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Kicked out on trumped-up charges

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Kicked out on trumped-up charges

/ 09:15 PM September 16, 2011

The Dean of the UP Visayas Cebu College (UPVCC) was dismissed after more than 20 years of  distinguished service with nary a blot on his record. A retired professor (Professor 12 when he retired after 43 years of distinguished service), also with nary a blot on his record, was likewise banished forever from serving the university in any capacity.

Dean Enrique Avila was found guilty of two charges of gross neglect of duty and one charge of grave misconduct. Prof. Ernesto Pineda (UP College of Business Administration, retired) was found guilty of one charge of gross neglect of duty and one charge of grave misconduct.  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.

One would think that UP president Alfredo Pascual would at least have taken time to review the ADT’s recommendations, if only because of the severity of the penalties, never mind their excellent records. It seems not. On the same day that he received the recommendations, Pascual approved them, and the corresponding message to the accused was sent by Danny Concepcion, vice president for legal affairs. Thus, was a combined (minimum) 63 years of service to the university rewarded—with indecent haste.

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The Cebu media carried stories of a “boodle fight” in UPVCC in celebration of the dismissal of Avila, although the number of attendees was not reported. On the other hand, Cebu Daily News columnist Raymund Fernandez, also a UPVCC professor (and until last year, head of the humanities division), wrote a stinging column expressing his “feeling of offense resulting from witnessing a clear case of injustice” plus helplessness “such as one would feel when he looks at good people all around him and they remain silent in the face of all these.” Plus a feeling of shame/betrayal that three former UP presidents, members of the UP Cebu Advisory Committee, “who could give us a true picture of what really occurred here remained silent so far.”

Fernandez offered to provide interested readers with pertinent documents—the charges, Avila’s defense, and the ADT decision—so they can judge for themselves. I took advantage of the offer, and was e-mailed the material. I was provided other documents by Pineda. And I plowed through them all. I also talked to university colleagues here and in Cebu.

After all that, I have come to the conclusion that neither Avila nor Pineda are guilty of anything remotely related to gross neglect of duty or grave misconduct. Rather, it looks to me like they are victims of a witch-hunt, a vendetta, because they had the extreme bad taste of doing what they thought was best for UPVCC rather than serving personal, financial or ideological interests.

It looks to me like any investigation that was conducted was aimed at getting Avila (and Pineda) out of the way, rather than at getting at the truth. They, by the way, were not even provided a copy of the results of the preliminary investigation, and were refused when they asked for it. And any documentary evidence that showed their innocence seems to have been disregarded.

But if Avila and Pineda were not guilty of what they were charged with, what were the specific details of the bad taste I adverted to above?

It seems to me that the two, having worked for the autonomy of UPVCC and its future conversion into a constituent university, were in a hurry to implement its development plan, as approved by an Advisory Committee which included a former chief justice, two former UP presidents, business executives and entrepreneurs, all Cebuanos, as well as other recommendations by the committee. This involved infrastructure development, faculty development, streamlining and rationalizing of course offerings and curricula—the works. And, therefore, it meant stepping on many, many toes.

Case in point: the abolition of the high school, recommended not only by the advisory council but by practically every UP president. What is a tertiary institution doing with a high school, particularly if the institution does not offer a BS Ed degree? And particularly if roughly a quarter of the resources of the institution is being used for the purpose with no revenues from tuition?

But demonstrations and rallies ensued, and a compromise was reached: a smaller High School for the Arts (although the resource drain is still there). Still, Avila was marked for extermination.

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Another case in point: contracts for BOT development of part of the UPVCC campus (for resource-generation purposes); and for construction of buildings on land donated by the government were already awarded. This did not seem to suit people in the new UP administration who wanted some changes. Avila may not have been ready to play ball in his haste to implement the development plan as scheduled. Another reason to remove him.

A third case in point: when one streamlines, there is a need for retooling, for consolidating.  This may result in lower number of courses to teach, and therefore smaller income from “overload” allowances. Bad move.

Add to these Avila’s removal of student representation in the Executive Committee, and his insistence that the winning bidder for campus security should not use the same guards as the previous winner (else why even rebid?) which put him in the black books of certain elements of the studentry.

In other words, Avila and Pineda were kicked out for doing their jobs too well. On trumped-up charges. Shame.

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TAGS: administrative disciplinary tribunal, dean Enrique avila, education, featured columns, opinion, prof. Ernesto pineda, UP Visayas
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