Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Mandate for Growth is a Mandate for Greater State Subsidy and a Democratic System of Governance

Response to President Emerlinda Roman’s Memorandum “A Mandate for Growth”
UP-WIDEM 2 (University of the Philippines-Wide Democratization Movement 2)
05 April 2005


Through this statement, the UP-Wide Democratization Movement 2 would like to make manifest its reaction to “A Mandate for Growth. A Report to the Community on the UP Charter,” which is Memorandum No. PERR-05-07 by President Emerlinda R. Roman to all chancellors and deans of the University of the Philippines System.
In this memorandum, Pres. Roman (1) presents a report on the status of the UP Charter bills at the Senate (Senate Bill 1833) and the House of Representatives (still at the level of the Technical Working Group) (2) enumerates what she considers “the most alarming” of the provisions being recommended for inclusion in the UP Charter, and (3) calls on the chancellors and deans of the University to consult their “constituencies” and send the reactions to the memorandum to the Office of the UP President by April 15.

UP WIDEM 2 has been consistent in calling for the creation of a new UP Charter that will embody the changes that the University has undergone after almost 100 years and will make the University more responsive to the times. We take issue, however, with what Pres. Roman considers to be “the most alarming provisions” being proposed in changing the UP Charter. Such classification leans towards changes that are not progressive and will not advance the interests of the sectors of the UP Community.

“THE MOST ALARMING PROVISIONS”

After enumerating the provisions being recommended for inclusion in the UP Charter at the Senate and the House of Representatives, Pres. Roman enumerates the following as “the most alarming provisions” in the UP Charter bills. We quote her in full:

(1) the establishment of an oversight committee to review UP’s financial transactions, which will simply make it more difficult for the University to utilize its properties to generate revenues;
(2) the removal of the University’s corporate powers, which will substantially deprive the University of its ability to raise supplemental funds and protect its own resources, thus making it fully dependent on the political processes that lead to the enactment of appropriations acts or on the priorities of bureaucracies of other departments of government;
(3) the creation of Consultative Assemblies at the college, university and system levels with a representative from the various sectors;
(4) interference with the faculty’s prerogative to decide on admission standards and policies, which is part of its academic mandate; and
(5) the granting to students of the right to “exercise their established religious beliefs” even when these should interfere with scheduled classes or examinations.

She goes on to say that “Moreover, the substitution of ‘premier state university’ for ‘national university’ may seem like a minor cosmetic change but actually betrays a failure to appreciate the symbolic and substantive significance of official designation as the country’s national university.” In short, Pres. Roman considers six (6), not only five (5), provisions as “the most alarming” of those proposed for inclusion in the UP Charter.

It is understandable that UP constituents and officials should express concern, and even be alarmed, over Proposed Provisions (4) and (5). The UP Community after all defends and upholds the secular character and academic freedom of the University.

It is equally alarming, however, that Pres. Roman lumps these proposed provisions – which are unpopular with the UP Community – with Proposed Provisions (1), (2), (3) and (6). This manner of presentation could only cast a negative light on proposed provisions that arise from concerns and calls of members and sectors of the UP Community against the intensification of commercialization of the University, against state abandonment of UP, and for the democratization of structures of governance of the University.

AGAINST COMMERCIALIZATION, AGAINST STATE ABANDONMENT

We believe that in the concrete, Pres. Roman’s concern over proposals that will cause the “removal of the University’s corporate powers,” are directed against the following:

(1) The proposal of Senator Manuel Roxas III “to remove the corporate powers of the University,” and
(2) The proposed consolidated UP Charter bill at the House of Representatives which (a) deletes from Senate Bill 2587 the power of the Board of Regents (BOR) to plan, design, approve and/or cause the implementation of financial mechanisms such as “fully-owned subsidiaries, securitization and outright sale” of UP’s properties and (b) formulates the power of the BOR on these matters as such:

The Board of Regents shall plan, design, approve and/or cause the implementation of financial mechanisms, such as joint ventures and long-term leases, to give the University the most advantageous position in generating revenues and other resources from the land grants and other real property entrusted by the Filipino people to their national university: Provided, That such mechanisms and arrangements shall not conflict with the University’s academic mission as well as sustain and protect the environment: Provided, further, That the plans shall preserve the academic core zone of each constituent campus which shall be delineated in consultation with all sectors of the constituent university concerned; Provided, finally, that funds generated from the various financial plans shall not be meant to replace, in part or in whole, the annual appropriation provided by the national government to the University.

We, members of UP-WIDEM 2, reiterate our strong opposition to the inclusion to the UP Charter of any provision that will give corporate powers to the Board of Regents.

In the context of the decreasing yearly government subsidy given to UP, as well as government policies which explicitly mandate the systematic reduction of government subsidy to State Colleges and Universities – especially UP – in tandem with the granting of such corporate powers to the BORs of SCUs to generate the income projected to replace government subsidy, the inclusion of such provisions will only attack the character of UP as a state university. The inclusion of such provisions will only push the government to further abandon its responsibility of funding UP, and is a big step towards UP’s eventual privatization. It embodies an attack on the task of the government to give quality education to the Filipino youth and people through the UP System.

Government policies on education are likewise explicit in pushing State Colleges and Universities to generate income not only through commercializing their assets but also in increasing the fees their students pay. We oppose the granting of corporate powers to the BOR because in the context of decreasing government subsidy to UP and education, as well as government policies on education which mandate the systematic reduction of government subsidy to education, comes the power and the pressure to increase the fees of UP students we traditionally call iskolars ng bayan. This could only mean intensifying the attack on the right of the Filipino students, youth and people to quality education.

It is therefore alarming that Pres. Roman considers as one of “the most alarming provisions” the proposal to remove the corporate powers of the BOR (as proposed by Sen. Roxas) or reduce it significantly and balance it with a provision that guarantees government subsidy to UP (as contained in the proposed consolidated version at the House of Representatives). It is likewise alarming that Pres. Roman argues for the granting of corporate powers to the BOR, but considers alarming the proposal to establish an oversight committee to review UP’s financial transactions – stressing the technical difficulties that will be encountered in generating income for UP and ignoring the more important point of safeguarding UP from corruption. Pres. Roman seems to be living up to expectations that her administration will implement full-throttle commercialization.

The experience of the country with privatization clearly shows that with privatization comes corruption. Senator Joker Arroyo seems to have this in mind when he raised points relevant to this matter in the January 28, 2004 session on Senate Bill 2587 of the 12th Senate. We quote from the minutes of the Senate: “Given the temptation to sell properties, Senator Arroyo asked how the properties can be preserved. Senator (Francis) 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.”

We reiterate our strong opposition to granting the BOR the corporate powers for transforming UP into a commercialized university that is on the way to privatization.

FOR DEMOCRATIZATION OF THE U.P. SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE

We believe that in the concrete, Pres. Roman’s concern over the proposal to create “Consultative Assemblies at the college, university and system levels with a representative from the various sectors” is directed against the proposed consolidated UP Charter bill at the House of Representatives. This document defines such Consultative Assemblies as “consultative, consensus-building, democratic and collegial bodies.” It defines the functions of such Consultative Assemblies as follows:

(1) To serve as the principal forum where faculty, students, REPS, and administrative personnel shall address non-academic issues affecting the university, its thrust and directions, and issues relating to long/medium term development plans for the university.
(2) To promote direct interaction among the various unit constituencies of the university (faculty, REPS, administrative personnel and students) in the discussion of issues and grievances which heretofore have been mainly sectoral.
(3) To serve as a multi-sectoral forum to recommend policies on administrative and non-academic matters in consultation with the Chancellors for approval by the Board of Regents.
(4) To act as a consultative body in the search process for Deans, directors and equivalent positions in the units of the University, as may be necessary.

We, members of UP WIDEM 2, reiterate our critique of the present system of governance in the University at the apex of which is the BOR. We believe that the BOR, a creation of American colonial rule in the country, has retained its colonial character as a small body not accountable to the principal university constituencies. After almost 100 years, UP has grown from one campus in Padre Faura to a University System with seven (7) constituent units in various parts of the country and with over 50,000 students. At present, there are only two representatives from the direct constituents of the University, the Student Regent and the Faculty Regent. It is only in the selection of these two regents that various constituent units such as UP Visayas or UP Mindanao is taken into account. The BOR, clearly, is an outmoded structure of governance that is undemocratic in nature and is as such unfit for a university that should uphold academic freedom and critical thinking.

It is therefore alarming that Pres. Roman considers as one of “the most alarming provisions” the proposal to create consultative assemblies at the college, university and system levels of the University. While the creation of such consultative assemblies broadens the base for consultations on administrative matters and other multi-sectoral concerns – and is as such more democratic than retaining the BOR – it is in fact a far cry from the proposed democratization of structures of governance of the University contained in the UP Charter proposed by UP WIDEM 2. Pres. Roman’s opposition to this proposed provision, when conjoined with her endorsement of corporate powers for the BOR, is most alarming. An undemocratic structure of governance which is unaccountable to the UP Community is after all essential in pushing for commercialization programs which are unpopular among the UP Community and are widely opposed by the latter.

We reiterate our call for democratic structures of governance in the University, as embodied in our proposal for a University System Assembly. We reiterate our vehement opposition to the colonial and undemocratic structure of governance that is the BOR.

FOR A DEMOCRATIC UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE

On the question of changing the status of the University through the UP Charter, we members of UP WIDEM 2 reiterate our earlier proposal: for UP to be called a “democratic university of the people.” The “national university” status being lobbied for by the previous UP Administration – and the present one as well – substitutes appearance for essence, form for content. It means a university that is “national” in status but commercialized in essence, with meager and decreasing government subsidy. It means a university that is “national” in status but a small kingdom in operations, with a few deciding for a vast majority of a vibrant and dynamic community of various sectors.

That, clearly, is not a mandate for growth but a mandate for betrayal of the university’s character and mission as a state university, for betrayal of the right to quality education of the iskolars ng bayan, the Filipino youth and people. It is a mandate for commercialization and undemocratic structures of governance. Against a deceptive status, we call for a real change in the relationship between UP and the government and in the UP system of governance. We believe that a genuine mandate for growth for UP is a mandate for greater state subsidy and for democratic structures of governance. UP-WIDEM 2 remains steadfast in our vision for a democratic university of the people.

The UP Wide Democratization Movement 2 (UP-Widem 2), composed of the ALL-UP WORKERS UNION, ALL-UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION, Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP (KASAMA-UP) and the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP) believe that give the financial constraints and resource pressures facing the University because of the continuing state abandonment of education, it is important for the University Administration, in particular U.P. President Emerlinda R. Roman to engage the University's faculty, staff and students in open, sincere dialogues. We urge the University Administration, through Dr. Roman, to meet with the leaders of the workers and academic unions, the students through their councils, and other constituents for this purpose.

No comments: