Sunday, June 23, 2024

Mayor’s appointment to SU BOT draws flak

December 6, 2023

Several student leaders from different colleges at Silliman joined the SU Faculty Association (SUFA) in a multisectoral silent rally on Dec. 6 protesting the appointment of Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo to the Silliman University Board of Trustees (SU BOT).

Waving placards calling for reforms in the Board, the rallyists urged the SU BOT, headed by Chairperson Ricardo Balbido, to release an official statement on the Nov. 10 nomination of Dumaguete Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo to the Board—which took various stakeholders by surprise.

The resignation by Remollo from the BOT on Dec. 5 did little to mollify the protesters, who decided to continue with the rally.

The rallyists demanded improvements in the process of selecting and retaining members of the highest policy-making body of the University, which is represented by the SU Alumni Association Inc. (SAAI), the United Church of Christ of the Philippines, and the SU Foundation Inc. (SUFI) which nominated the Mayor to the Board.

Remollo previously served as Trustee for 10 years from 2011 to 2021, representing the SAAI.

Mayor Remollo was elected for a fifth term in the SU Board of Trustees that would end in July 2028. He attended the BOT meeting on Nov. 29 but withdrew his acceptance on Dec. 5, amid speculations of his plans for the University while he is lead proponent of the 174-hectare reclamation project along the boulevard that has been denounced by Silliman as anti-environment. 

Sources from the Noto174DumagueteIslands Coalition, which initiated the silent rally, said rumors were rife since the last week of November about how the Dumaguete Mayor’s involvement in the policy-making at Silliman as a Trustee would affect the University’s anti-reclamation stand.  

SU Student Government (SUSG) President Enrica Dinopol and Vice President Timothy Libres joined the rally with several other student leaders even though, they said, it is not an SUSG-initiated event.

The SUSG also released on Dec. 5 a statement signed as well by the respective governors of each College Student Council, following Remollo’s withdrawal.

The SUSG called for “accountability on environmental commitment” while pointing out how Remollo’s renomination to the BOT “raises questions about the University’s commitment to ‘walking the talk’ when it comes to environmental responsibility.”

They appealed that the University to uphold its values and environmental accountability by being transparent in the appointment of its leaders.

Prof. Jonathan Te, SUFA president, also criticized the BOT for their “blatant disregard of SU’s values, and the opinions of its experts.”

“The issue [now] is not simply about Mayor Ipe Remollo [withdrawing his acceptance as BOT Member] but the recklessness and mindlessness of the Board to accept him as a Member even [when] his stature and vision are radically opposed to the mission of the University,” he added.

SAAI Dumaguete Chapter officers and members also expressed their objection to Mayor Remollo’s nomination and election in a letter to the BOT and SU President Dr. Betty McCann, echoing the rallyists call for transparency.

The Mayor’s withdrawal

Mayor Remollo had sent a letter to the BOT on Dec. 5 expressing his withdrawal, which took effect immediately.

He wrote that his role as City Mayor has caused, or will cause him to take actions that “may run roughshod with the sensibilities of certain stakeholders of our beloved Silliman University.”

To prevent the University from becoming “a battleground of conflict and divisiveness regardless of merit of the issues,” the Mayor said he decided to withdraw from his appointment as Trustee.

Since news about Remollo’s attendance in the Nov. 29 BOT meeting spread in private group chats on Messenger, the Noto174DumagueteIslands coalition had asked the people through social media to join a silent protest against the appointment to the policy-making body of Silliman.

Although Remollo’s name is listed as a member of the Board of Trustees in the SU website, the Board never made an official announcement on Remollo’s appointment on Nov. 10. The BOT, however, released a statement on Dec. 6 “expressing gratitude [to the Mayor] for his professionalism and continued support for his Alma Mater.”

In response, however, SU Law lecturer Atty. Golda Benjamin and Noto174DumagueteIslands Coalition said that the statement did not mention the process of nomination and election.

“Was the Silliman Community given the opportunity to raise concerns BEFORE the election was conducted? Was this a unanimous vote?” she asked.

Noto174DumagueteIslands Coalition on Remollo’s appointment

Before Remollo’s withdrawal, the Noto174DumagueteIslands Coalition and Volunteer Network had sent a letter to the BOT expressing their “serious objection” to the Dumaguete Mayor’s appointment.

Atty. Benjamin, Nancy Estolloso from the People’s Development Council, Aidalyn Arabe from the Save Mount Talinis Movement, Leo Mamicpic from the NoTo174Dumaguete Coalition, Dr. Aileen Maypa from the Institute of Environmental & Marine Sciences, and Ocean 6 swimmer Dr. Frances Hope Yap signed the letter.

“The Board of Trustees is more than just a governance body; it represents moral leadership and consistent principles,” they wrote. “If elected, Mr. Remollo may have only one vote in the decisions made for the University but his mere presence and membership in the Board is a tragic message to the entire community that we are still willing to give power to a person whose values and commitments are inconsistent with the University’s,” they said.

The Coalition cited the reclamation projects embarked on by the City government under Remollo’s leadership, and his determination to push for them as evidence that he “has made decisions and acted in a manner that is inconsistent with the values of Silliman University.”

Despite Remollo withdrawing his membership on the same day, the Coalition said that they would continue with their silent rally asking for reforms in the BOT.

Atty. Benjamin further said that other corporate boards and universities have enacted transparency measures and taken clear stances on disqualifying people who control fossil fuel companies.

“We need to trust and believe in the loyalty of each member to the mission and [vision] of Silliman… including its mission to positively contribute to sustainable development,” she added.

BOT composition

Each of the three sectors in the BOT is represented by five trustees. The University President Dr. Betty McCann serves as an ex officio member with no voting power.

The current BOT is headed by Ricardo Balbido (SUFI) who was elected in 2016, whose term of office would have ended in 2020.

The vice chairmanship of the BOT, last held by Dr. Angel C. Alcala (SUFI), remains vacant following his death in February this year.

During Alcala’s term, in July 2021, the BOT released a statement “reaffirming SU’s opposition to reclamation projects”. It particularly cited the reclamation project proposed by Dumaguete Mayor Remollo.

Silliman Trustee Atty. May Saga Aguilar-Pono (Alumni) said, “I understand that the appointment of Mayor Remollo in the BOT does not change the stand of the university on the reclamation issue.” (with reports from Natania Shay Du/tWS)


Editor’s note: This post is part of the Weekly Sillimanian and the College of Mass Communication collaboration. Students taking COM 33 – News Editing and Production under Asst. Prof. Irma Pal temporarily take over the operations for a week or one issue as their final requirement.

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