More than a month after she reached 65, the mandatory age of retirement for government officials, Catanduanes State University (CATSU) President Dr. Minerva I. Morales has gone on leave, designating as officer-in-charge the Vice President for Administrative and Financial Affairs, Ma. Theresa E. Sarmiento.
Several sources told this writer that Dr. Morales’ decision came during last week’s meeting of the Board of Regents (BOR).
On Aug. 1, the university’s first president will retire from the civil service and at the same time resign from her position as president, which she is supposed to hold until March 25, 2021 under her fixed, second and final four-year term.
It is claimed that after that day, the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will appoint an officer-in-charge pending the screening of an OIC to be selected by the BOR.
The commission’s OIC will serve until the board has picked its OIC, who will also hold the post until a search committee recommends the appointment of a new president who will serve the unexpired term of Dr. Morales.
Thus, from this time until a new president is appointed for the unexpired term, CATSU employees and students will most likely see three OICs, beginning with VP-AFA Sarmiento.
Competition for the right to be president for about six months or less will be as fierce as that of the selection of president for the full four-year term, for it carries with it the high probability that he or she could be granted the full term the next time around.
Already, certain personalities are scouting around for a viable and qualified candidate for the short-term president.
Despite her decision to retire and resign two months from now, the Board of Regents has reportedly went ahead with its earlier move to pursue the legal issue of whether the current president’s term of office is coterminous with her age.
Ordinarily, under the an appointee in the executive department who reaches retirement age may enjoy two (2) extensions of six (6) months each, subject to the approval of the President, in case of a presidential appointee, or the CSC, for other appointees as specified in Section 12, Rule XIII of the Revised Omnibus Rules on Appointments and other Personnel Actions as amended by CSC Memorandum Circular No. 15, s. 1999.
However, Republic Act no. 10229, which converted the Catanduanes State Colleges into a university, is a special law which categorically fixes the term of office of its president for a period of four (4) years and must prevail over all general laws, as the Commission stated in its ruling on similar cases
In Ambas vs. Buenaseda (201 SCRA 308), the Supreme Court has held that “a term of office fixed by law allows the appointee to hold office, perform its functions, and enjoy its privileges and emoluments until the expiration of said period. It is the definite period of time prescribed by law by which an officer may hold office.”
Section 6 of RA 8292, the Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997, empowers Governing Boards of SUCs to extend the term of the president beyond the age of retirement but not later than the age of seventy (70) if his/her performance has been unanimously rated as outstanding and upon unanimous recommendation of the institution concerned.
“It is evident from a reading thereof, that the legislature had no intention to exempt totally the position of SUC President from the operation of the retirement laws and pertinent Civil Service rules and regulations. What it exempts, albeit impliedly, is the extension of the term of the SUC President who has reached the retirement age. This contemplates a situation, taking into account the word “extend”, where the SUC President is already holding said position before reaching the retirement age. Consequently, if the Governing Board does not seem fit to extend the term of office of the SUC President who reached the retirement age, the latter must yield to the operation of the retirement laws,” the CSC held in a separate ruling.
That very same Section 6 of RA 8292 is in CATSU’s charter as one of the powers and duties of the board, one particular member of which underscored the fact that Dr. Morales would not be able to get the unanimous nod of the board for her ‘term extension’ beyond retirement age.
These regents, it is claimed, want to see their bet appointed as OIC and thus get a lead on other aspirants when the time comes to select the next CATSU president
Whether the board’s quest for an answer to the legal issue before Dr. Morales steps down as planned on Aug. 1 is anybody’s guess.
Even if the issue is resolved in the outgoing president’s favor, she may not reconsider her decision to retire and resign at the same time. By then, the atmosphere at the university stirred up by those aiming for her post could prove discouraging.
THE MISSING BIKE. There were two ministers who met each Sunday morning riding to their particular church. They both enjoyed riding the bikes and talking. Then one Sunday one of the ministers was walking. “My, what happened to your bike?”
“Can you believe that someone in my congregation stole it?”
“No!,” then an idea struck him, ” You want to know how to get your bike back?”
“Next Sunday give a fire and brimstone sermon on the Ten Commandments and when you get to the part about Thou shall not steal, just look out into the congregation and see who looks guilty.”
Well the next Sunday the minister comes riding up on his bike.
“Hey, I see my suggestion worked.”
“Well sort of, I was going along real good on the Ten Commandments and when I got to the part about Adultery I remembered where I left the bike.”