Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NLRC sheriff reinstates ousted Ecija university prexy in tense return

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija–The National Labor Relations Commission yesterday officially reinstated a university president who was  unceremoniously ousted from his post two years ago in a tension-filled return marked by a confrontation between the lady sheriff and school officials.

          Prof. Manuel Palomo Sr. was accompanied by NLRC Region 3 Sheriff Aida Gervacio who served at 10 am the writ of execution of the 28-page March 11 decision issued by regional labor arbiter Mariano Bactin which ruled that Palomo Sr.’s dismissal as Wesleyan University president was illegal and unjustified. With him was his son and namesake Manuel who was also ordered reinstated as chief administrative officer by the NLRB.

          Palomo was ousted last March 11,2012 in a resolution of the WUP’s board of trustees (BOT). It was affirmed on the same day by the United Methodist Church’s College of Bishops (COB) which selects the university  president as well as the members of the BOT.

          In ordering Palomo Sr. reinstated, the NLRC  also ordered the BOT and the COB to indemnify him P8.544 million in backwages; actual, moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees. Palomo was represented in the labor suit by lawyer Valentino F.P. Alberto. 

          The serving of the writ was marred by tension when Gervacio confronted the security officers and university officials manning the gate when they barred the Palomo father-and-son and Gervacio from entering the university compound allegedly on instructions from the school’s officer-in-charge Pacifico |Aniag.

          Gervacio was likewise denied entry inside the gate by security officer Julio Minor, prompting her to remark : “Why don’t you allow us to go in? The Wesleyan is not treating its visitors well,” she said.       She warned that the security officers run the risk of being cited for contempt.

          The two Palomos stayed inside their vehicle while Gervacio was confronting the university officials. They left without alighting from their car.

          Gervacio was met outside the school’s premises by Ma. Niña Regala, Aniag’s secretary and general services officer Crisaldo Vicencio. Regala received the copy of the writ and signed it under the acacia tree amid the scorching heat in the presence of the media, security guards of the school and two lawmen who stood guard outside with a patrol car on standby. 

          A brief commotion ensued when other vehicles were also barred from entering the school premises. A mother asked the guard on duty if she could be permitted to go in as she was to have her child enrolled.

          Aniag was not around when the writ was served. He has not been returning calls nor answering text messages on his mobile phone.

          His executive assistant Reynaldo Samonte said he was on a four-day meeting in his hometown in Bulacan and will return on Friday.       Samonte said they won’t allow Palomo to go inside the school since they have secured an injunction preventing him from entering the school compound.

          Gervacio said with the serving of the writ, Palomo  Sr. is now considered officially reinstated even if he has not set foot inside the university even with the injunction which, she said, is not permanent. She said his reinstatement is effective March 11 when the decision was made.

          Palomo Sr. said that based on the implementation of the writ of execution by the sheriff, which has become final, he said he expects Aniag to step down as OIC to give way to him.

          “I now expect the OIC to show some chivalry and delicadeza to immediately vacate the position and give way to me as the legal president,” he said. “He should now pack his bags and go back to Bulacan to where he belongs.”

          He said the College of Bishops had assured him that they would respect the NLRC decision ordering his reinstatement.      

          He said the injunction being cited in preventing him from entering the school is not applicable in his case because he has already issued an affidavit of undertaking not to enter the school premises or any of its campuses without any order issued by the court or other agency or entity having jurisdiction on the case.

          Palomo clarified that he never intended to enter the school but the writ stated that his reinstatement required him to be physically present.

          He said he didn’t feel bad about not being able to gain entry inside the school. However, he lamented the shabby treatment Gervacio was subjected to in enforcing the writ. “Imagine an agent of the law being given that kind of treatment?” he asked.                   

          The NLRC said it “found substantial, convincing and competent evidence” that Palomo – who was elected to a five-year term in 2009 which will end this April 30 - was illegally and unjustifiably dismissed as university president after careful evaluation of the facts presented.

          After serving for over two years, Palomo filed a one-year leave of absence without pay on June 11,2011 amid graft allegations against his administration. He said he was doing it for the sake of peace within the university.

In issuing the ruling, the NLRC noted that it gives respect to the UMC which owns and runs the university, thinking that it should be the champion in upholding the basic rights of its members, officers and employees. “However, in the case of the complainant, we failed to see all his basic rights were duly protected and respected. We cannot close our eyes to reality, particularly if the basic rights of our citizens will be trampled, disregarded and denied by those persons and parties who are supposed to uphold them,” the decision said.

It added that the act of the BOT recommending to the COB the summary dismissal of Palomo which the latter approved in just a one-day period “is a clear case of deprivation of the complainant’s right to due process, the right and opportunity to know the charges against him and to have a hearing to explain his side, and confront his accusers.” (Manny Galvez)

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