Family feud: PWC members choose new officers; election questioned

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 June) – At least 12 members of the Philippine Women’s College in Davao City elected a new set of board of trustees and a new school president in their annual meeting on Thursday, but the acting president said the meeting was improper and unauthorized.

On orders from acting PWC president Conrado Benitez, security guards barred the members from entering the campus.

Lawyer Aileen Lizada explained to the guards that the school’s by-laws allows them to hold meetings inside the campus, to no avail, forcing them to hold the meeting and election at the entrance gate.

Elected as trustees were Lizada, Patricia Sareñas, Evelyn Laviña, Philippine Women’s University president Dr. Francisco Benitez, Marco Benitez, and Suzie Benitez. Laviña has been named by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte as agriculture undersecretary.

Elected as new school president was Dr. Nilda Jinete, whose appointment would take effect Friday, Dr. Francisco Benitez said.

But the acting president, in an interview Friday at his office, countered that Thursday’s meeting was improperly called for having no authorization from the chair and him as acting president.

“They attempted to convene a meeting within the PWC premises. I had received notice of this because other members of the corporation had informed me about it but I did not get the information directly myself. I wrote to them this meeting cannot be properly called for, does not have the members of the corporation, and is unauthorized by the chairman and president of the school, thus we cannot set this meeting. They insisted in coming and I had the security guards blocked them at the gate,” he said.

He added he will call for another meeting on June 17, Friday, to settle issues.

Former senator Helena Benitez serves as chair of PWC, which is registered as a non-stock, non-profit academic institution.

PWU-PWC Alumni Foundation of Davao Inc. president Maria Loreto A. Lopez told MindaNews Thursday that Mr. Conrado Benitez wanted to delay the election of the new trustees.

“As alumni, away namin kasi we have seen how he mismanaged the school. Dapat OIC (officer-in-charge) lang siya in the office of the president. But when he was OIC, sige niya i-extend ang term nya,” she said.

She alleged the acting wanted to remain in power and even sought for a two-year extension of his term, which was supposed to expire three months after he assumed the position in 2013, replacing cousin Amelia Lourdes Benitez-Reyes.

Benitez-Reyes was president for 10 years.

“Conrado Benitez, who was appointed officer-in-charge in an interim capacity three years ago, has made it clear that he would like to be installed as president of the venerable Davao institution despite several handicaps including his not being Davao-based and PWU’s Board of Trustees deciding otherwise,” a briefer from the Benitez family stated.

The 15 members of the institution, nine of them from the Benitez family, wanted the new school president to come from Davao City.

Lopez, former school assistant vice president, said Mr. Conrado Benitez is based in Manila and seldom went to Davao and would only come during graduation ceremonies and meetings.

She surmised that the acting president was delaying the meeting so that members could not replace him. She said that in a previous meeting, he promised to step down after the board elects a new president.

“Conrad does not want it pushed through. He has the feeling that the board will elect another president,” she said.

She said the board wondered why Mr. Conrado Benitez was trying to delay the election when there are many qualified nominees for the position.

“Pano sya mag-lead if he is are not here. Yung ang experience if Benitez was president, hindi sya dumadating dito. Why, is davao lacking (of a potential president)?”

Mr. Conrado Benitez, however, said he had no intent of staying as president but just wanted to make the school more competitive before turning it over to a successor.

“I will not stay any longer if we can sort these problems out and make sure that the person we have in Davao is competently capable. I have no intention of perpetuating myself in power. I am Manila-based and have many other things to do. PWC has become very close to my heart,” he said.

Illegitimate members

Mr. Conrado Benitez said some members of the Benitez family attended the December 10, 2015 meeting convened by the chair at her residence in Manila which he said was more like a “family caucus”.

But the chair was absent during the meeting due to health concerns, he said.

He recalled there was a suggestion to increase the number of members while noting that PWC has only three members. Thursday’s meeting was attended by 12 out of 15 members.

He contested the legitimacy of the 15 members, who included him and cousin Amelia Lourdes, as PWC members and the names should be treated as nominees.

“I did not find out until later that my relatives sent letters (to the nominees) signed by my aunt that they were elected new members. They had the signature of my aunt who was not even there. A lot of them (nominees) accepted,” he said.

“To accept that they are members of the corporation is already a fallacy. Hindi pwede yun (That could not be). How can you come up with a set of trustees and officers when the basic principle of calling the meeting was fraud,” he said.

On Thursday, PWU president Dr. Francisco Benitez said that they stood their ground and claimed they made sure that they followed proper protocols in calling for a meeting.

He said that their school in Davao is already doing good but with the election of new trustees and a new president they are expecting stability in terms of corporate governance. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)