ngayon. She is also a Web Content Writer and teaches Pre-school at Philippine Normal University).

(Other photo sources: Facebook page of Figaro Coffee Company)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ambito: A Filipino independent hip-hop artist.

The Diliman Diary has received the following letter from Ambito, an independent hip-hop artist which we are uploading here:

"Sir / Madam,

My name is AMBITO and I am an independent artist working hard to make a name for myself. I am contacting you today to ask for a simple proposal. I was just wondering if you could check out these tracks of mine. I know that my music has the potential to be a hit if given the chance. These tracks are both in English, diverse, and are catchy. I hope you can add these songs to your everyday PLAYLIST. Sir / Madam, I just really need the break and radio air-play. I'm just a simple man with a simple plan of getting my music on the radio. I hope you understand. I have added some of my information below.


Respectfully,

AMBITO

AMBITO a.k.a. A-M-B-I-T-O established Flips of Fame Records in 2005 as an independent record label and continues to promote Filipino talent today. As an artist, producer, composer, and promoter, AMBITO has released a number of singles, mix tapes, and an album over the last five years, namely, "Get Flipped" by AMBITO in 2005, "Legendary Legacy" the album by AMBITO in 2006 (Available in all Music One stores and www.fliptunes.net World Wide), "F.O.F. Show Mix tape and Ako Ay Pilipino Mix tape" in 2007 and "AMBITO's Ultimate Mix tape in 2009. AMBITO participated in various events within the Hip-Hop community and beyond to constantly aid in promoting Philippine Hip-Hop. AMBITO has been actively collaborating with other independent labels within the Philippine Hip-Hop Community and has been promoting all aspects of Philippine Hip-Hop in a large scale manner. Slowly but surely, AMBITO has been garnering a lot of respect within the Hip-Hop community because of his non-stop efforts of promoting Philippine Hip-Hop."

Here's "I'll never let you go" (Just click on the embedded player):

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Here's "Sikat" (Just click on the embedded player):

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Public Service Announcement: Dear Readers, please keep sending in the tips on government mismanagement or worse in the Diliman Area.


Perhaps we are just rabid, paranoid conspiracy theorists with too much time on our hands and with little if any solid or empirical evidence to back up our observations that government employees within the Diliman area may be taking liberties that would drive our taxpayers to a frenzy and give career-minded government investigators from the Ombudsman, COA, both Houses of Congress or even humble citizen investigators a lot of meat (that is, information) to sink their teeth in.

All we know is that when the Diliman Diary broke the story last May 16, 2010 (See, “The University of the Philippines at Diliman's University Hotel is a White Elephant according to the Commission of Audit,” (http://tinyurl.com/2bvcbkh) we featured a picture in that story (Please see the first picture below) with the caption, “Painted water substation beside Vargas Museum at U.P. Diliman dramatizes COA's perennial concerns about unauthorized organisms capturing U.P.'s various revenue streams.”
Today, not even a month later, and much to our regret, unknown entities have painted over the picture of the “unauthorized organism” frenziedly flicking its tongue to gorge itself on floating pesos (representing the taxpayer's hard-earned “blood money”). It is too bad, since we regarded the picture of the “unauthorized organism” as a telling work of urban graffiti-style art that dramatized possible financial improprieties within the U.P. that itself that has been brutally obliterated by revisionist entities who do not want to be embarassed by such an inconvenient “reminder” (Please see the second picture below).

Is it all possible that a simple work of art, a kind of urban graffiti, so to speak, has managed to strike a raw nerve with Administrators; and even more importantly is it entirely possible that the Diliman Diary and other concerned citizens continue to strike even more raw nerves with our continued coverage and citizen protests over continuing improprieties at the taxpayer's expense?
But truth to tell, while it is easy enough for any one of us to buy a can of red paint and paint over a drawing, to shut up the “still small voice within all of us,” (to quote Mahatma Gandhi) it is much harder to conceal public records and other major indicators of irregularities or improprieties for long when you have determined investigators who do not easily give up. Even though we at the Diliman Diary, are severely undermanned, with very limited resources; we follow the numerous examples set by other fearless citizen bloggers who have unearthed or reported on the liberties taken by government officials throughout the entire Philippines (in our case, we are concentrating on the Diliman area for now).

Here are a few of the other enterprise stories that we have published so far with our valued readers' collective help, tips, emails, verbal comments, texts and written reports sent in to us. This is a collective effort and we could not have done any of these without all of your help:

We do not know, indeed if we are “just rabid, paranoid conspiracy theorists with too much time on our hands and with little if any solid or empirical evidence to back up our claims that government employees within the Diliman area may be taking liberties.” We like to believe that all of our stories are backed up empirically by documentation that we post along with our stories. However, in our coverage we do notice a trend of “undemocratic governance” within U.P. as an underlying theme or unifying thread linking many of our stories. As Alejandrino J. Ferreria once said, “Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence but three times is a bad habit.” 

The Diliman Diary hopes to continue reporting on our government's bad habits of a lack of financial transparency and undemocratic governance within the Diliman area and we need the help of you, our readers to continue sending in comments, tips information and reactions so that we can all help make a difference.

Please send all comments, information and data via email to: dilimandiary@yahoo.com or text us at: (0928) 132-6098.
Salamat po!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bohemian Central: The Cubao Expo

(Photo by Paul Lee)
By Paul Lee

Other than the huge signage advertising its presence on its otherwise nondescript facade along Gen. Romulo St a few blocks away from the Ali Mall, SM Cubao and the Gateway Mall; the Cubao Expo may not be much compared to the otherwise grand hubbub from the other major shopping centres along Araneta Centre. In fact, its former incarnation as the Marikina Shoe Expo still lingers as it looms over the parking lot adjacent to it together with the shoe stores and boutiques that greet the casual observer. Nevertheless that cliché of appearances being deceiving certainly applies the moment one pays a visit to the Cubao Expo.

Though the shoe stores and boutiques are still around, it is what’s within the Cubao Expo that is bound to both surprise and delight even the most jaded of city slickers as well as first-time visitors looking for an alternative venue to the shopping malls surrounding it. With its restaurants, art galleries and specialty shops lining the sides of its U-shaped path; the Cubao Expo has been both one of Cubao’s best-kept secrets and a treat for the discriminating in search for the rare and the unique. In fact some of the stores and galleries occupy so little space that they are easy to miss.

On the other hand there are the establishments that are not hard to miss. Among the not hard to miss spots in the Cubao Expo are the specialty shops that cater to the enthusiasts; they include the Sputnik Comic Shop and the Genshiken anime and manga shop. Complete with its bright green storefront and collection of comic books and graphic novels; the Sputnik is one of the first of the many hard-to-miss establishments in the Expo. Of course the Genshiken caters to many a local otaku complete with a kimono and other cosplay accessories on display that go with its anime related merchandise. Another landmark within the Cubao Expo is the Mogwai Cinematheque restaurant and theatre which has been operating for three years. Owned by screenwriter Eric Matti and named in homage to the character from the classic eighties Joe Dante film; the Mogwai has been the venue for many a cineaste looking for that combination good food, cheap beer and the chance to watch an indie or a classic movie on the second floor in a bohemian atmosphere.

Usually screenings are held almost every weekday though weekends are reserved for special occasions as in the occasional gig. Given its leaning towards avant-garde; the Mogwai has also been a favourite venue for the screening of student films. As one heads down the arc on the right-hand corner one cannot miss the former Art Circle Gallery and the Heritage Shop located adjacent to the Manila Collective cafe and Benelli’s Italian Restaurant. While the artwork collection was enough to catch the eye; a real attention-getter also comes with the owner’s die cast car collection which was there for us to admire and were definitely not for sale. There were more rarities to look around at the moment one takes a flight up the second floor where the Heritage shop sells rare books, magazines, assorted knickknacks and a vast collection of rare vinyl records. Then again rare vinyl records are a common staple in some of the other specialty stores around the Cubao
Expo area; along with plenty of other ‘old tech’ items like film cameras, VHS players and phonograph records, which are bound to draw the curiosity of both the generation that grew up with these gadgets and the simply curious. Sadly both the Art Circle and the Heritage have been scheduled for demolition to make way for an road artery passing nearby and have been closed down as of the writing.

On a lighter note, one can get some good Italian food at Benelli’s which is also another perfect venue for an intimate dinner for either two or a group and afterwards one can drop by at the Manila Collective Cafe for some after-dinner coffee and its excellent apple fritters. Aside from its coffee and apple fritters, another attraction that is bound to get your attention at the Manila Collective is the three-dimensional photo gallery of the Feast of the Black Nazarene as taken by the Collective Cafe’s owner and there are free 3-D glasses the better to appreciate them with. Of course, as one goes leftwards to the other side, there are still plenty of art galleries, boutiques, shoe stores and curiosity shops both holding exhibits and selling their wares. And amidst the bustle of the Araneta Centre, the Cubao Expo is one place where one's curious impulses may be satisfied.


(Paul Lee is a freelance writer. He is currently finishing his master's in creative writing at the University of the Philippines at Diliman).

(Additional pictures from the Facebook page of Cubao Expo).

Diliman Video of the week: How to ride the Jeepney in the Philippines

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Opinion: To Rehabilitate or Demolish our condemned Justice System?

Is Philippine Justice truly blind
- or just Ethically challenged?
(Source: http://tinyurl.com/24lbrkf)

By Katherine Verances Marfal

For most of the graduating high school students, becoming a University of the Philippines (U.P.) college student is just a fantasy, because of the slim chances of passing the UPCAT.

And similar fantasies are also felt by those who already passed the said exam, and are already regular U.P. Diliman students. These fantasies are - being accepted into these two elite colleges of the university - the College of Law and College of Medicine. Due to very stringent requirements needed to gain entrance into these institutions, not all U.P. Diliman Graduates are accepted to be students into these colleges. And after being accepted, come the countless sleepless nights to pass exams given by educational “terror” professors. And for the country as whole, these situations are replicated in all schools, offering Law and Medical courses. These two courses attract the majority of the students with superior IQ’s. Thus, one is tempted to compare the professionals that evolved from these two noble professions after they graduate.

Our medical doctors are recognized as among the best in the world. The health care of Filipinos, in spite being almost 100 million now, is now above par. We even export many of these medical professionals abroad, where they excel, are very much sought after and are very much valued.

Advances in the medical field have made it hi-tech now. A doctor can diagnose the ailment of a patient in an instant accurately, and prescribe immediately the remedy to cure the ailment. The medical field has progressed considerably, since a century ago, when “hilots” and witch doctors “ways” were the predominant practices in this field.

In contrast, the Philippine legal profession a century ago was already a well developed field, with noble legal dictums in place and practiced for centuries before. But to the chagrin of many, these legal practices hardly changed thru the years; and did not improve with the changing times. These are the realities in this important field, though many opine that the Bar Exam is harder than Medical Board Exam. These are known to everybody.

The legal professionals and practitioners are sometimes victims themselves of these legal aberrations. During elections of public officials, many of these legal professionals cry out loud that they were cheated, causing them to file electoral protests. And to dismay of everybody, these electoral protests are resolved only- several days before the expiration of the cheater’s disputed term of office. This is similar to the situation, where a doctor finally prescribes the remedy to the ailment of the patient during the latter’s funeral. And most of the times, the cheated candidate is a cheater himself during previous elections. Only this time, he met his match, a better cheater than him.

Most governors and local government officials own hundreds of hectares of converted forest land reserves in their area of responsibility. These compose the bulk of their wealth, which they usurped thru legal manipulations. These resulted in the rise of turmoil in the rural areas, due to these injustices against poor rightful owners/tenants.

During the Martial Law times, there was a land case between groups of hundreds of farmers and several billionaire landowners. It involved a large tract of land (about 500 hectares) now occupied by the classiest subdivision located at the boundary of Quezon City, San Juan and Pasig. The group of farmers won up to the Supreme Court. Like defeated electoral candidates, the rich landowners were just waiting for their adversaries to be proclaimed; while the groups of farmers were ecstatic of their impending windfall; when suddenly, omnipotent beautiful hand touched the heads of the then justices, for them to reverse their legal stand. As the result, everybody became happy and got compensated; except of course, the said groups of farmers. That gallant lawyer of the poor farmers transferred to a mansion in a classy subdivision owned by the billionaire landowners. Before this happened, the moral and ethical reputation of the Supreme Court justices is similar to those of the Pope and his cardinals. The myth of incorruptibility was destroyed.

Twenty five years ago, a rich investor approached an owner of a 20-hectare land in the heart of Baliwag, Bulacan. The said investor offered the latter, a joint venture to develop the said land into a subdivision, where the said investor will shoulder the cost of development- which was accepted by the said owner. But to the chagrin of the owner, the investor immediately sold lots without any site development. This forced the owner to file a court case against the said investor, which was not resolved by the lower court for more than 30 years. This drove the family of the owner into deep poverty- due to the costs of the litigation and non-use of the property. Out of frustrations, the middle age son of the owner, who was only a boy when the case started, went up to the mountains and sought the help of the NPA’s. Upon learning the story of the case, a NPA commander sent notices to the rich investor and his lawyer never to attend court hearings concerning the case. Due to default, the local court was forced to declare the case in favor of the owner. This is an example of long delayed justice due to the ineptness of our court. This is the reason why NPA is considered as an “alternative court” in the rural areas.

These are just a few of the many sins of our justice system. And this is the primary reason why corruption is rampant in our society. Grafters are not afraid to do wrongs; because they believe that justice in the Philippines has a price and plenty of “fixcals” can be bought. For sure, our legal professionals know more about these.

This is not to cast aspersion on the law profession. We, as a family, have high regard of this calling. All my three brothers aspire to take up law- with the whole family very proud and supportive of this dream.

But it seems that the lawyers and justices themselves are victims of our justice system; whose quality has deteriorated over the years. Its like that elegant mansion built a century ago, but due to neglect and bad repairs, lost its glory. Yes, its is still being used, but its like those condemned structures, occupied by robbers , swindlers, cheaters, drug pushers, tax evaders, corrupt judges and other rats of the society that are infected of communicable virus of corruptions. It is sad to say that many of our idealists, very intelligent young lawyers are flushed into the septic tank of wasted legal minds, as they join other legal zombies as they enter this dilapidated mansion of justice- which is unfit to live in nobly.

Young legal minds cannot you not do something about this?

(Katherine Verances Marfal is a freelance writer. Among the publications she writes for are the Manila Bulletin, Sports Digest, Panorama and Pilipino Star Ngayon. She is also a Web Content Writer and teaches Pre-school at Philippine Normal University).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Search Process has begun for a new University of the Philippines President


 
         (U.P. President Emerlinda R. Roman)

By Chanda Shahani

Wanted: A New U.P. President.

The Search for the New University of the Philippines (U.P.) President to replace President Emerlinda R. Roman has started with the June 2, 2010 U.P. Board of Regents (BOR) decision to constitute the BOR as the Search Committee. President Roman's term ends in February of 2011.

The details of the nomination process and schedules are still to be discussed, according to Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo in a comment dated June 4, 2010 in her Facebook page. However, going by past precedents, the nominations of candidates are expected to begin in June, once guidelines have been established and communicated by the BOR.

Some of the burning issues that the next U.P. President will have to tackle are: 
  • How will the UP President lead U.P. to contribute to national industrialization
  • U.P.'s reduction of its income & asset inequity
  • Promotion of clean & transparent governance, including opening the books of University affiliated foundations to the Commission on Audit
  • Strengthen excellence in science & technology, and creative Filipino culture, including arts, humanities & literature.
  • Increase faculty & staff salaries & benefits, 
  • Wise use of land  and other assets of the University to ensure greater advantage in its contracts with business contractors & subcontractors
  • How will UP take advantage of Global ICT to promote excellence in its academic programs? 
  • What will the next U.P. president do to reduce the rate of professors who leave the University, to seek greener pastures in foreign countries?
  • How can U.P. generate more income without compromising its core values of producing graduates to serve the Filipino people?
President Roman's Mixed Legacy

As her term draws to its inevitable conclusion, President Roman's legacy is decidedly mixed. Touted by her spinmeisters as the “Centennial President” she will be judged by how well she was able to carry out her ten-point program which she detailed at the start of her term: http://www.up.edu.ph/upnewsletter2.php?i=184&pg=197&pgidx=&pgmax=1&issue=63

President Roman can count among her successes the passage of Republic Act 9500 or the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, the very successful U.P. Centennial celebrations in 2008 that instilled pride in U.P. alumni everywhere, the further development of science and technology capabilities of the university and the improvement in faculty and staff welfare benefits, and the successful raising of funds though university-affiliated foundations

But the dark side of her Administration's legacy cannot be ignored either. Critics cite the simultaneous removal of former Student Regent Charisse B. Bañez,  and PGH Director Jose Gonzales as part of a U.P. administration-hatched pincer movement to guarantee the unimpeded implementation of the privatization of the Philippine General Hospital, despite criticisms from the Department of Justice that there was not enough consultation, and that the contract was contrary to the U.P. Charter. Others have criticized her, as chief academic officer of the university, for the denial of an appeal for tenure by U.P. Diliman Sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo despite her obvious qualifications, forcing Professor Raymundo to successfully appeal for a positive ruling from the Board of Regents, widely seen as a slap in the face of Roman over her executive decision. Still others have decried the implementation of the Large Class Scheme in U.P. Los Baños on a test basis, as part of an effort to cut costs and compromising quality at the same time. They say that the Large Class scheme will be rolled out over time throughout the entire U.P. System, replicating an essentially flawed policy.

Readers are invited to send in comments about how well President Roman was able to carry out her ten-point program by emailing us at dilimandiary@yahoo.com or just send in your comments by clicking on the comments button below (comments are subject to editing):

 A Blast from the Past:

Included below is an excerpt from the U.P. system website in 2004 entitled, “Search for UP President”:

"Who will succeed UP President Francisco Nemenzo when he ends his term in February 2005?

Last September 6, the Board of Regents decided to accept the nomination of 11 candidates for the next UP President. On September 10, the nominees hit the campaign trail via a public forum/ consultation in UP Baguio. The public forum culminated on September 27 in UP Diliman. Then, from October 11 to 15, the candidates will be interviewed by the BOR. By November, a new UP president shall have been selected."(http://www.up.edu.ph/oldsystem/search_candidates.htm

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary).

UPDATES: We are including below comments to this article sent to us via email:


Jennifer Parker (via Facebook)

I'm not familiar with the rules on choosing the UP president but I do wish that President Roman have another term...UP have a lot of 'physical' improvement during her term. It was not an easy undertaking but I like the UPD campus better than four years ago...

Paul Lee (via Facebook)

I can say it's about time. The university needs an overhaul.

Jenny Ortuoste (via Facebook)

Finally...!

Prince Gabonada (via Facebook)

I do not know the exact programs of Pres.Roman, but the aftermath of her term will continue to hurt students...especially the TOFI (Tuition and other Fee Increases) ... I think its time to find a pro-student president...

Lorna Adlawan Fernandez (via Facebook)

Yes I think she should be replaced..despite other comments on the contrary, I believe UP (Diliman) has wasted away...such potential, such beauty when we were there. Even then good teachers continue to disappear to greener pastures..how come infra and personnel hasn't been addressed despite increase in tuition. I think Roman is only an academician and not an administrator and manager with the vision to move forward and put UP back in its proper place of being the number1 academic institution in the Philippines!

Blog Archive

The Diary Archive