06 July 2014

'Conflict Of Interest' at UCPB Board?

Is there really a ‘conflict of interest’ in this story? Try to read it and see if you agree with the complainant that government officials made an error in appointing Atty. Nilo T. Divina as one of the directors of United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB).

According to Atty. Oliver San Antonio, legal counsel of the National Coalition of Filipino Consumers (NCFC), Divina, dean of law at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Faculty of Law, not only sits as one of the 16 members of the board of directors of UCPB, but that his law firm also serves as one of its external counsels.

Atty. San Antonio is asking officials at MalacaƱang and the new Governance Commission for GOCCs (GoG) to look into and investigate if Atty. Divina is involved in a conflict of interest since the latter is also the founder and managing partner of “DivinaLaw,” among whose clients listed in its website is UCPB Savings Bank, a subsidiary of UCPB.

It was gathered that Divina’s election to the UCPB board as a nominee of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was approved early in 2011 by President Benigno Aquino III.

The UCPB has been under government sequestration since the 1980s, after the downfall of the Marcos administration. The Supreme Court ruled with finality last year that the Philippine Government owned 72 percent of UCPB.

As such, it now falls under the oversight function of the GOG, which was created under Republic Act (RA) 10149.

The new law, passed during the 15TH Congress in 2010, is one of the first major pieces of legislation passed under Aquino aimed at promoting transparency and “financial viability and fiscal discipline” in all government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

“As a member of the UCPB Board, Dean Divina is among those who approve the engagement of external counsel and the fixing and payment of fees of that external counsel,” said San Antonio, who is also a legal ethics professor and former chair of the Student Council at the University of the Philippines.

“His two titles at the UCPB are unbecoming of the dean of one of the most respected law schools in the country,” San Antonio added.

“Basically what Dean Divina did as part of the UCPB Board was hire his own law firm; so now aside from the financial remuneration he receives as a director in the UCPB board, his firm also receives payment for the legal services it provides UCPB,” San Antonio pointed out.

For the sake of delicadeza, San Antonio suggested further that Divina may have no other option but to resign his directorship with UCPB, at the very least.