It must be run as a business | Inquirer Opinion

It must be run as a business

/ 01:10 AM March 05, 2015

We take exception to the statement in the editorial “Education at risk” (3/3/15): “Passions run high whenever capitalist interests conflict with basic services such as education.”

We believe that there is no conflict between capitalist interests and education. In fact, education, which is a social responsibility, must be run as a business and must make profit sufficient to cover operational costs in the future (Peter Drucker).

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The conflict exists only when one of the parties to an agreement involving a university blatantly refuses to honor its obligations/commitments. This is the real issue between STI Education System Holdings and the Benitez family of Philippine Women’s University (PWU). The Benitezes, in a gesture of betrayal and after STI had poured in substantial amounts of money, executive time and diligent efforts to turn the university around, simply notified STI after three years that they will no longer continue with the partnership.

STI Holdings made good on its commitment to help an ailing PWU. The university could not service an obligation with Banco de Oro in the amount of P223 million. STI bailed the university out by buying the debt.

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The university could not pay its personnel in December 2011 and it retired employees who could not be paid their retirement pay. STI lent another P26 million to pay the employees.

PWU was mismanaged and the campuses were in terrible shape: leaking roofs, broken windows, flooding quadrangle, elevator shafts without elevators, no computer cables, no budgeting skills, inadequate power systems, excess manpower, no human resource department, and dwindling enrollment. STI provided another P198 million to fix the PWU campus including the campus in Quezon City that houses JASMS, also a perennially flooded campus. An additional P65 million was added by STI because the Benitezes wanted to use part of the money to buy back a property they lost to Jardine Land because of a failed commercialization project of the campus where JASMS is located.

STI executives diligently attended meetings during the three-year period that the PWU and JASMS campuses were being renovated. STI was to be paid in shares of stock but the Benitezes never took any step to comply with this commitment and after three years, they simply said they no longer wanted the partnership.

The Benitezes also did not spend a single centavo to help PWU.

Obviously, honor and decency are the bases of the conflict, not capitalist interest and education.

The editorial poses a query: Will the Tanco Group assure the public that PWU will remain an educational institution? The Tanco group is in education. Our mission is to own and manage vibrant, relevant and service-oriented educational institutions. It is never a part of our plan to let an institution go to seed and deprive the students of the services of the university. In fact, we have done everything to restore the PWU to what it once was. Given the opportunity and the proper environment, STI would therefore be happy to support PWU. In the meantime, we are creditors and must be paid in accordance with contractual agreements.

The question really is: Are the Benitezes supportive of their own institution?

—EUSEBIO H. TANCO

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TAGS: JASMS, Philippine Women's University, STI Holdings
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