“If there is a problem, let us talk about it. We shall arrive at an agreement, not a compromise” — Chancellor Sanchez said, in Filipino, during his oath-taking ceremony speech on October 29, 2014.
Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., who previously served as the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development, succeeded Chancellor Rex Cruz, making him the 9th Chancellor of UPLB. Citing that he prefers consensus-building rather than compromise, he said that everything can be resolved through dialogue. He also made statements that were supposedly supportive of the students, saying that “The leadership of the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) should be more accommodating to students’ needs and they need to consult it first to the student body.”
However, subsequent events show otherwise. The promises he made in 2014, after securing his position, became the very reasons he was infamous for. From being a chancellor who pledged to assert students’ need to being pegged as a leader with an absentee administration, his two terms were marred with several controversies.
Back in 2015, Sanchez was under fire for neglecting the necessity of student representation in the plans regarding the renovation of the Student Union (SU) building which houses student welfare offices and student institutions such as the University Student Council (USC), UPLB Perspective [P], and the Textbook Exchange and Rental Center (TERC). The said renovation includes the removal of the USC, [P], and TERC offices found at the second floor and relocating them at the Student Center, a building in which Sanchez admitted has no specific time frame yet in terms of construction. Jil Caro, then [P] Editor-in-Chief, asserted that student institution offices should remain at the SU building and that students should not be excluded from the plans about it. The USC also denounced the commercialization plans of the administration stating that the SU should serve the students’ rights, welfare, and potential. (READ: Chancellor Sanchez delays SU renovation)
On February 20, 2017, Chancellor Sanchez posted bail for a “grave oral defamation” case, wherein he allegedly made defamatory remarks towards Dr. Ruben Tanquenco, Physical Plant and Maintenance and Service Office (PPMSO) director. He denied these allegations and said that his statements were done within his functions as Chancellor and as a public servant. The Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Los Baños deferred the arraignment for Sanchez’s case on March 8. University Human and Resources Development Office (HRDO) chief officer, Armando Palanca, also filed an administrative complaint stating that Sanchez relieved him from his position as chief administrative officer of HRDO on April 29, 2016 and appointed Associate Professor 7 Nelson Querijero on April 21 even if there was an election ban on appointment.
Under Sanchez’s first term, thousands of people flocked to Freedom Park on September 23, 2017 because they were allegedly promised a million pesos each. The event was believed to be a “general assembly” of the One Social Family Credit Cooperative (OSFCC) but a woman speaker suddenly announced that they would be distributing the wealth of the Marcoses, praising the late dictator’s efforts during his rule. In order to become a beneficiary, these people must have the booklet entitled “Life and Achievements of Ferdinand E. Marcos.” However, later on, it was revealed that OSFCC was formerly the Bullion Buyer, Ltd. (BBL), an illegitimate company that faced estafa cases.
The UPLB administration allowed this incident to transpire inside the campus, deliberately insulting the student activists who fought hard against Marcos’ tyranny.
It is under the Sanchez administration when the Student Academic Information System (SAIS) was first implemented. Since 2016, students have continuously voiced out their concerns about the site’s inefficiency in catering every student. Mobilizations were held to condemn its execution but responses from the administration are nowhere to be found. The USC requested to postpone the pre-registration in SAIS for the 1st semester AY 2020-2021 since not all students have the internet connectivity to enroll, but was denied saying that it would serve as a survey to determine the access of students to the internet.
Years after its first run, #JunkSAIS—a hashtag that denounces the flawed system—still trends and students are still forced to go through rigorous steps just to enlist academic units, making it seem like they are hindered from accessing genuine free education.
At the 143rd meeting of the UC, faculty members were not given the chance to raise concerns about the guidelines of the upcoming academic year. The All UP Academic Employees Union – Los Baños (AUPAEU-LB)—a labor union composed of research, extension and professional staff (REPS) and faculty in UPLB—said that the chancellor ignored questions on multiple concerns such as the preparedness of faculty and students with regards to remote learning, the basis of the Executive Committee’s decision in including 2nd semester grades of AY 2019-2020, the status of Maximum Residency Rule (MRR) and readmission cases, and admin’s plans for students who have limited access to remote learning. Not only students, but even faculty members were blocked from exercising their right to question the admin’s policies and guidelines.
During Sanchez’s second term, cases of MRR and readmission were at its peak amounting to over 600 cases in 2018. Anti-student memorandums were implemented barring unregistered students from attending classes; countless appeals were made, but in the end, the University Council (UC), led by Chancellor Sanchez, disapproved these cases. Now, these students are back to zero and are obligated to submit appeals again to be able to register.
No To Third Term Coalition (N3TC)
Following the news that Sanchez will be seeking re-election for another term, the No To Third Term Coalition (N3TC)—an alliance composed of different organizations and student institutions—was formed; the said coalition aims to assure that Chancellor Sanchez will no longer be given a third term, to provide awareness in issues made by his lapses, and to ensure a pro-people and a pro-student Chancellor. (Read: Coalition against Sanchez’ third term established)
The UPLB USC said that Chancellor Sanchez claimed that there are allotted budgets for facility improvement and materials for laboratory courses but these resources, up to now, are either inaccessible or faulty. They also mentioned the lack of art spaces for students and organizations and that these individuals are forced to pay in order to use campus facilities. Policies such as the Freshman Recruitment Ban and “Tambayan Phaseout”, as stated by the USC, are still implemented restricting the students’ rights to organize and to be organized.
Rise for Education – UPLB (R4E- UPLB), a member alliance under N3TC, also described that education under Sanchez’s six-year term was colonial, commercialized, fascist and undemocratic.
In the words of the alliance, “We don’t need Chancellor Sanchez’s tone-deaf administration for another three years.”
The No To Third Term Coalition said that under Sanchez’s terms, students were victims of neoliberal policies such as the inefficient SAIS and the bureaucratic processes for MRR, readmission, and the student loan board (SLB) filing, a program that allows students to defer registration payment. N3TC also mentioned that Chancellor Sanchez does not uphold academic freedom and has no commitment in making the campus a safe haven under the Anti-Terrorism Law, amplifying students’ fear.
When asked what was lacking under the Sanchez administration, N3TC shared that the biggest problem was the lack of student consultations which paved the way for the imposition of policies not suitable for the current state of UPLB. Stating the No Late Registration Policy last 2nd semester AY 2019-2020, they denounced the admin’s absence in dialogues that answer these concerns.
“Kailangan natin ng Chancellor na sasama sa ating mga kampanya at makikinig sa ating mga demands. Higit sa lahat, kailangan natin ng Chancellor na kayang manindigan para sa mga constituents niya.” N3TC said.
Janette Silva, president of AUPAEU-LB, shared that under Sanchez’s term, problems on paper presentation grants remained the same; delays in salary distribution of temporary faculty and teaching fellows were also rampant. Silva also said that responses to queries also took a lot of time which may be caused by Sanchez’s frequent trips outside the campus. She added that welfare-based consultations, like the Tsiking Korner Initiative, were postponed indefinitely by the Office of the Chancellor (OC) without any explanation.
The said union recalled that their Public Relations Officer (PRO) was summoned and accused of his teaching after they released a statement about the entry of the military in UP Rural High School (UPRHS) and expressed that the admin has the tendency to be a “bully” whenever they were called out.
When asked of their message to the chancellor nominees, AUPAEU-LB said, “Maging bukas nawa sa konsultasyon at tiyaking nakaangkla sa pagpapahusay ng serbisyo ang mga polisiyang ilalabas. Hangad nating lahat na mapagsilbihan ang mga mag-aaral, ang unibersidad, at ang bayan. Sama-sama sana sa pagkilos upang maisabuhay natin ang honor and excellence hindi lamang sa mga isyung pang-unibersidad, lalo’t higit sa isyung kinakaharap ng sambayanan.”
The Board of Regents (BOR) is set to determine the next UPLB Chancellor on September 24. Until then, the answer if Sanchez will be given another term remains unknown.
With the facts mentioned and the constant calls to end Sanchez’s term, it is only fitting for the BOR to properly deliberate on the most suitable candidate, to heed the demands of the students, faculty and staff and to choose a nominee who not only upholds the rights of students, but will also preserve UPLB as a university that serves the masses. [P]
[P] File Photos