Thursday, September 30, 2004

A Report on the September 29, 2004 Senate Committee on Education’s Technical Working Group Meeting on the UP Charter

This was an excerpt from an e-mailed Report from Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, National President of the All UP Academic Employees Union. The administrative sector (All UP Workers Union) especially from Manila Chapter although invited for the said Senate Committee TWG Meeting, was not able to send a representative because of tight schedule (we have an emergency Expanded Executive Board Meeting yesterday at around 9:00 for a discussion of our Discussion Guide for the P3,000.00 Salary Increase campaign, and other related plans for the said campaign. Considering our hospital setting (PGH) it is always a struggle to go get people on short notice.

Delen was informed only on September 27 that a meeting of the Technical Working Group for the UP Charter Bills in the Senate was to be held on Wednesday, September 29

Delen, Edvil, Judy, Marco and Ken attended the meeting which was presided by Atty. Quimbo, COS of Sen. Flavier and staff of senators who are members of the Committee on Education.

The UP Administration was represented by VP Diokno, VP Butch Dalisay, VP Rodriguez, Pritchie Legazpi, and two or three other members of the Legal Office.

What actually transpired was again presentations on three key areas: democratization, commercialization and exemption from SSL (which Marco suggested for inclusion). While VP Diokno felt that the discussion was redundant and wanted to proceed to the presentation of a consolidated bill, Atty. Quimbo explained that the process was decided upon by his principal and while he consulted the latter during the break in the hearing, continued with the process.

On governance

We reiterated our position that after 100 years a change in the governance structure from a BOR to a democratically elected UP System Assembly is necessary given that UP has grown from one unit to seven constitutent universities with more than 50,000 students. UPSA will allow representation from Mindanao, Visayas, Baguio, LB, Manila,Diliman and avoid the current Manila-centric composition of the Board. The mere expansion or changes in the BOR would not necessitate a new UP Charter as this would only require an amendment in the present charter.

Academic concerns would still be the purview of the faculty as the Univesity Councils retain the power it is enjoying at present.

The link of UP to the national government is retained through the retention of the membership of the Chair of CHED, the Chairs of the House and Senate Committees on Higher Education and on Education, respectively

There was not too much discussion on these as the lines are quite drawn between a democratically elected UPSA and a small BOR. I think our strength here, relative to the interest of some of the Senators (Pimentel, Biazon) is the concern about the BOR composition being Manila-centric.

There were discussions on actual problems such as the unilateral and anti-democratic actions of the UPLB Dean and the intervention of Pres. Nemenzo in the process of the selection of the Dean of the UP College of Nursing. Diokno said that Pres. Nemenzo was merely concerned about the application of a May 2004 decision of the BOR which was supposed to be for UP Diliman alone (the removal of a search committee, under certain conditions, in the selection of the officers of the university). Once this was clarified, the Dean selected by the College Assembly of the UPCN was appointed. (I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT HERE, BUT NOT IN THE SENATE HEARING, THAT THIS PROCESS WAS ADOPTED BY OUR COLLEGE, CSWCD, IN OUR SELECTION OF OUR NEW DEAN IN NOV. 2003, EVEN WITHOUT THE BOR DECISION) While Marco provided as example that one-semester appointments of more than 150 faculty in Los Banos, Diokno was saying that it was the fault of the Regent and the Acad Union President in LB that up to now she does not have the papers she wanted regarding the cases.

The question was raised by one of the staff whether the problems are really operational rather than structural in nature and again there was an exchange about this.

On commercialization

Delen read the section of HB 2327 (Section 28, 3): To prevent the commercialization of the university, programs, projects or mechanisms to generate revenues and other resources from the land grants and other real property entrusted to the University should be consistent with university’s academic mission and orientation as the premier state university and shall not be meant to replace, in part or in whole, the annual appropriation provided by the national government to the university. Such programs, projects or mechanisms shall require the approval of the UPSA and shall require the approval of the UPSA and shall be subject to a transparent and democratic process of consultation with university’s constituents” to explain that we are not against the utilization of the land grants and other assets of the university but such utilization should be in consonance with the university’s academic mission and should require the approval of the UPSA.

There were discussions on the question of outright sale of properties such as the Citibank property and the Pandancan property of UP and even a property in Cebu donated by the Yulos. Our position is that exceptional cases may be decided upon by the UPSA but would not require the inclusion of a provision of expanding the powers of the BOR to include the sale of UP properties as these are more the exception rather than the rule.

Judy read from the minutes of the January 28, 2004 Senate deliberations of SB 2587 (the Pangilinan Bill)to remind the meeting that this aspect of the proposal had been raised in the 12th Congress: “Given the temptation to sell properties, Senator Arroyo asked how the properties can be preserved. Senator Pangilinan said that at the proper time, he would propose the deletion of the provisions on outright sale and put in a requirement of two-thirds (2/3) vote of the members of the Board before a sale or lease could be affected. Senator Arroyo said that he was thinking more of internal safeguards within the Act, noting that UP has been free of scandals so far, probably until it sells real estate assets. He further noted that throughout the deliberations, no satisfactory answers have been provided by representatives of UP”…

While Atty Quimbo initially summarized that there was an agreement to drop the phrase “outright sale”, VP Diokno insisted in its retention to make explicit that this is the power the BOR should have.

In the process of the discussion, VP Rodriguez said that there is no need for consultation with the faculty regarding the disposition of the assets of the University as this is a non-academic matter. Judy commented that he had a short memory as we were together in the 1996-97 opposition to the Javier’s Commonwealth Property Development Plan (CPDP) which was conceptualized and implemented without consultation with the university constituency. Diokno was quick to point out that the opposition was not because there was no consultation but because it was a violation of a law limiting leases to only a 25 year period while the CPDP allowed a lease of 75 years. There was an interesting discussion on the relationship between consultation and transparency and the legality and correction of an action with our side emphasizing that the two are very much interrelated.

On the Exemption from SSL

Marco reiterated the concern of the students, who while recognizing that the faculty and staff of UP together with other government employees are receiving low salaries, an explicit provision exempting UP from the SSL would mean UP has to generate the income for the higher salaries. In turn, this would translate into higher tuition and other fees from the students.

Butch Dalisay wanted to hear from the faculty representatives of UP WIDEM regarding this matter.

Judy reiterated out position on this. We recognize that the salaries of UP faculty and staff are low and should be increased. We also recognize the inherent defect of the SSL which was the basis of the opposition of the All UP Workers Union and other government employees union when this was passed in the early 90s. However, the experience of GOCCS as well as PNU has shown that such an exemption was at the expense of the constituencies (government employees had to pay higher premiums for GSIS insurance and PNU students had to face a 400% tuition fee increase a year after the new PNU charter was passed). She also reiterated that even under the current SSL, the UP administration can look into increasing non-salary benefits (such as housing provisions) for faculty and staff. She also pointed out that the loss of UP faculty cannot merely be attributed to lower salaries but the intradepartmental conflicts and lack of democracy and transparency in the decision-making in the University are factors that should be looked into. A one-sided emphasis on the low salary of UP faculty is self-defeating as UP can never compete with private universities such as Ateneo which charges astronomically high fees or with transnational corporations such as Intel which has pirated several young UP engineering professors.

At the end of the meeting, the staff of Sen. Pimentel wanted to know if the College of Law has a position paper on the charter. VP Diokno assured him that UP will be sending them such as soon as possible

What next

Another Technical Working Group meeting has been set on Oct. 7, Thursday at 9 am to discuss a consolidated bill. The bill will be distributed on October 4. (Note: Everybody from UP Manila/PGH who could spare some time for it, are enjoined to witness/participate in the said meeting.)

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