Dapitan City

Politics mars search for state university head in Dapitan

Gualberto Laput
Politics mars search for state university head in Dapitan

QUO VADIS? The state-owned Jose Rizal Memorial State University remains without a president since April 2022.

Gualberto Laput / Rappler

The Dapitan-based state university has been without a president since April 2022, and it will likely be without a head for another year

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – The government-owned Jose Rizal Memorial State University (JRMSU) in Dapitan City is still without a university president, with some members of the search committee blaming political meddling for the failure of the institution’s board of regents to elect one earlier in January.

They expressed dismay over what they described as the board’s alleged disregard of the selection process, resulting in the election failure. 

The Dapitan-based JRMSU, which has five campuses and an extension in Zamboanga del Norte, has been without a president since April 2022, and it will likely be without a head for another year.

Lawyer Uldarico Mejorada II, a member of the search committee representing the private sector, said on Sunday, January 22, that he was “dismayed that all our hard work for almost a year went to naught.” 

Patrick Galleto, another member of the five-person committee, said they disqualified two of six aspirants for the university’s presidency, but then the “board reversed our decision and reinstated a disqualified applicant.” 

The search committee had disqualified Zamboanga State College for Marine Sciences and Technology director Cesar Reyes and Commission on Higher Education-Zamboanga Peninsula Regional Director Rody Garcia for “lack of experience in administrative service.” 

But during a meeting in Zamboanga City on December 14, 2022, the board of regents accepted Reyes back, citing his experience as the director for corporate affairs of the Zamboanga State College. 

The other applicants for the position were Cesar Estrope, Jay Telen, Quindhe Banquiao, and Ana Liza Lopez.

“Disqualifying and qualifying an applicant is the job of the search committee, not the university governing board, which job is to elect a president from the three shortlisted aspirants that we submit,” said Galleto. 

He said there was talk going around that faculty and JRMSU student regents were offered favors, and a local political group met with members of the board about the university presidency.

Galleto said the failed election reeked of politics. A local politician allegedly supported Reyes and then switched to Estrope. Another political group identified with an influential Zamboanga City-based political family allegedly supported Reyes.

The search committee chair, CHED Executive Director Cinderella Filipina Jaro, declined to comment, saying that queries “would be best addressed by the governing board.”

However, JRMSU Board chair, CHED Commissioner Jo Mark Libre, refused to answer Rappler’s 14 phone calls on January 20 and 21.

The JRMSU board held the election for a university president in Zamboanga City on January 11, but Libre’s chief of staff, Stephanie Conde, said that “it was declared [a] failure because nobody got the majority votes.”

The search committee was dissolved, and the board ordered another round of search by a new set of search committee members. 

Galleto said he was worried that the JRMSU would be left without a president for another year. 

He called on the JRMSU board of regents to shield itself from “politics and other personal interests” because “we are in the academe.” 

“The regents must be discerning and set a good example to its faculty and students. They must go above political polarization and be professional in choosing our next president,” Galleto said. – Rappler.com

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