At about 11 am last February 6, Quezon City policemen arrested University of the Philippines Professor Melania Flores at her home inside the UP Diliman campus.
The policemen enforced a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.
Apparently, Flores’ housemaid filed a criminal complaint against Flores for the latter’s alleged failure to remit employer’s contributions to the Social Security System.
Under the law, an employer may be held criminally liable for non-remittances of SSS contributions.
Within the same day, Flores posted bail and was ordered released, albeit temporarily.
Bail was set by Judge Pangilinan at P72,000.00, which suggests that Flores may not have been paying her housemaid’s SSS contribution over a long period.
The UP Student Council, the All-UP Academic Employees Union (which Flores used to head), and a group called the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy-UP, immediately branded the arrest as an assault on academic freedom.
They also claimed the arrest violates the so-called 1992 accord between UP and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which supposedly requires law enforcers to ask permission from the UP administration before they can enforce a warrant of arrest inside the UP campus.
Based on a news report, union member Mary Grace Concepcion made a senseless, non sequitur remark the arrest is directed against critics of the administrations of ex-President Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Concepcion also claimed Flores had already settled the SSS contribution problem with her housemaid, but she did not explain how and why she was aware of this. What she said has the badges of hearsay.
I disagree with those who condemned what happened.
Flores’ arrest has nothing to do with academic freedom.
It’s a criminal case arising from a complaint filed by Flores’ housemaid about Flores’ alleged failure to remit employee’s SSS contributions.
The housemaid’s complaint does not in any way interfere with Flores’ work as a UP professor. It’s a private household problem.
The available recourse for Flores is to post bail, which she did, and establish in court that she has already settled her liability. If Flores has really settled her liability, then the criminal case will be dismissed.
Surprisingly, Flores’ allies conveniently overlooked the plight of Flores’ housemaid.
While they sympathized with the housemaid’s employer, they ignored the plight of the housemaid, a member of the working class, whose employer allegedly violated the housemaid’s rights under the SSS law.
They didn’t even get the housemaid’s side of the issue, and just sweepingly concluded that Flores’ arrest is illegal.
They also forgot that the housemaid is entitled to all remedies available under the law, the criminal case included, to protect her rights.
Why this didn’t dawn on Flores and her defenders, Mary Grace Concepcion especially, is a mystery.
To my recollection, the so-called 1992 accord between UP and the DILG is no longer in force and effect. Citing it in favor of Flores, therefore, is untenable.
Even assuming the accord remains in effect, the same is unconstitutional because it is tantamount to class legislation in favor of UP.
Since there are non-academic residential areas inside UP Diliman (like Flores’ home), it is legally absurd to make these places subject to special treatment, when all other similar residential areas outside of UP are subject to the law.
Besides, why should the enforcement of a warrant of arrest, duly issued by a court of law for a criminal offense involving alleged non-remittances of SSS contributions, require the prior permission of the UP administration?
Furthermore, what has a criminal case involving SSS contributions got to do with the Duterte and Marcos Jr. administrations?
One who hires a housemaid is expected to abide by the laws governing such employment.
If Flores claims she is unaware of the criminal case, she should raise that matter in court.
From what happened, it seems to me UP President Danilo Concepcion and UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo are encouraging the UP faculty, students and personnel to defy the law.
Being a lawyer, UP President Concepcion ought to know the arrest of Flores is in accord with law, and that nobody should be an obstacle to law enforcement.
After all, there are legal remedies available to UP professors arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by a court of law.
Nemenzo is not a lawyer, but ignorance of the law is not an excuse for non-compliance with the same.
Concepcion and Nemenzo should have explicitly reprimanded those who tried to stop Flores’ arrest.
Their inaction in this regard encourages the troublemakers to think they’re exempted from the law.
Incidentally, what does the UP College of Law, which supposedly champions downtrodden workers (like Flores’ housemaid) and like persons, have to say about this incident?