Two Open Letters to the Inquirer on the UP Board of Regents

Posted on March 16, 2010

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These are two open letters to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) regarding the status of UP Student Regent Charisse Banez and the Malacanang appointees in the UP Board of Regents. The first letter dated March 15, 2010 is by Chanda Shahani, editor of the online weblog Diliman Diary. Shahani’s open letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) is in response to UP Vice President for Legal Affairs Theodore Te’s March 10, 2010 Open Letter to the PDI entitled “Reply to Article by Maricar Cinco” published in the PDI. VP Te’s open letter is the second letter you will find here posted.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

(Posted at http://dilimandiary.com)

March 15, 2010

Mr Jorge V. Aruta

Opinion Editor

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1098 Chino Roces Street

corner Mascardo Street

Makati City, Metro Manila

Dear Mr. Aruta:

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

In this regard, therefore, I would like to comment on the portion of the statement of Atty. Theodore Te, Vice President for Legal Affairs of the U.P. System who has posted an open letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, dated March 15, 2010 on the government-owned and tax-payer funded U.P. website at (http://www.up.edu.ph/features.php?i=190) where he said that:

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

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

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

The “midnight” appointments are a given and are a fact and this has been covered by the Diliman Diary at: http://diliman-diary.blogspot.com/2010/03/breaking-news-three-3-malacanang.html

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

  • Regent Francis Chua’s appointment was signed by President Arroyo on January 1, 2008, which means that if you follow U.P.’s two-year argument, then his term expired on January 1, 2010, and his vote to remove the Student Regent on February 25, 2010 was null and void since President Arroyo only signed her “midnight” appointment on March 1, 2010 for a period of two (2) years.
  • Regent Abraham Sarmiento’s appointment was signed by President Arroyo on September 29, 2008 but the Office of Secretary Mendoza stressed that President Arroyo signed Regent Sarmiento’s “midnight” appointment on March 9, 2010 but good only until September 29, 2010.” Why then did the Board of Regents recommend Regent Sarmiento for reappointment at a time when he was supposed to be enjoying the length of his term from September 29 2008 to September 29 2010? Would not Arroyo’s appointment have been redundant? That is, unless U.P. itself is admitting that Regent Sarmiento, was already a former regent when his papers were submitted by U.P. itself, to President Arroyo for reappointment which impliedly means that it was supporting Faculty Regent Taguiwalo’s position that the one-year and not the two-year rule applied (https://upissues.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/up-faculty-regents-report-on-the-february-25-2010-bor-meeting/), meaning that his papers expired in September 29, 2010 and that he was a former regent when he voted to render the Student Regent a former regent as well. The other alternative is that President Arroyo, upon U.P.’s recommendation, committed a faux pas when she reappointed a Regent whose term had not yet expired. The Diliman Diary’s analysis of this is that this is an attempt to extend Regent Sarmiento’s term beyond the alloted two year period (from September 2008 to September 2010) so that he can vote for the next U.P. President when U.P. President Roman’s term ends in November, 2010.
  • Regent Nelia Gonzales’ appointment was signed by President Arroyo on March 18, 2008 and expires on March 18, 2010 but President Arroyo reappointed Regent Gonzales on March 9, 2010 for a period of two (2) years or nine (9) days BEFORE Regent Gonzales’ term expired. This could render President Arroyo’s appointment of Regent Gonzalez null and void, and with the March 10, 2010 ban on Presidential appointments already in effect, U.P. will have to wait until the country finishes electing a new President when the presidential elections start on May 10, 2010.

In support of my statements, I am attaching the scanned copies of the three regents’ appointment papers in 2008.

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

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

Best regards,

Chanda Shahani

Editor

The Diliman Diary

http://www.dilimandiary.com

Copy furnished: Atty. Theodore Te

Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo

Other U.P. Alumni

* * * *
REPLY TO ARTICLE BY MARICAR CINCO, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
Monday, March 15, 2010

10 March 2010

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

Dear Mr. Aruta:

On behalf of the University of the Philippines, allow us to react to the story by Maricar Cinco entitled “UP STUDENT REGENT: I WAS ALLOWED TO VOTE IN PGH POLL” (PDI, March 7, 2010) by stating the following:

1.  It is untrue that Ms. Charisse Banez, former student regent, “was not enrolled this school year because she had completed her academic requirements ahead of schedule and was awaiting graduation.”  She herself admitted on two occasions before the Board of Regents that she was not enrolled because she was “busy.” She also admits this in her Complaint before the RTC of Quezon City. Despite having completed all the academic requirements for her degree, she knew that she needed to enroll to be nominated and to remain student regent;  this much she admits when she enrolled for residency for the first semester.

2.  It is misleading and false to say that Ms. Bañez was allowed to vote on the election of the PGH Director because the BOR had deliberated and voted on a motion of the UP President to “revoke her right to vote on the ground that she was not a bona fide student of the state university.”

On December 18, 2009, the UP President, at the start of the meeting, brought up the issue of Ms. Banez’s disqualification as Student Regent because she did not enroll for the second semester, a fact she admitted. At that point, it was clear that she was not qualified to sit as Student Regent because she was not a student and there was no disagreement among the regents on this matter. In fact, the President had already pointed out that the seat has been ipso facto vacated by Ms. Banez’s failure to enroll.

The President’s motion to allow Ms. Banez to continue participating in the December 18, 2009 BOR meeting but only as an observer was in response to an observation by the Faculty Regent that the students would be deprived of representation if Ms. Banez was asked to leave.  Clearly the context of the observation of the Faculty Regent was to allow Ms. Banez to remain in the room, despite a clear disqualification on her part to sit as Student Regent.  For this reason, the President moved that Banez be allowed to remain in the room, even if she was no longer a regent, but this time as an observer.  The only “error” was in allowing Banez to remain in the room when the President’s motion to have her sit as an observer was defeated;  as a non-student, she was not entitled to be in the room.

3.  Ms. Banez’s references to a Malacanang block are unfortunate and unbecoming of a regent.  This is ad hominem argumentation and name-calling that has no place in the Board of Regents of the national university.

4.  Ms. Banez faults the President and the three government regents for actively voting on the President’s motion.  It is strange that she would say this if she understands basic parliamentary procedure.  That  President Roman and the other regents voted on the motion is insignificant because it was their job to do so;  that Ms. Banez voted and voted for herself is the height of impropriety and lack of  delicadeza. The vote on the UP President’s motion, taken by secret ballot, was 5-4; clearly, had she done the ethical thing, the vote would have been 4-4 and inconclusive and Ms. Banez would  have been asked to leave the room.

5.  Ms. Banez says that she was surprised that Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo, the PGH Director, was elected in the February meeting because his name had been supposedly removed from the list.

Dr. Domingo had not been disqualified by the BOR on December 18, 2009.  When the Board voted, they were voting on the three nominees, as forwarded by the Chancellor of UP Manila.  There was nothing sinister about Dr. Domingo’s name again being considered during the February 25, 2010 meeting.  The Board simply took up the original list after it had disqualified Ms. Banez and annulled the vote taken on December 18, 2009 because of the decisive nature of Ms. Banez’s vote (it being a 6-5 vote).

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

7. As for the two UPLB students whose applications for late registration for residency were approved and which Ms. Banez claims is unfair, it is sufficient to say that Ms. Banez never complied with any of the rules prescribed for late registration or late LOA;  the two students did. Moreover, the documents submitted to the UPLB Chancellor’s office show that a request for late registration was submitted and then later withdrawn by Ms. Banez’s authorized representative;  later, she would ask her lawyer to submit a letter of  intent to take a leave of absence without filing an actual application for LOA.  Under these circumstances, it would be almost impossible for the UPLB authorities to act on her application because her intentions were unclear, at best.

The news item ends with a quote from Ms. Banez that “It is unfair.”  Perhaps it is high time to ask Ms. Banez if it was fair to her constituents that she deprive them of representation simply by refusing to do something so fundamental and so basic and so elementary?  The UP has been transparent on this issue. A factual chronology is available on the University website;  UP officials are always available for comment or reaction.  It is thus surprising that the news item was printed without reaction from UP’s part.

In the interest of fair play, may we request that this reply be given the same prominence as that given to Ms. Banez.

Thank you.

ATTY. THEODORE O. TE
Vice President for Legal Affairs
University of the Philippines System

Originally posted here: http://up.edu.ph/features.php?i=190