The Board of Regents
University of the Philippines

Attention: Dr. Patricia B. Licuanan, Chair


Dear Chair Licuanan and Regents of the University,

In the spirit of democratic consultation, we the undersigned faculty hereby raise serious concerns and take issue with the decision made during the Board’s special meeting on I October 2016 to require a nominee for President of the University of the Philippines to have the ability to serve the full term of six years before reaching the age of 70.We respectfully request the Board to reconsider its decision and withdraw the age requirement on nominees for the position of President of the University in light of the following:

1. The addition of this age requirement violates the University’s fundamental values which require selection and promotion of its students, faculty, and officers to be based on merit, i.e., in this case, to be based on vision, capacity to lead, and quality of mind. Such qualities bear no necessary relationship with a person’s chronological age.

2. The imposed requirement of being “able to serve the full term of six (6) years before reaching the age of 70” is a new requirement and more importantly, is not in accord with the University’s values and traditions reflected in its Code and Charter. In particular, it is not consistent with the letter and spirit of the provision of Article 30 in the University Code (2008) which reads:

Leadership in the University System is vested in the President who shall be the chief executive  officer of the University. He/She shall be elected and his/her compensation shall be fixed by the Board of Regents for a term of six years counted from the date of his/her election, without prejudice to subsequent reelections for like terms, and until his/her successor shall have been elected or until he/she shall have reached the age of seventy (70) years. (Emphasis supplied.)

Here, the reference to “the age of seventy (70) years” pertains to one of the reasons that a president’s term must end before his or her six-year term of office is completed. It simply says a sitting president can no longer be reappointed or extended if he/she has already reached 70 years. It is certainly not the intent of this provision to prevent people who have not yet reached 70 from being nominated or from serving the University. Indeed, this provision contemplates the real possibility that a person may serve up to seventy and not complete the regular term. Thus, requiring a candidate to be of such age that he/she would be able to finish a six-year term before reaching the age of 70 is a new requirement and is substantially different from limiting the term up to the time that the person reaches 70 years. This is not the intent of the current University Code, or of previous BOR resolutions (particularly in the 686th BOR meeting of 14 June 1961, on which the abovementioned article is based).

The Board resolution from its meeting of 14 June 1961 on which Article 30 is based was meant to fix the term of office of the President — not to set an absolute qualification for the post. The Board then was addressing the issues of “uncertainty of tenure and frequency of change in the incumbent that is not in the best interest of the University.”1 A fixed term of office would provide the President “a certain length of time to carry out a program for the improvement of higher education.”2

Consistent with this decision and intent of the Board to set the term of the president and give the president sufficient time to carry out the president’s programs, rather than impose an ex ante age requirement, Francisco Nemenzo was allowed to stand as a candidate and serve as President of the University of the Philippines despite turning 70 years five months before the end of his full 6-year term. The previous Board that elected him to office did not construe the provision in the University Code as an age requirement or a hard rule that would have disqualified him or anyone else as a candidate for President ex ante. Neither did the previous Board perceive the five-month deficiency to completion of the full 6-year term as a binding constraint or a negative factor in the President’s ability to carry out his duties and programs, nor compromising the best interests of the University. Instead, the Board rightly considered the individual’s vision for the University and capacity to lead as the salient factors in its selection of President of the University.

3. The meritocratic principle is recognized in the law itself, and so the Board’s recent decision on an age requirement for nominees violates the spirit and letter of Republic Act No. 10911 (the “Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act”). That law states (Section 2) that in promoting “equal opportunities in employment for everyone”, the State shall:

(a) Promote employment of individuals on the basis of their abilities, knowledge, skills and qualifications rather than their age.

(b) Prohibit arbitrary age limitations in employment.

(c) Promote the right of all employees and workers, regardless of age, to be treated equally in terms of compensation, benefits, promotion, training and other employment opportunities.

Section 5 of that same law incidentally also makes it unlawful for an employer to “Print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, in any form of media, including the intemet, any notice of advertisement relating to employment suggesting preferences, limitations, specifications, and discrimination based on age…”

While the University is no doubt governed by its Charter (passed in 2008), the latter cannot be superior to the law of the land and is therefore qualified by RA 10911 (passed in 2015). Clearly no qualifications can be imposed that discriminate based on a candidate’s age.

4. The Board may have misinterpreted the provisions of the University’s own Charter, Republic Act No. 9500 (The University of the Philippines Charter of 2008) pertaining to its power to elect the President of the University. The relevant section (Section 13(j)) of the Charter authorizes the Board:

To elect the President of the University for a single term of six (6) years following a process of democratic consultation with the university community based on standards and guidelines set by the Board. In the event of a vacancy, the Board shall elect a president who shall serve a full term. A Chancellor chosen by the Board may act as Officer-in-Charge of the national university when the search process is in progress. In no case shall the search and election of the next President be longer than ninety (90) calendar days from the date when the vacancy occurs; (Emphasis supplied.)

Two items clearly stand out.

First, the Board’s authority to set “standards and guidelines” is no license to delimit ex ante who may or may not stand for President of the University, at least not explicitly on the basis of age. The section is silent on any age requirement on either nominees to the presidency or on the elected President. We understand this to mean that the Board, in its own deliberations, is allowed to weigh a candidate’s overall qualities in electing the President of the University.

Second, the phrase “the Board shall elect a president who shall serve a full term”, which has been used as rationale for setting an age limit, refers only to a contingent situation that may arise, i.e., “in the event of a vacancy”. It merely provides equitable treatment of a president appointed before his or her predecessor’s term has expired. It certainly imposes no obligation on the Board to limit its choice only to those who can serve a full term. On the contrary, what it does is oblige the Board to allow such a person, once chosen based on any criteria, to serve a full 6-year term.

5. The UP Charter mentions 70 years of age only once, and this pertains to the power of the Board to extend the tenure of faculty:

(1) To extend, with their consent, the tenure of faculty members of the national university beyond the compulsory retirement age, any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, on recommendation of the units upon endorsement of the President of the national university, whenever their services are especially needed: Provided, however, that no extension of tenure shall be made beyond the age of seventy (70).

This provision, however, cannot by any means be construed to constitute one of the qualifications of the President of the University.

In short, there is nothing in the law, the Charter, the Code, or the University’s cherished traditions to suggest that advanced age must be a factor in the administration of the University’s affairs.

We therefore ask the Board to reconsider its decision and to withdraw the age requirement, not only to conform with the law but also to avoid any hint of bias or impropriety and to uphold the fundamental values of the University.

Thank you.



Ma. Joy V. Abrenica
Maria Socorro Gochoco-Bautista
Emmanuel S. de Dios
Ma. Cielo D. Magno
Toby Melissa C. Monsod
Orville Jose C. Solon
Renato E. Reside, Jr.
Romeo Matthew T. Balanquit
Agustin L. Arcenas
Sarah Lynne S. Daway
Geoffrey M. Ducanes
Aleli D. Kraft
Emmanuel F. Esguerra
Majah-Leah V. Ravago
Calla Wiemer
Joseph J.  Capuno
Rolando A. Danao
Marjorie C. Pajaron

 Sent to the Board of Regents 10 October 2016.

1 Minutes of the 686th Meeting of the Board of Regents, 14 June 1961, p.38.

2 lbid.