Sunday, September 25, 2011

A rebuttal to Prof. Solita Monsod's "Kicked out on trumped-up charges"

By Phoebe Zoe Maria U. Sanchez

The Reader’s Advocate
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dear Madam/Sir:

In her article, “Kicked out on trumped-up charges,” published in the September 17 issue of the Inquirer, UP Diliman professor and Inquirer columnist Solita Collas-Monsod made gross misrepresentations and baseless assertions, bordering on malice.

I do not only disagree with her irresponsible opinion which for the most part seemed to merely echo the defense legal brief. As one of the original teacher-complainants against Dr. Enrique Avila, defendant in UP ADT Case No. 2011-01, I also question Collas-Monsod’s integrity in accusing us and other UP officials of making trumped-up charges against Avila.

By her accusation, Collas-Monsod is implying that: our witnesses lied under oath, we fabricated our evidence, and UP officials ignored the basic tenets of due process despite the possibility of judicial review.

According to her, “the guilty verdicts were handed down by an Administrative Disciplinary Tribunal (ADT) after only four days of hearings, one of which was devoted to procedural matters.” This is misleading.

The contextual fact is, on March 17, 2011, a complaint sworn under oath was filed against Avila, Ernesto Pineda and Alsidry Sharif by seven teachers and two workers of UP Cebu (two teachers joined later in the amended complaint). On March 30, both parties were heard during a preliminary investigation hearing. Nearly two months later, on May 26, probable cause was found on six of the 11 charges in the complaint.

None of the six charges that were elevated to the ADT relate to the following issues that Collas-Monsod speculated on in her column as having to do with Avila and Pineda’s dismissal from service: the planned closure of UP High School Cebu, removal of student representation in the college’s executive committee, streamlining and rationalizing of course offerings and curricula, changing the campus security guards, among others.

On May 30, the respondents were served notice of their 90-day preventive suspension. The administrative tribunal marathon hearings were held on July 13-15, which was scheduled for almost the entire working hours of each day. This covered procedural matters, presentation of prosecution witnesses to attest to the veracity of their judicial affidavits, cross-examination by the defense, and examination of physical evidence. On July 26, another hearing was scheduled, this time in UP Manila where Avila and Pineda were supposed to present their witnesses who were based in Manila.

The entire process followed faithfully the spirit and letter of our administrative disciplinary procedures, specifically the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (URACCS) – for a “speedy, fair and judicious disposition of cases.” Notably, no categorical objections were raised by Avila and Pineda’s defense counsel on most procedural matters, and they even manifested from the start that they too reject dilatory tactics. Yet they also asked the Court of Appeals to issue a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the administrative disciplinary process – to no avail.

On August 31, about a month after the termination of the hearings and formal investigation (even past the 15-day period prescribed by the URACCS), the ADT found Avila guilty of gross neglect of duty and Pineda guilty of grave misconduct. They were found to have violated rules and regulations in the disposition of University property when they granted, without compensation to UP, a request by a private condominium developer to use a portion of UP property as temporary facility site and to dump excavated construction soil at the campus football field; that with unusual dispatch Pineda recommended approval, Sharif favorably endorsed and Avila approved the request, all in three days!

Avila was also found guilty of grave misconduct, this time for appointing an unqualified person (Pineda, who is only a lecturer/consultant at UP Cebu) in a Bids and Awards Committee of the college, in violation of Sec. 11 of R.A. 9184. Also, he was found guilty of gross neglect of duty for using tuition increment in paying for personnel bonus. Pineda was likewise found guilty of gross neglect of duty for purchasing materials and causing the repair of two buildings in the college without public bidding and through the shopping (reimbursement) method sans sufficient justification.

Thus, contrary to Collas-Monsod’s claims, Avila and Pineda were kicked out not “for doing their jobs too well” (to use her words). They were kicked out in the regular course of the administrative disciplinary process that found them guilty of those specific charges which already form part of the records of this case and which, curiously, Collas-Monsod seemed to have deliberately missed out in her column.

Collas-Monsod wrote that aside from plowing through documents provided by Avila and Pineda, she also talked to university colleagues in Diliman and in Cebu. Whom did she talk to in UP Cebu? I challenge her to name her sources, or at least to identify them by affiliation.

I also challenge Collas-Monsod to come to UP Cebu and spend some time to look at the physical (object) evidence, examine our case documents, and immerse with the UP Cebu faculty, staff and students. She should not simply rely on the say-so of accessible or tainted sources – like Avila’s former underling Prof. Raymund Fernandez. From the start of this issue, Fernandez has been unethically and shamelessly using his column space in Cebu Daily News (an Inquirer affiliate) to defend Avila, without disclosing to his readers the underlying personal and professional interests he has in the outcome of this case.

Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. Phoebe Zoe Maria U. Sanchez
Assistant Professor 7
Social Sciences Division
University of the Philippines Cebu

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