Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

The UP President Selection: An Illustration of BOR Dynamics

Posted on | November 20, 2004 | No Comments

Last November 17, 2004, members of the University of the Philippines System’s highest policy-making body – the Board of Regents (BOR) – found themselves in a draw as to who shall succeed Francisco Nemenzo as the President of the University, come the end of his term in February 2005.

With an even split among the twelve-member BOR, six votes went to Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu, with the other six votes secured by UP Diliman Chancellor Emerlinda Roman. They tried four times by secret balloting to come to a decision, to no avail. Seven votes are needed to seat the new UP President.

In an open letter dated November 19, 2004, Student Regent (SR) Marco Dominic Delos Reyes tied the event to a struggle for everyone’s right to education, vis-à-vis a battle to prevent the Republic’s Chief Executive from successfully dipping her fingers into the nation’s premiere public institution of higher education. Delos Reyes asserted that the stalemate has been a tactical victory for the UP Community, because he perceives Ambassador Espiritu as a puppet of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) out to execute plans that are allegedly detrimental to education, and Chancellor Roman as the true champion of the University’s interests.
Without expressing bias as to who is the better nominee among Espiritu and Roman, it is worthwhile to analyze the current dynamics of the BOR as is observable in this development, in light of legislative ventures to amend the UP Charter. Two dominant proposals are existent – one upholds the BOR’s existence and varies only its composition, while another seeks to radically abolish the BOR in favor of a much larger UP System Assembly (UPSA).

As with any democracy, it has always been a numbers game – to have the majority side with a particular interest for it to overcome endless debate. Let us look at the impasse of today’s BOR and hopefully, we may appreciate why the current system of University Government, in its 96 years of existence, deserves to be given an extension on its life
but should be modified as to its membership.

The current composition of the Board of Regents numbers twelve (12), and includes the following: the Chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, the Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education, the University President, the Faculty Regent, the Alumni Regent, the Student Regent, and five (5) Malacañang appointees.

Delos Reyes assumes in his letter that the five Malacañang Regents vote as one solid block on orders of their principal GMA. Together with his concept that Espiritu is the chosen one of the palace, it is then left to speculation as to who is the sixth voter in the BOR that chose Espiritu over Roman.

There are on the other hand six “champions” of the University community, following Delos Reyes’ assumption that Chancellor Roman is the best for UP. Of this number, only one vote can be identified – that of Delos Reyes who, by his own narrative, voted for Roman.

Who then is the sixth “Malacañang Puppet”? Who are the five who chose otherwise? Choose from the following: new CHED Chair Fr. Rolando De La Rosa, Sen. Juan Flavier, Rep. Cynthia Villar, UP Pres. Francisco Nemenzo, Faculty Regent Sergio Cao, and Alumni Regent Jaime De los Santos.

In all these scenarios, one is thing is for sure: that the argument that the Board of Regents is controlled by Malacañang is FALSE. If it was indeed true, then I don’t see why Espiritu had a hard time convincing one more Regent to vote for him.

Proponents of HB 2327, or the new UP Charter version that seeks to abolish the BOR, are the ones who staunchly accuse the BOR of being “colonial” and “Malacañang puppet” in nature. It is worth asking them now, therefore, why their proposition did not hold ground in this particularly crucial instance of political interest, and why one of their members – SR Delos Reyes – sees this stalemate as a tactical victory against Malacañang.

Is the Student Regent now acknowledging the dynamism of personas in the BOR, and in the same line of reasoning disproving his own prior public declamations that the BOR is hopelessly dominated by Malacañang?

The other new UP Charter version that seeks to retain the BOR and modify its composition (SB 1833) could be an answer in the future to such a problem as this.

First, the five Malacañang appointees are done away with in favor of three (3) prominent citizen Regents, to be appointed not by Malacañang but by the incumbent BOR. Next, a Staff Regent is added to represent the research, extension, and professional staff (REPS) in addition to the administrative staff. The BOR’s number is thus reduced by one – in favor of giving more votes to the UP Community – making it an eleven (11)-member, odd-numbered board. Even splits shall be avoided.

Next, a recall provision is added to check on the sectoral Regents (Faculty, Alumni, Student, Staff), such that if their respective sectors should feel that their representatives are no longer fighting for their interests, they can be unseated.

Compare this to UP Widem II’s HB 2327 that, among other things, defines a quorum as “those present” in a given meeting, regardless of how many are currently holding office. Furthermore, the number of UPSA members that they are proposing numbers at least twenty eight (28), which means that it could be more and that it cannot be immediately defined whether the UPSA will be an even or odd-numbered body.

Let us watch in the next few days how today’s Board of Regents shall be moving regarding the selection of the next UP President. In appreciating their dynamics, let us also reflect on the two proposals now in Congress: retaining the BOR but democratizing it, or instituting a new, unwieldy UPSA that has not yet been tried and tested in the Philippine setting.
(Note: This was written at the height of the BOR deadlock. Later on, the BOR voted 7-5 and then unanimously to elect UP Diliman Chancellor Emerlinda Roman as the next UP President.)

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