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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Scholars’ TOR ‘held hostage’

THE Asian College of Technology (ACT) allegedly won’t release the transcript of records (TOR) of the Cebu City Government’s scholars who graduated, while the City still owes it P135 million.



The scholars have expressed concern about the decision not to release their TOR, which they need when they apply for jobs.



Hot kaayo ang mga bata. They want to immediately get the records. It is but natural,” said Ida Yting, head of the City’s scholarship committee, who added that the City is doing its best to address this.



Yting pointed out, though, that participating schools in the scholarship program are not supposed to hold hostage the TOR in the event the City fails to pay for its obligations on time.



She cited a provision in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by the City and the schools, which states that the TOR should be released for those applying for jobs or taking board examinations “provided that they have duly paid their personal share above the P10,000 guaranteed payment from the City.”



But asked if ACT is bound to follow that provision, when ACT and the City have not yet signed the MOA, Yting said it is something that needs to be resolved.



Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa (Cebu City, south district) served as president of ACT and was also a city councilor when he first signed an agreement with the City for the scholarship program.



Kani sila, pangitaan gyud ni sila ug pamaagi (We will find a way),” Yting said.



Conflict



City Hall did not renew its MOA with the ACT last year due to a ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas that there was a conflict of interest in Abellanosa’s involvement in the scholarship program.



While he was still a councilor, Abellanosa signed the MOA as trustee and president of ACT, for the scholarship program last June 24, 2010.



The anti-graft office said that a conflict of interest is obvious and ordered Abellanosa to be dismissed from public service. The ombudsman’s office also found probable cause to file a criminal case against him.



According to Yting, they are still waiting for an opinion from the City Legal Office whether or not the City should pay ACT despite the ombudsman’s findings.



Based on records of the scholarship committee, the City owes ACT at least P80 million for school year 2013-2014, some P29 million for the first semester of school year 2014-2015 and P26 million for the second semester.



Asked how many scholars graduated from ACT, Yting said they have no records yet. She said that the school has more than 2,600 scholars.



Pay or not?



The ACT held its commencement exercise last Saturday.



City Legal Office chief Atty. Gerone Castillo, in a separate interview yesterday, said they wrote the ombudsman last March 5, asking if the City can pay its pending obligations to ACT or not.



“When we had a meeting with all the lawyers, we were of the opinion that we will defer action until the ombudsman will have its say because there is a criminal component. The apprehension of our lawyers is that what if we will pay, then the ombudsman might go after us. We think the safest procedure is to refer back to ombudsman and ask for a categorical answer if we can pay without being held criminally for it,” he said.



Castillo said that withholding the graduates’ TOR is prejudicial to the scholars’ interest.



For this reason, he said, the City asked the ombudsman to immediately answer their query so they can be properly guided.



Last night, Castillo told Sun.Star Cebu that he has already a received a reply from the anti-graft office but that he had yet to read it.



Asked about the withholding of the TOR, Abellanosa told Sun.Star Cebu last night that he ceased to be ACT president and part of the board since he assumed office as congressman in July 2013.



Parents



He then sent a statement from ACT President Dr. Stephen Descallar, who did not categorically confirm nor deny that the scholars’ TOR had been withheld.


He said ACT is no longer interested in the payment of the City for the scholars.



“Our position is that the City is directly obligated and responsible to the parents and the scholars through the scholarship vouchers the city mayor gave directly to them when they graduated from their respective high schools. The city mayor cannot escape from this absolute obligation to the parents and use a scapegoat for the city’s financial woes. The City does not have to pay the ACT. Just pay the parents and settle its pecuniary obligation to them,” he added.



Asked again if the students’ TOR won’t be released, Descalar only said the scholars were all allowed to participate in the ACT commencement exercises last March 21.



He added that a group of 27 parents representing the scholars have already written the mayor and asked to speak with him about this matter.




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