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A matter of justice—and courtesy

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I personally delivered the following letter to, and had it officially received by, the office of the Secretary of the UP Board of Regents on Oct. 4. Each member of the board was provided an original. I mention the date because public officials and employees are by law (Republic Act 6713) required to respond to communications sent by the public within 15 working days from receipt. I have received no reply—not even a note saying that a reply would be forthcoming—either individually or collectively.

Worse, I am given to understand that Dr. Enrique Avila, the subject of this letter, has been writing the board since January of this year, inquiring about the status of his appeal—and has not been replied to either. Where is justice in UP? And where is common courtesy?

The Chair and Members

Board of Regents

University of the Philippines

Diliman, Q.C.

Messrs. and Mmes.,

As an alumna who has been with the UP faculty for more than 40 years and as a very concerned citizen, I would like to be informed of the status of the case of Dr. Enrique Avila, Dean of UP Cebu, who appealed to you his dismissal from the UP. It has been more than one year since he filed that appeal.

I feel I must convey my deep dismay at this delay, and therefore denial, of justice to Dr. Avila, particularly since it was so obvious from the very beginning that he was a victim of campus politics and that the charges against him (and his co-accused, Professor Ernesto Pineda) are at the least, highly questionable. What is even more unfair, however, is that the delay has extended the great financial distress into which Avila was plunged when, in the decision of UP President Alfredo Pascual to dismiss him from service, the latter included a proviso that Avila’s preventive suspension would continue pending the results of his appeal. Please be reminded that Dean Avila has not received any salary from the University during the entire period of his preventive suspension.

It is sincerely to be hoped that the Board of Regents (BOR), in its deliberations on the case, has taken official cognizance of the fact that Pascual was already looking for an officer in charge to replace Avila, offering the latter’s position to others, even before Avila was formally charged, although he must have been fully aware that Dean Avila’s term would end only in November of 2012.  Surely this is an indication that Mr. Pascual had already prejudged the case, or that he wanted Avila out under any circumstances.  What, one wonders, was President Pascual’s explanation for this highly irregular behavior?

It must also not have escaped the BOR’s notice that Pascual could not have had time to review the Avila case before he decided to accept the recommendations of the Administrative Disciplinary Tribunal, which body, by the way, included his Vice President for Public Affairs. Pascual approved the recommendations on the very same day they were submitted to him—when he could have taken advantage of the fact that it was a Friday, and he could have studied the papers over the weekend, since any communications would have to be transmitted on Monday anyway. Taking the time to review the documents over the weekend before making a decision would not have caused any delay in its transmission.

Former UP Visayas Chancellor Flor Lacanilao pointed out, in his website, that Avila is the top scientist among the four best-published in the UP Visayas, and that in the entire UP system, “you will perhaps find less than five deans only, who can match the ousted Dean Avila’s major contribution to one’s field.”

Professor Michael Purugganan, New York University’s Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics, wrote a letter to Academic Vice President Gisela Concepcion asking her to convey to you his sentiments that you should rectify the Avila situation. Purugganan makes the point that he had visited the Cebu campus and was “immediately impressed with all he (Avila) had accomplished and the passion and dedication he put into his position as dean. I came away thinking that with people of his caliber, the UP system and its constituent units were in great hands.” I hope VP Concepcion provided you with a copy of that letter.

Finally, three past UP Presidents were impelled to write you a letter also expressing their concern about the Avila case, “For it involves a long-serving UP academic who was appointed to three successive terms as Dean in an academic unit WHICH REQUIRED SERIOUS AND SOMETIMES VERY UNPOPULAR REFORMS TO REVERSE DECADES OF DRIFT TO MEDIOCRITY AND WHOSE UNFAIR TREATMENT MAY SEND THE WRONG SIGNAL TO ALL REFORM-MINDED ACADEMICS THROUGHOUT OUR UNIVERSITY” (emphasis mine).  This totally unprecedented move should have already alerted you, Messrs. and Mmes., that something was terribly wrong with the dismissal of Dean Avila. Worse, that Dodong Nemenzo, one of the three signatories to the letter, had resigned as Pascual’s adviser on Cebu, should have served as a double alert.

And yet, Messrs. and Mmes., you seem to have seen fit to keep Dean Avila twisting in the wind, as it were—a man innocent of the charges, and desiring only to do what is necessary to prepare UP Cebu for its role as a constituent campus.

I am sure, Messrs. and Mmes., that you have nothing but the best of intentions for the University. But it must also be pointed out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I am looking forward to your reply soonest

Yours in the service of the UP,

Solita Collas-Monsod


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