An initial response to Ms. Monsod’s column
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I read with alarm and sadness Ms Solita C. Monsod’s article in her column “Get Real” entitled “Injustice in UP” (Sept. 8, 2012 online and print version). Since the Institute of Biology, UP Diliman (IB UPD) was identified in her column, an institution which I proudly served as director from June 1, 2006 to May 31, 2012, as well as my name, I have to fire off this response quickly without the benefit of documents relevant to what Ms Monsod raised in her article since these documents are at the office of the IB UPD. A more detailed response from the IB UPD will follow. However, there are other sources of information as well as my memory of circumstances surrounding this issue that will support this initial response.
Ms Monsod’s article is supposed to be a nearly 5-year-old private letter of hers to then UP Diliman Chancellor Sergio S. Cao. It was a letter between friends (note the use of the nickname of Chancellor Cao). However, by making the letter public, there are a lot of context that were missed out. Also, by making her letter public and considering that nearly five years had elapsed since writing that letter, shouldn’t she be doing some fact checking first to confirm what her letter contained? By publishing her letter as is, she ran the risk of confusing people about what the issues were. It is also unclear whether she was able to access the original documents related to the case or whether she relied on the complainant’s complaint alone. For a private letter, the complainant’s complaint would suffice; but for a letter to be made public in which institutions and individuals are referred to, shouldn’t prudence be the norm until fact checking had been made?
She mentioned only three names in her letter (then Chancellor Cao’s, Ms Endriga’s and mine) relevant to the issues she raised. Unsophisticated people reading her article will get the impression that I was responsible for two of the three issues (see comments posted in the online version of her article). Simple fact checking would have clarified a lot of issues, which she unfortunately never did nor indicated in her column as footnotes to give context to her private letter made public. The communication is now not between two people (then Chancellor Cao and herself) but between her and the rest of the world which has no idea what her article was all about except the words “injustice” and “sexual harassment”.
There are three separate but interrelated issues, which are:
1. Response of then Chancellor Cao to her letter. I have no idea what then Chancellor Caos’ response was to her letter as this is the first time I became aware of her letter because of her column. At the end of her letter, she mentioned that then Chancellor Cao is still checking what his actions were. Ms Monsod should know that since March 2011, there had been a new Chancellor of UP Diliman. She had plenty of time to check with the new Chancellor about the status of this case before publishing her article. She never did or if she did, she never mentioned it in her article.
2 The sexual harassment case filed by the complainant against the former director of IB UPD, who was charged, tried and eventually found guilty with a penalty of six months suspension without pay, which he served and after serving his suspension eventually resigned from the university. So justice had been served on this issue.
The documents pertaining to this case is part of the public domain and is accessible in the UP Law Center as the UP Gazette Volume 33, no. 3, July-September 2006. Please keep in mind that the case was a private issue between the former director and the complainant and that the IB UPD had no idea about this case since the case was bound by confidentiality and known only to those directly involved. IB UPD learned only of the case when the suspension order was handed down. We were never privy to the merits of the case.
Also, once we were made aware of the case, I immediately contacted the Office of the Anti-Sexual Harassment and asked that a seminar be organized given to the faculty and staff of IB UPD to ensure that this will not happen again.
3. The complainant’s nonrenewal as an instructor at the IB UPD. Ms Monsod could have simply asked us at the IB UPD what happened to this case or what processes the IB UPD follow during hiring, promotion, renewal and tenure and we could have explained these processes to her. Again, Ms Monsod never did. It seems that once she believed that IB UPD had committed an injustice to the complainant, she never bothered to do any fact checking.
For the record, at the IB UPD, the Tenured Faculty is the body which decides on matters of hiring, renewal, promotion and tenure. The former IB director who has tenure was a member and as IB director presides over meetings of the Tenured Faculty. The director does not even vote during these meetings. Every year, the IB, through the director or deputy director for academic affairs, informs the non-tenured faculty that those interested to be renewed should submit an accomplishment report by January 31.
Afterwards the Academic Personnel Committee (APC), composed of a representative each from the Professors, Associate Professors, Assistant Professors and Instructors, who are elected by faculty members of the same rank to which they belong, compiles and reviews the documents and submits their assessment of the performance of the non-tenured faculty members to the Tenured Faculty.
The Tenured Faculty meets to review the recommendations of the APC and then looks at the previous year’s conditions of renewal of said faculty members. Once a non-tenured faculty is recommended for renewal, the conditions of renewal for the succeeding year are set. The non-tenured faculty members are informed of the decision of the Tenured Faculty before March 31 of the current academic year. This is to ensure that the 60-day notice is met in case the Tenured Faculty decides not to renew any faculty members.
The letter of renewal or nonrenewal is signed by the IB Director, which in this case happened to be the accused. But given that IB UPD had no idea about the case since as mentioned earlier this was bound by confidentiality, how can IB UPD be expected to issue the letter of nonrenewal to the complainant?
Furthermore, how can the Tenured Faculty make a decision that could be construed as prejudicial to the complainant, which in this case is her nonrenewal, when they were not aware that such as case was ongoing nor were they privy to the case?
As a result of the instructions from the BOR meeting of 28th July 2006, I received instructions from Chancellor Cao to respond to the complainant’s complaint, which was raised by then Faculty Regent, Roland Simbulan. I met with Faculty Regent Simbulan to clarify issues regarding the complaint. Afterwards IB responded and submitted pertinent documents relevant to the complainant’s nonrenewal to then Chancellor Cao, who forwarded these documents to the BOR. This was what was referred to in Ms. Monsod letter “…I understand the Board of Regents, after having been made aware that the letter from Perry Ong justifying her nonrenewal contained gross factual inaccuracies, asked you to create an independent fact-finding or investigation committee. That was end October 2006…”
Given the dates of the initial BOR meeting and the second meeting, and allowing for time of transmitting documents from various offices, IB UPD responded to these instructions quickly. On the other, the above quotation of Ms Monsod’s letter raises the question if she ever saw IB UPD’s response and documentation? As far as I can remember, the above wordings were part of the complainant’s letter of appeal to the BOR dated sometime in 2008 or 2009. I think this time it was Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo who brought her letter to the BOR’s attention. This I have to check with actual documents surrounding these circumstances. We were given a copy of a second BOR decision instructing Chancellor Cao to look into the complainant’s appeal vis a vis IB’s response. This was the last we heard of this issue, until now.
To further enlighten the reading public, at the College of Science, to which IB is a proud member, the standards are higher than that prescribed in the UP Faculty Manual. To illustrate, to be hired as an Assistant Professor, a Ph D. degree is required (in other units, a Master’s degree would suffice). To be considered for tenure, the faculty member should have a rank of Associate Professor with at least five peer reviewed publications and have advised at least 1 graduate student earn his or her degree.
Lastly, Ms Monsod prefaced her article with a description of how the complainant’s parents served the university well. There is no doubt that they should be commended for their service and dedication to the university and the country. However, I am not sure why Ms Monsod did what she did in terms of relevance. Shouldn’t justice be served regardless of who you are and that justice should be served based on its merits?
The Institute of Biology-UP Diliman will issue a formal response to Ms Monsod’s article which will include full documentation to support their position.
Perry S. Ong
professor in biology
Institute of Biology
UP Diliman, Q C
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