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UP Cebu Dean Avila Accused of Murdering Democracy

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UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES Cebu College (UP Cebu) Dean Enrique Avila is facing accusations of murder.

The victim: Democracy in the College.

Student Council (SC) Vice-Chairperson-elect Kristian Jacob Abad Lora stressed this in a speech during a massive, multi-sectoral protest last March 1, 2011, Tuesday at the college grounds. More than 300 students, faculty, and staff participated in what is expected to be one of the first in a series of protest actions organized by the UP Kilos Na-Cebu Chapter. UP Kilos Na is a UP-based alliance of individuals and organizations fighting for democratic governance in the  university.

“The immediate and unjust retrenchment of 15 guards, the removal of student representative in executive committee, and the decision to cover the soccer field with dirt without consultation leading to its disappearance of the soccer, among others, all point to one thing: patay na, wala na talagang demokrasya!”, Lora said in a mix of English, Filipino, and the vernacular. (More of his speech at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150104866739794)

Given these developments, he asserted that only through “collective action” of the students, teachers and workers will the revival the college’s democracy, which is “struggling in its deathbed, prepared by Avila and his cohorts”, be possible.

“Datapwa’t tayong mga constituent pa rin ang makakapagpabalik nito at tayo rin lang ang makakapag-padaloy ng isang tunay na autonomy ng UP Cebu at hindi ang iilan lang na mga tao lalo na si Dean Avila,” (We, the constituents of UP Cebu, are ones decisive in bringing back true autonomy in UP Cebu and not a select few, especially not Dean Avila), Lora added.

UP Kilos Na-Cebu Chapter is therefore encouraging all UP Cebu students, teachers and workers to join the whole-day strike on March 08, Tuesday to show how serious they are in ousting the dean. Leaders of the movement highlighted the importance of this activity.

Lora explains, “The UP Vice-President for Administration, sent by UP President Alfredo Pascual, to look into the UP Cebu situation will arrive in the college on that day. We must show the central administration the real situation at UP Cebu before Avila and his cohorts can trample the truth with their sugarcoated lies.”

UP Kilos Na-Cebu also outlined the legitimate bases for their call to oust Avila and his cohorts in an educational discussion last March 4, 2011 Friday. These are outlined below.


Why Avila and His Cohorts Should Go?


UNDEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE. The dean has a penchant for favoring people considered to be “within his circle”, even disregarding established procedures for them. His notion of consultation is not based on UP-enshrined traditions of collegiality and intellectual discourse as he is not open to alternative ideas—meaning those emanating from people outside his circle—dismissing them outright through the pronouncement: “I am the dean”, as though his words were law.


Autonomy for Whom?


• The whole design of Avila’s seemingly always-on-the-hurry governance is premised on the need for UP Cebu to be an autonomous constituent university in the next five or seven years. But its administration needs to pause and ask: autonomy for whom? When all decision-making is controlled by a clique so that proposals by an individual or group, which happen to be in conflict with the clique’s view (e.g., the security committee, the college-wide faculty assembly, the student council, etc.) are disregarded and overturned without the benefit of explanations or debates, it seems that autonomy does not provide a very bright prospect for UP Cebu. The promise of “autonomy” for UP Cebu has almost approximated the “Bagong Lipunan” of the Marcos’ regime. In other words, the whole framework of UP Cebu autonomy is left in hands of Avila and his clique. So we ask: autonomy for whom? 



Questionable Appointment of Mr. Alsidry Sharif as Budget Officer


• The position of the budget officer was not open for application and competition for selection, contrary civil service guidelines. What is more glaringly irregular, to say the least, is that Mr. Sharif still has pending cases and he is supposed to be suspended for these, notwithstanding that fact, he was rewarded with an appointment.



Phasing Out of Academic Programs without Due Process 


• Several attempts were made by dean Avila to phase out the UP Cebu high school department simply because it does not fit in the “autonomy plans” which he and his circle alone crafted. Such measure was never a product of consultation with the UP Cebu community, was voted down by the faculty members in a college-wide meeting, was opposed by key political leaders in Cebu, the alumni of the college, and by almost everyone outside Avila’s circle, that is, the overwhelming majority. Instead of engaging them in a debate on the topic, he closed his door and proceeded with his plans. He even released a memorandum prohibiting high school students to engage in protests without his consent. He was thwarted nonetheless from implementing this plan in full scale, through the collective action of the UP Cebu community.



Implementation of Projects without Proper Consultation


• Consistent with his standpoint that he has the monopoly of decision-making in the college, Avila implemented projects without due consultation, a practice considered sacred by the institution. As such, since the approval of the projects did not go through an extensive exchange of ideas, the projects themselves were never scrutinized and a number of them proved to be detrimental the university’s interest. For example, the construction of a condotel on the lot beside the UP high school necessitated the excavation of soil. The dirt gathered was dumped at the UP soccer field rendering it unusable to UP students and sports enthusiasts at a time when the nation’s interest for football is mounting. No explanation was made by the administration for this discourtesy. Another example, and this one is potentially illegal, is the construction of Sun Cellular site within UP’s premises. Rent was pegged at Php. 15, 000 a month when more credible estimates showed that the lot costs about Php. 70,000. The company is not also charged for electric consumption while students are obliged to pay Energy Fee. The administration refuses to illuminate the constituents on this matter by not releasing relevant documents requested by the All UP Workers’ Union.



The Old Boys’ Club


• Dean Avila’s insistence on protecting Mr. Alsidry Sharif, budget officer, and Mr. Ernesto Pineda, autonomy consultant likens UP Cebu’s administration to an old boys’ club. The fact that Mr. Sharif was hired as a supervising administrative officer (SAO) and, then suddenly, appointed by Avila as budget officer (BO) reveals the dean’s efforts to ensure Sharif still has a place in the soon-to-be autonomous constituent unit. Under the old organizational structure, the college has a SAO but not BO. With autonomy, it will have a BO but no SAO. Moreover, the sudden promotion of the BO—it is now under the dean’s office while structurally it should be under the associate dean for administration—cannot but lead constituents to speculate that there are certain arrangements between the dean and the BO that they want kept between them. This should not be the case in an institution where there is transparency.


Moreover, Avila continues to be blind and mum about complaints raised against Sharif, viz:


1. Selling of guesthouse gate. Earning was only remitted after 4 months of follow-up and insistence on the part of the college cashier.


2. Selling of paints and lumber. This demonstrates failure to delineate between private property and public property, revealing the club’s cocky attitude toward UP Cebu governance: “Ato na ang UP Cebu!”


3. Selling of old COA documents from the basement on a weekend. The schedule of selling such documents reveals something irregular. It was done on a non-office hours. Moreover, COA documents are government documents.


4. Using a room in the high school for personal gain. This is another clear indication that Mr. Sharif considers the public property of the college as his own as a privileged member of the club. He was caught using a room in the high school as a storage facility of his Magnolia bottled products for his personal business. In fact, when a guard broke 9 bottles of such product, he ordered the guard to pay him. This is clearly a case of enriching the self at the expense of public money. At the height of the corruption scandal the country faces, tolerating this does not set a good example.


5. Guards were ordered to do carpentry works without extra pay. This is another case of exploitation, which helps contextualize their recent decision to retrench the guards of UP Cebu, notwithstanding the willingness of the agency which won the bidding to absorb them.


6. Evident dishonesty in dealing with lost and found items. One infamous case was the lost camera found by a guard in 2009. The guard consulted then Security Officer Sharif on the matter and Mr. Sharif ordered him to keep it in his cabinet. The standard procedure for lost-and-found items is to hand it over to the Office of Student Affairs to inform the public. When cases were filed against Mr. sharif, Mr. Sharif handed down the camera to the OSA just this January 2011.


• Equally infamous is Avila’s other cohort: Ernesto Pineda, former consultant for the UP Cebu autonomy project and now lecturer of the Management Division. We summarize his notoriety hence:


1. Acquisition of materials worth Php. 30, 000 WITHOUT the bidding process. Mr. Pineda caused the purchase of 100 chairs at Php. 300 each without the benefit of the bidding process, a procedure which ensures that the university does not enter into financial transactions detrimental to its interest. This irregularity was excused in the name of “autonomy”.


2. Purchased materials also did not undergo physical inventory inspection. This glaringly demonstrates absence of concern for university interest. Moreover, not going through standard procedures meant to protect the university is, in itself, illegal.



ANTI-STUDENT STANCE. Avila’s moves to systematically disenfranchise students’ participation in university issues only demonstrate his desire to cover up anti-student measures. As shown by the recent series of protests, the student body serves as a force that can aid in the checking and balancing of Avila’s tendency to gravely abuse his discretion.



Removal of Student Representation in the Executive Committee


• Avila premised his removal of the student representative in the executive committee again on, surprise, “autonomy”. He claims that, in other autonomous units, executive committees do not have student representation. This claim is outlandish because various units have different compositions in their executive committees. As a principle, student representation is enshrined in the UP Charter. As such, in UP Mindanao, there is a student representative in what the unit refers to as “management council” and the UP Baguio student body has a representative in their “executive committee”. In Diliman and Los Banos, it is true that there is no student representative in their executive committees but such committees also have members not found in the UP Cebu set-up. For example, they have faculty representatives elected-at-large. So the technical language advanced by Avila to remove the student representative from the executive committee is unwarranted. The move only reflects his desire to govern undisturbed.



ANTI-WORKER STANCE. The undemocratic policies of Avila which isolate him from the majority of the UP community do not only affect the students but also the faculty, staff, and other employees of the college.



Unfair Implementation of the Rules Governing Tenure of Faculty Members


• The dean does not apply university policies fairly. Injustice, to him, is justifiable in the name of “autonomy”. For example, since in version of UP Cebu autonomy bearing his imprimatur, the UP Cebu high school is not in the picture; he finds it convenient to overrule the recommendation for tenure of Prof. Roberto Basadre. Meanwhile, those who are part of his clique were given tenure in a manner that raises a number of questions.


For example, Prof. Rhenozo Barte of the Management Division, who is supposed to be subject already to the UP-or-Out rule after not being tenured for 7 years, was made Full Time teacher while other similarly situated professors or those who have already met the requirements for tenure remain contractuals. Prof. Micheal Mende, for example, of the social sciences division has already met the requirements of a masters’ degree, a publication, and a commendable teaching evaluation, but he remains without tenure. Other professors in the social sciences division who have also accomplished the requirements for tenure are also languishing in a temporary status. It seems that only those who come from divisions which are part of his vision for autonomy are worthy of tenure



Inhumane Removal of Security Personnel on Whimsical Grounds 


• Recently, Avila decided not to renew 15 security personnel even if the agency that won the bidding is willing to take them in. This decision overturned the recommendation of the Security Committee without explaining the rationale behind such decision. While it is true that no employee-employer relationship exists between the college and the security personnel—which is in itself a lamentable, anti-labor arrangement tolerated in this country, an injustice in its own right—the more prudent course action should have been to rehire these security personnel, who have families to feed and who have not been implicated in any substantiated accusation of inefficiency. What is more inefficient, in fact, is to hire new personnel who still have to be trained about the dynamics of college security. That Avila unilaterally acted to remove these personnel not only shows his undemocratic inclination but also raises questions as to the real motivation behind the move. Is it possible that these personnel are prospective witnesses to any wrongdoing on the part of the administration?



Inaction on Complaints Raised Against His Cohorts by Those “Outside His Circle”


• The lack of action of Avila’s office on a number of complaints and concerns is reminiscent of the Office of Ombudsman apparent interest to protect its allies. The following complaints, among others, were not acted upon by Avila:


  1. Complaint for qualified theft against Mr. Sharif
  2. Complaint for harassment of staff and security guards against Mr. Sharif
  3. All UP Workers’ Union’s request for formal information and pertinent document related to the construction/ encroachment on UP Cebu Property by the Pagaett Place Condotel



For it to achieve the essence of autonomy, The UP Cebu College must be given the chance to determine its own direction as college and as part of the larger UP System. For this to be possible, the UP-cherished values of collegiality, informed debate, and democratic governance must be upheld. This is not possible with Dean Enrique Avila and his cohorts in the college’s midst.


Avila and his cohorts should go.








Author: pchan_august

Juris Doctor (Law) Graduate. Iskolar ng Bayan. Activist. Environmentalist. Frustrated Singer, Poet and Writer. Computer Enthusiast. Servant of the Masses. God's Servant.

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