The Universitarian Editorial Board Interview With Atty. Joseph L. Bartolata

Atty. Joseph Bartolata, Bicol University Vice President for Administration and Finance, firmly believes that he is the epitome of BU's core values which are Scholarship, Leadership, Character, and Values.

Is he the best fit as the next BU President for you? Know his stances on controversial questions below:


UNIBÊ: As the first Dean of the newly restructured BU Open University in 2018-2019, do you think Bicol University is competent enough for online distance learning in various courses? Why or why not?

BARTOLATA: I was called by the president to serve as the vice-president of the administration on finance, so I did not do much ‘don sa Bicol University Open University. Fortunately, Dr. Ram Lorino, assumed the post and he was actually the one who vigorously pursued all the scheduled programs, projects and activities of the university along open distance learning... Now, with the approval of the opening of the baccalaureate course, it will now be declared an independent unit from graduate school, so it is fully functional with the engine on full throttle.

UNIBÊ: Bicol University has kept expanding regarding its land assets; what are your plans to utilize these assets? 

BARTOLATA: That’s one of my priorities under strategic direction number 9; we will come up with a strategic plan to ensure that we manage our land assets well. And I am part of the LUDIP or known as the Land Use Development and Infrastructure Program of the university. There will be zoning of the various land assets of the university which once will be zoned as academic, which one will be classified as open space, where buildings cannot be erected. There are also zones along administrative [areas], so on and so forth. And of course, there are a number of buildings that are up for construction as contained in the LUDIP.

UNIBÊ: If ever you’ll be the next president of Bicol University, what are your plans for the informal settlers? Somehow, they are also part of the BU community, given that they have land titles. How will you address them?
BARTOLATA: We have dealt with them [settlers] and it was very difficult. But, of course, we have to emphasize that the land belongs to BU under the proclamation. And to ensure that we have a document to show ownership over these lands, we are moving heaven and earth to have them titled. And we have an on-going effort to have all our lands titled... we coordinated with the local government units, sa Legazpi and sa Daraga, to ensure that their welfare also is addressed. Under the LINA Law, these informal settlers cannot just be removed or evicted from their lot without some of the requirements that should be complied with, foremost of which is the place where they will be transferred.

UNIBÊ: On May 28, 2021, the Kabataan Partylist, Act Teachers Partylist, Bayan Muna Party-list, and Gabriela Women’s Party filed and introduced House Bill 9494, which is an act to provide financial assistance to subsidize education costs and provide other forms of relief during times of national emergencies crises, and appropriating funds. With that, the Kabataan Partylist Bicol gave attention that should also be paid to the proposal of ten thousand aid (10K Student Aid) for students that they are pushing and campaigning for through House Bill 9494. Knowing that many scholarship grants, programs, and incentives will be available to both private and public students, especially to the underprivileged. If you’re selected as the next BU president, what do you think your administration can do in this matter?

BARTOLATA: We will support that as soon as it becomes a law, because naturally when the government passes a law, there is the corresponding appropriation and we’ll make use of that to ensure that the provisions of the law are implemented properly... When I become a president, one of my plans is the so-called affirmative action plan, where we will pass an admin order that a certain percentage of the slots allotted for all the courses should be given to deserving, poor but deserving students... But if he’s deserving and he belongs to the lower strata of socio-economic status, 5% of the slots in all the courses shall be allotted for poor but deserving students. At least the admission is assured and here, it becomes our admission policies, and is more inclusive.

UNIBÊ: One of your visions and plans for the university is to put up needed Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructures. Why do you think there is still small progress made by the past administration in this area? (no free public wifi, defective computers, etc.)

BARTOLATA: In fairness to the current administration, it is already making big headway along digital transformation projects... The digital transformation project is capital intensive. It needs a lot of money from the government. Unfortunately, during the last two years, our economy has been performing badly, courtesy of the pandemic... When the performance of the economy gets better, the fiscal space becomes widened... And of course, the digital transformation project will be my number one priority if ever I will be elected as the next president because this will improve our basic services especially to our students.

UNIBÊ: Mental Health is one of the most important topics to discuss and be prioritized by everyone; what are your plans for institutionalizing or improving psychosocial services in the university?

BARTOLATA: Now, sa wellness, the focus should be on all aspects from the physical, to emotional, to mental, to social, and to spiritual. Now, I am thinking of providing more student launches for the students, more areas which shall be considered as study hubs. I have visited one SUC and there was this area in their student affairs and services, a big room, may massage room, may massage chair and kung ano-anong mga pwedeng i-ano talaga… para makarelax naman nang konti ano ang mga estudyante. The mental aspect will be considered in my administration. It’s all for our students.


UNIBÊ: Being an insider at BU, what do you think are the major shortcomings of the current administration that you wish to address? Rate his presidency.

BARTOLATA: As an integral part of this administration, I will rate it 9 out of 10. But, of course, there are a lot of concerns that need to be addressed, foremost of which is our system and processes. Our system and processes are areas that are very much wanting and need a lot of improvement… It’s capital intensive, needs a lot of money but if we can introduce technology in our processes, for sure our services will be improved.

UNIBÊ: Will you encourage or support the students to be involved in student activism as provided in RA 11369 s. 3 s. of 2019. If so, how will you circumvent the threats to student activists such as red-tagging and police interrogations? Or will you be silent about these red tagging issues just like the previous cases of red tagging during the term of Pres. Mascariñas?

BARTOLATA: I am for activism, kasi I believe that is a critical part of the constitution... That’s actually the foundation of our democracy, so get involved, criticize us because we need these criticisms to improve our system. Of course, we will increase our threshold in dealing with criticisms. After all, it is only through criticism that we can improve our services. We also have to be responsible in the exercise of these rights, because as you have mentioned, we have authorities that also performed their functions for the protection of the system that they believed in. So, when you engage in all this, please exercise prudence and be responsible.


UNIBÊ: Among the four (4) other nominees, who would you pick as the next Bicol University President?

BARTOLATA: I will not pick any of the four because I believe, I am the most qualified. I am the most qualified, at least as far as seniority is concerned. As [for] positions, I am the vice president and all of them are directors and deans. I have been the planning director of the university for eight years, quality management representative for our ISO for six long years, so I know BU inside and out, upside down. And I think I deserve to be occupying the presidency.

The #BUPrexy Interview series was conducted by The Editorial Board and Staff of The Bicol Universitarian.