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Separating fact from possible fiction

/ 09:30 PM September 14, 2012

I am certain that the letter to Gerry Cao I reproduced in my column last week (“Injustice in UP,” Inquirer, 9/8/12) was an accurate, if necessarily concise, representation of what happened to Marla Endriga because at the time I wrote it, I had examined the documents relevant to her case.

But Perry Ong of the Institute of Biology at the University of the Philippines in Diliman (IB UPD) does not think so. So let us try to separate the fact from the possible fiction.

That Dolly and Joe Endriga, Marla’s parents, served UP for a combined total of at least 80 years, including as deans and as vice president, there is no debate about. The debate (if it can be so called) is whether that fact is relevant to whether Endriga’s instructorship should have been renewed, everything else remaining the same. Ong says it is not, and I maintain that it should at the very least have been considered a mitigating circumstance by those who decided her case.

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That Marla Endriga was sexually harassed is a fact. That her harasser was the head of the IB where she was an instructor is a fact. No debate.

That she received a travel grant to read a paper she wrote at an international conference is a fact; that she published is a fact. Twice president of Mensa, fact. Ong can check on her CV. There should be no debate on that.

That her appointment as instructor was not renewed is a fact. That the chair of the body deciding on her nonrenewal was her harasser is a fact. No debate about that.

Here’s where the debate starts—not on the facts, obviously, but on the “context,” as Ong calls it. In his letter, he says that the chair did not vote. That is not surprising, because there is a general misconception that a chair should not vote except to break a tie. Thus, the harasser signed the nonrenewal simply because he was head of the IB at the time. No malice there, apparently.

Now for one great divide: Ong writes, “Please keep in mind that the case was a private issue between the former director and Ms Endriga 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.” He later reiterates, “Furthermore, how can the Tenured Faculty make a decision that could be construed as prejudicial to Ms Endriga, which in this case is her nonrenewal, when they were not aware that such a case was ongoing nor were they privy to the case?”

Oh, please. The IB UPD had no idea about this case since it was bound by confidentiality, etc.? I can categorically state that Ong does not know what he is talking about. Why? Well, first, three of the 7-person tenured faculty who made the decision on Endriga’s nonrenewal had testified on the harasser’s behalf when the case was ongoing. How could they therefore not have been aware of it?

Second reason: If Ong checks his faculty records, he will find out that Endriga brought up the sexual harassment matter to the entire IB faculty during its February 2005 meeting, although she did not name her harasser (he was presiding). And before Ong faults her, please to remember the context: a lowly instructor against the head of her unit. All she wanted to do at the time was to get it to stop, because apparently there had been other cases. Given THIS situation, does anyone really think it is possible that speculation was not rife, that no confidences were exchanged, either after the faculty meeting or after those three tenured faculty testified in the so-called “confidential” case? Again, please.

But let’s go back to the facts—and in this case, the time line. Endriga’s appointment was not renewed in 2006. Fact. The Board of Regents (BOR), responding to Faculty Regent Roland Simbulan’s request, immediately ordered an investigation of the nonrenewal of her contract. Fact. The IB UPD was asked to conduct an investigation of itself. Fact. Perry Ong, who had become head, reported the results of the investigation (obviously defending the decision) to the BOR. Fact. No debate there, either.

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Endriga was furnished a copy of the IB UPD report at the instance of the BOR. Fact. She wrote the BOR, pointing out certain “inaccuracies” in the IB UPD report. Fact. Her arguments obviously carried sufficient weight, because the BOR, in October 2006, instructed Chancellor Cao to form an independent (presumably non-IB UPD) committee to reinvestigate the matter. Fact. All of which Ong, from his letter, apparently does not know.

So it turns out that Ong and I have the same facts, after all; he just didn’t have as many facts as I do.

Where we differ is why Endriga’s appointment was not renewed. I say that she was punished because she had the temerity to complain against her harasser. Ong says that it was all on the up and up, that she was not renewed because she just couldn’t hack it—nothing to do with the sexual harassment case. The BOR certainly thought that her nonrenewal merited an independent reinvestigation. It seems at this point that its orders were not carried out. And nobody gave a hoot. Which, to my mind, compounds the injustice.

Was Endriga unqualified as an instructor? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. UP Manila welcomed her with open arms. She is now an assistant professor there, and is currently on a UP fellowship to the University of Newcastle in England, where she hopes to obtain a PhD in genetics.

Unfortunately, the justice she received from UP Manila cannot make up for the injustice she received in UP Diliman.

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TAGS: institute of biology at up diliman, Marla Endriga, Perry Ong, Sexual Harassment, Solita Collas-Monsod
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