An anonymous group, claiming to be employees of the University of the Philippines Los Baños Foundation, Inc. (UPLBFI), called for an investigation on possible corruption within the said foundation.
In an August 20 letter, addressed to the chair of the UP Board of Regents (BOR) and chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Dr. Prospero De Vera, the supposed workers disclosed the alleged situation of the employees and the foundation’s depleting funds, and called for an investigation for “corrupt practices.”
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“To date, the coffers of the Foundation [are] almost empty. We, employees of the UPLB Foundation, Inc. (UPLBFI) would like to request for an investigation of the corrupt practices which are bleeding the Foundation financially and in turn, demoralizing the staff,” the group wrote in the letter, obtained by the Perspective through the No to Third Term Coalition’s (N3TC) preliminary files.
UPLBFI Executive Director Dr. Casiano S. Abrigo, Jr. quickly denied the allegations against him, after the UPLB Perspective asked for his response regarding the matter.
“I would like you to know that all of the accusations are [blatant] lies except number[s] 8 to 10 in your letter,” Abrigo said after the Perspective sought his comment on the allegations.
Numbers eight and ten refer to two questions the Perspective presented Abrigo through email — confirming that there are regular staff members who were told to report only half time and would only be receiving halved salaries, and that visitors are not allowed to confer with Foundation staff in their rooms.
Abrigo, however, declined to expand further on the details, describing it as a “sensitive issue.” Instead, he opted to have a special meeting with the UPLBFI Board of Trustees before discussing the matter.
Missing funds and where to find them
The UPLBFI serves as a “non-profit, non-stock private company” that was established to support the university’s science and technology projects, including ones related to degree programs. Working in the service of the local and international science and technology scene, the Foundation offers services in funding and consulting.
The letter described the Foundation as a “conduit” for university earnings from various projects, which usually distribute its funds to related offices and departments to support their activities, including research and consultancies. Recently, however, the supposed employees stated that the colleges and departments are no longer receiving their share of the Foundation’s earnings.
“With all these anomalous actions, the reserve funds are already almost totally depleted. In fact, for the first time, the different colleges and departments did not receive their share of the earnings of the Foundation,” the group said in the letter.
UPLBFI supposedly imposes a 3.0% finder’s fee for private individuals who present a project to the foundation. However, the group disclosed that Abrigo rarely actually handed over the said fee to its supposed recipients.
“The Finder’s fee however, is also being collected by the Director without the knowledge of the actual finders of the project. Only on rare occasions would the Director be forced to give them the finder’s fee if the owners of the project would insist on getting them,” the “employees” wrote.
The “staff” enumerated instances where Abrigo as well as UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez, Jr. paid for their personal expenses using the Foundation’s funds. These include expenses for gas and personal travels, as well as purchasing vehicles for personal and family use.
Alleged abuse of power
According to the unsigned letter, Abrigo had sent a memo to some of the regular staff saying that their monthly salaries, beginning January of this year, would be cut in half and advising them to look for another job in the supposed pretense that the Foundation was going bankrupt.
The alleged employees pointed out Abrigo’s supposed act of favoritism, stating that while the regular staff suffered salary cuts, the director regularized some temporarily appointed staff and made them work full time.
“He would share small sums of the money with some of the favored staff or those who would do his bidding, dispensing it as if it were his own money,” the alleged employees stated, adding the irony behind regularizing workers with temporary appointments, despite working full time.
Having to send the letter anonymously, the “employees” disclosed that they could not speak out regarding the aforementioned anomalies because of the numerous threats thrown against them. They were told that whistleblowers would immediately face dismissal. They also said that they’re allegedly being threatened through the possible use of violence.
“During some occasions, [Abrigo] would place his gun on the table when any of the staff would dare complain,” the group stated in the letter.
Additionally, cameras were allegedly installed to ensure that workers would “tow the line [sic],” with a television being placed in Abrigo’s office.
Denial of involvement
The supposed employees claimed to have previously approached Chancellor Sanchez regarding the issues within the Foundation. According to them, instead of investigating, Sanchez had allegedly informed Abrigo of his employees’ reports.
Until the BOR initiates a formal investigation, the “employees” said in the letter that they will keep their anonymity in the meantime. The alleged employees called for those that they deem to be responsible to be held responsible for their actions.
“In this regard, we would like to request that an investigation/audit be undertaken so that the anomalies will stop and those responsible for the theft of funds be made answerable,” the group wrote.
Following the letter’s release, 22 UPLBFI employees signed a letter on September 2, clarifying that they are not involved in writing the “poison” letter.
“We would like to clear our side that we are not in any way involved in crafting the said letter,” they said.
As of writing, Chancellor Sanchez is yet to comment on the Perspective’s inquiries. [P]
Photo from UPLBFI website