The UP law deanship issue

I would usually hesitate to write a column on an issue in which I am a direct protagonist.  But I am setting aside such reluctance in order to counter disinformation being peddled on the recent appointment of Prof. Raul Pangalangan as dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law.

This decision, in which I participated as a member of the UP Board of Regents, has been publicly attacked by a group supporting Prof. Raphael Lotilla, one of the candidates.  A few columnists, quoting from statements issued by this group, have written about the issue. Silence on my part could be taken as an admission of their allegations.

The issue being raised against the Board of Regents, UP President Francisco Nemenzo, and myself, as faculty regent, is that we brushed aside the findings and recommendations of the search committee and that of Diliman Chancellor Claro Llaguno, and went ahead to appoint somebody not suitable for the position.  I am being taken to task for failing to heed the voice of the law faculty who supposedly rejected Dean Pangalangan.  I am accused of committing an unjust and undemocratic act.  This I cannot accept.

All UP deans are chosen by the Board of Regents in accordance with the UP Charter.  A search committee conducts a consultation process among the stakeholders of a college.  Their report, together with the recommendations of the chancellor and the president, forms the main material on which the regents make their decision.  Because the university frowns upon converting deanships into popularity contests, university officials explicitly do not authorize straw votes.  The search committee is directed instead to gather substantive and qualitative information.

Raul Pangalangan was appointed dean by this procedure.  The search committee came up with three names: Professors Myrna Feliciano, Raphael Lotilla, and Raul Pangalangan.  They were compared with one another on four criteria: qualifications, vision, managerial experience, and endorsement by the sectors.  Though their ranking varied depending on the criterion, all three nominees were found to be “eminently qualified for the deanship.”

In academic qualification, Pangalangan was judged to have the edge.

The committee noted that he has a doctorate in jurisprudence from Harvard, and was recently a  Visiting Professor at the Harvard Law School.  Lotilla, currently NEDA Deputy Director-General, was found to enjoy the broadest support in the college, garnering the most number of endorsements.  Feliciano was considered superior in administrative experience.  The committee endorsed all three nominees to the chancellor, and refrained from stating its preference.

Chancellor Llaguno, however, forwarded only two names to the president: Feliciano and Lotilla.  He also expressed his preference for Feliciano, noting her long experience.  Although he agreed with the committee that the 3 nominees were all “eminently qualified”, he dropped Pangalangan from the list, citing the committee’s view that “his managerial experience is almost nil.”

President Nemenzo found this judgment to be faulty.  The chancellor could state his preference, but not drop anyone from the list to be forwarded to the Board of Regents.  More important, the stated reason for the elimination of Pangalangan was factually erroneous; his managerial experience is far from nil.  He was at various times Secretary of the UP System and General Counsel of the university.

Nemenzo met with the members of the search committee to find out more about their assessment of the nominees.  To get a better perspective, he also decided to talk to the three nominees.  As faculty regent, I attended these interviews, and came out pleased that the law school was not lacking in qualified people to assume the deanship. But only one position was open, and making the  choice was difficult. At the meeting of the regents, President Nemenzo endorsed all three, indicating the pros and cons of any decision that the regents might take.  He asked the regents to share their collective wisdom in order to arrive at the best decision.

A long discussion ensued and, at the end of it, the regents chose Pangalangan.  I myself voted for him conscious that it may not be easy for him to get the cooperation of his colleagues.  But the decisive factor for me was the perception widely shared by members of the board that his credentials and impressive vision for a renewal of the teaching of law would be a powerful asset to the university in its quest for excellence.

My role as faculty regent does not command me to give up discernment and serve as the majority’s mouthpiece, which would be an irresponsible exercise of my duties.  I knew that the faculty was divided, reflecting what the committee and the nominees themselves had acknowledged as the dichotomy between the “old guards” and the “young turks.”  That Pangalangan was not the popular choice of the faculty I took to be a direct result of his decision to stand above this divide.

Some people have insinuated that I voted for Pangalangan because we belong to the same fraternity.  I am sorry to say I am not ruled by such affiliations.  Neither is Nemenzo, who is Lotilla’s fraternity brod. Pangalangan does not need it either to deserve the deanship.  It is not the first time that UP’s regents have appointed a dean who is not the faculty’s choice.  By choosing Pangalangan, they have signalled once again that they would set aside popularity in order to give due weight to the values of achievement and excellence which should be supreme in academe.


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