I FELT blessed when a position for an instructor in a local government unit (LGU)-run community college had opened that I single-mindedly pursued it until I was accepted on June 2013. For reasons that I was either too naïve or innocent to comprehend at that moment, I inked a “Job Order” contract and the rest was history.

As a pioneering faculty in a newly-installed department, I had firsthand witnessed the odds of working for an LGU school in terms of facilities. There were not enough classrooms, chairs and books for students to use.

As such, the pioneering dean, who had prior 25 years of working in a private school, and I had to come up with means to fulfill the facility and laboratory needs of our students considering the fact that our department was a school to future health professionals. And so, with the guidance of our president, we managed to collect class funds just like all other departments of the same institution. That is why we were able to build a skills laboratory that was almost as state-of-the art like its counterpart private institutions. We were also able to sustain the operational needs of the office that was entrusted to our keeping.

As a novice in the social dynamics between student-faculty relationships in a public school, there were plenty of rooms for adjustments on my part as all my life, I had been a pure-bred Atenean having earned all my educational attainments from elementary to graduate studies at Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan). Needless to say, I had brought with me the spirit of “magis,” which was totally misunderstood in the LGU set up.

At one point, such idealism was thought of as ‘extremist’ to being radical. But I never minded. What fuelled my heart to go on was the dedication to produce knowledgeable and skillful health professionals with the right ‘caring’ attitude. And so, sharing such idealism, the dean and I had walked extra miles of rendering unpaid services to the students beyond the typical government time of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Speaking of walking extra miles, there were nights and holidays that I rendered professional services to students for free just to hone their skills in clinical practice. There were countless uncompensated nights that I wake up in the middle of the night from a phone call by midwifery students requesting my professional services to supervise them in handling deliveries in the health stations and birthing homes.

I remember, in 2013, that a devastating earthquake claimed many lives in Bohol with aftershocks being experienced in Misamis Oriental, the dean and I were rendering our professional services putting forth the learning of our students a priority beyond what money could compensate. Earthquakes and typhoons, these natural disasters did not hamper us in our dedication to teach.

I must say, that I had it in my personal upbringing- home and school- to be a strict disciplinarian. A quote that I have not forgotten when I took health education courses under the class of Dr. Arlita Amapola Minguez, the now CHEd education supervisor, way back in college that “the teacher is responsible for causing the students to learn. And so, at all cost I had to push the students to learn what must be learned. But beyond my wildest imagination that it would have been misconstrued as a form of student terrorism especially when I pushed for holding some students from graduation because they had failed to complete the expected requirements for the licensure.

And perhaps, these and among many other plausible reasons that students organized a coup d’ e’tat against me and the dean by writing directly to the municipal mayor bypassing the school president as far as management protocol is concerned. It was retaliation, no less.

Bombarded with multiple accounts of malicious hearsay that ranged from unauthorized collections of funds to unprofessional actuations, the dean and I were ordered to answer to these claims through writing within 24 hours. And so, we did.

After a week of hiatus, the complaint was brought before the board-of-trustees of the LGU-run community college. It was chaired by the municipal mayor and vice-chaired by the college president.

Without being invited, the dean and I pitifully waited outside the boardroom hoping to be summoned to explain ourselves. With us, were the documents that could justify everything and shed light to all the malicious accusations pressed against us. Unfortunately, we were never called.

After three hours of closed-door meeting, a unanimous decision was reached: to terminate me and the dean from service effective immediately.

We were deprived the opportunity of defending ourselves or demand for evidence or proofs. We were also unaware of the identities of the complainants. Accusations, it was all that. In short, there was no due process.

Worse, no grace period was offered. Not even just to finish the terms in our employment contract. There was neither warning nor suspension that was issued on us. They wanted us out immediately. They convicted us guilty prematurely without due process. Guilty out of hearsay, I must emphasize.

As in my case, I cannot help but rationalize that these were all because of my “Job Order” status that the LGU which had employed me found it very convenient to discharge me from service out of whims.

My dismissal from service had painful consequences.

First, it ceased my right to practice my nurse-midwifery profession in the said institution. Second, it deprived me the opportunity of graduating my master’s in public health this year. Supposedly, had these malicious complaints not materialized, I was set to fly for Cebu City to take a comprehensive exam and defend my thesis paper. Ironically, the decision to terminate me came out on the same day of departure wasting my money on non-refundable tickets. Third, it paralyzed me economically: how am I supposed to pay for the loans I had made to a certain cooperative bank to which the school had a memorandum of agreement? Fourth, being unemployed, I may not be able to consistently monitor my bleeding condition for economic reasons. Lastly, I felt being robbed of my name as moral damage was perhaps the most devastating of all.

Fallen from grace, some teachers and students think we were guilty as charged. Traumatizing psychologically, I hear people say ill things against me as if they knew me very well. I am now a victim of dreadful gossips circulating in exponential proportions. Infamous, I have become.

I hope these people consider that I take pride on my name and that I am very particular with my reputation. After all, I had been in the academe for seven years, of which five years were spent in a private school of nursing with impeccable employment history. Secondly, since 2008, my photo and name have been appearing twice weekly in a local community newspaper and occasionally in other similar network newspapers nationwide. I would never do something that could damage my name or tarnish my image.

I felt violated. I loved my work. I dedicated my life in the academe morally upright with the highest professional ethics. But I felt betrayed. I believe there was injustice here all because I was a Job-Order employee.

From here, I take my shattered pieces together and move on.

[Email: polo.journalist@gmail.com]