The Universitarian Editorial Board Interview With Atty. Alex B. Nepomuceno

Atty. Alex Nepomuceno, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, has established administrative and academic legacies including the establishment of BU College of Law, Institute of Governance and Development, offering several graduate and undergraduate programs and making BS Social Work a consistently top-performing school.

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


 UNIBÊ: Several complaints are being received from the satellite campuses as they felt neglected over the past years of the current university administration. As a candidate who said plans about linking all colleges and being at your best, how would you apply this vision to fully integrate the other satellite campuses and prevent negligence regarding programs and projects?

NEPOMUCENO: What I envision is for it to become a digital technology capital. So that the faculty members, the non-teaching, particularly the Dean, shall plan together on how this kind of trust interaction [should] be attained by them. So, considering the bottom-up budget approach, which is also needs-based, they have to submit to me the work and financial plan required for each year that is needs-based to attain the class and direction that they have.

 UNIBÊ: Given that most of you, like the candidates for the next president, have attained the highest degree of education and have applied them in your past achievements, what makes you distinct from other candidates in terms of your prospects for the university regardless of all these decorations in your names?

NEPOMUCENO: I am actually a visionary leader. I push so hard for what we call “servant legacy leadership”, but as a visionary leader, I always think ahead and act across. So, my objective in life is to be always one step ahead of others. We should not be followers, we should be setting the lead, we should be leaders.

 UNIBÊ: In connection with leveling of the academic field, it seems so promising, but how would you do resource generation under your term?

NEPOMUCENO: One year before, we already prepared the WFP, the Work and Financial Plan. We have also budgeted before 105. Now, it is already 05. This is the income generation and the usable income of the university that includes even the huge amount under UNIPASS that is given by the government through DBM and CHED.

We can also explore international funding because there are actually linkages that can be tracked at the international level where we can infuse fund us. The University is 201 hectares all over the campuses. We can make use of our resources in order to generate the necessary income. I will just be having a very well-balanced Work and Financial Plan because each college is allocated certain funding and each college is also given the leeway to determine what they need in the collection.

 UNIBÊ: In connection with what you said that there's a lot of land owned by BU, in which in those lands, mayroong mga residents na tumitira na walang title. What are your plans for the residents, especially po doon sa likod natin—sa Sitio Olag—at doon sa living at BU Compound behind the New Library. Ano po ang gagawin niyo when you discover that a resident staying at Bicol University is illegally using our land. Ano po plano niyong gawin sa mga illegal settlers?

NEPOMUCENO: The sentiment is since they are Filipinos, they are living in the Philippines, and they rightfully must have at least a reasonable piece of land. Being a Filipino, you cannot be a foreigner and a non-owner of any piece of land in your own country, isn't it? That is what legal philosophy tells us. However, the university has also the right of ownership, and in fact, the present administration is already telling us that they have already acquired title over some of the properties that we claim we own.

UNIBÊ: In an interview with outgoing President Mascariñas, asked him about the scarcity of basic classrooms necessities, and abandoned and unmaintained buildings in BU, and explained to us, that after the construction of those buildings, the deans are already the ones in charge of maintaining those in their respective colleges. However, upon consulting some students, they told us that some classrooms and facilities in BU CSSP are already deteriorating [which are] risky for some students, and since the ceilings are, for example, already broken and falling, some buildings don't even have restrooms, for example. Now that you are running for the highest seat in the university, how will you assure the students in the BU community that all buildings will still be maintained after being turned over?

NEPOMUCENO: I will first address one consideration. The centralization of the PBMO to the university. Because before, we can introduce repair in our college because we have also our Physical Plant Officer. Just like during my first two years in the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, I was able to have this project which is the tiling of the twin building which is occupied by the Social Work department. When I arrived at CSSP, the first floor, the stairs, the second floor were not actually tiled. Ako po ang nagpatiles niyan under our fiscal autonomy, the decentralized power, and the preparation of all of this project proposals.

I will be proposing here OBE or Outcomes-based Education approach wherein you will not reside in the classroom for the whole 54 hours per three-unit subject. But instead, I'm proposing 70:30. Seventy percent of the 54 hours will be actual face-to-face engagement with the faculty and the students. But that actual face-to-face engagement could be done also in the classroom or it may also be allocated for a virtual synchronous method. The remaining 30% will be for OBE self-directed learning and also for OBE group learning or whatever approach or methodology that the faculty will have in their respective subjects.

UNIBÊ: Do you intend to maintain and improve the university's progressiveness regarding gender and how do you plan to implement programs to make BU more open for students to express their gender identity?

NEPOMUCENO: As a lawyer, I have to obey the provisions of the law, but as a Christian, I have to embrace the statement of Pope Francis, “Who are we to judge?” This is an expression of our freedom of identity and freedom of expression. I believe that if there will be a decision on the part of the students to make a gender preference and gender expression, so let it be. But the cross-dress preference shall be limited to what is prescribed by Bicol University. For example, we have our [uniform] design for males, but your gender [preference] is for females and if you choose to have that female uniform, you [should] follow the design for uniformity purposes. So what we are just doing here is the cross dress and I think there is no issue on the immorality on that, isn't it? Because this is simply an expression of the preference which is already guaranteed by law.

UNIBÊ: One of the main concerns of students, even the communities surrounding the University, is the underutilization of the fully constructed facilities such as the swimming pool and other buildings among different campuses. How would you ensure that this facility shall be used by the University and the stakeholders under your administration and prevent similar complaints in the future?

NEPOMUCENO: What is important for you is to have a very excellent, very effective, and efficient resource management. Because, the resources that we have in the University, are actually coming from the hard-earned money of the taxpayers given as funding to the University and translated into respective projects. So we have to see to it that once a project is proposed and approved, It is complete by itself.


UNIBÊ: Being an insider at BU, what do you think are the major shortcomings of the current administration that you wish to address? Rate Mascariñas’ presidency out of 10.

NEPOMUCENO:  I see that number one, is electricity and energy resources. That's why in my green program, Smart Green Global University, we have to make use of clean green energy resources. We can avail the solar panel to generate energy, and so on and so forth, and other alternatives. Because when there is a brownout in the university, the work stops; classroom activities stop because we do not have an alternative energy source. That is one big problem that we have to resolve. Another one is internet connectivity. That's why I'm pushing for a smart campus—smart-university—because I want that, as long as you are within the campus, you can stay connected because of very strong internet connectivity which is very much useful and needed as we go to our plan of Smart Campus.

Rating Mascariñas term from 1-10

I am rating him 8.5 and it is because it laid down the foundation for Bicol University to [become a] Smart Campus yung mga sinabi kong infrastructure network sa main campus, na lay down na doon yung mga cables sa ilalim. It is already in phase 2 as far as the ISSP is concerned. That is why I am rating Dr. Mascariñas 8.5. And in fact, if I become the 9th president of Bicol University, it would be easier for me to work for Smart Green Global University because the smart campus project has already been started in the university under the Mascariñas term.

UNIBÊ: The next question is about student activism and since most of the members of the progressive groups in Bicol University are from the CSSP. Will you encourage or support the students to be involved in student activism? And 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 President Mascariñas?

NEPOMUCENO: What I will encourage the students is the availment of the avenues where freedom of expression and exercise of human rights can be made, but within the ambit of the law. When I say within the ambit of the law, those that are permitted and those that are lawfully provided and guaranteed by the government.

If there is already encroachment as far as the exercise of human rights is concerned, that is not also guaranteed by law being exercised by government authorities, say, for example, the policeman. So through the legal office of the university, we have to make the necessary coordination with this and we have to clarify matters that this is not actually a kind of activity that must be red-tagged by the concerned authority. They have to have a very clear definition of what red tagging is and if what is not a red tagging activity, that is a plain exercise of human rights and constitutionally guaranteed expression of freedom.

We shall do is to strengthen the Commission on Human Rights Education Center and Program. So we see those that will be falling to the boundary and those that will fall short of what is allowed and those that will be treated aggressively or less aggressively by other concerns. So, as far as red-tagging is concerned, there is actually a basis that must be considered by the authority's concern. The surveillance process must be made by them and they must also carefully study the affiliation.


Among the four other nominees, who would you pick as the next Bicol University President?

NEPOMUCENO: The operation of the university which is a process of handling government affairs that is an educational purpose is within the ambit of public administration. Public administration is a process where we express, execute, we carry out our public duties and responsibilities. So among the candidates, I myself outside the picture, I am choosing the vice president for Administration and Finance, not for any other reason, but for the reason of the educational qualification that is needed for university leadership, which is the legal mind and the administration skills and competency. Being a lawyer and a Ph.D. in public administration.