PAG raises concerns on lack of transparency, scholarship issue, and more
Various Performing Arts Group (PAG) presidents raised their concern over numerous internal problems, one being the lack of “support” from the administration. The said issue was brought up during the first Town Hall meeting led by the University Student Council on February 21 earlier this year when a certain PAG President shared the “lack of transparency” in funds and overall support from the concerned offices above PAG. As such, The HERALDO FILIPINO (HF) investigated the issue.
As per the DLSU-D Student Handbook, Cultural Arts Office (CAO) is a unit of the Student Development and Activities Office (SDAO) “tasked with providing opportunities for students to develop themselves in the area of culture promotion and the arts,” spearheaded by CAO Coordinator Joel Refuerzo who is in his 13th year as the Coordinator. Under CAO are the seven PAG organizations: TEATRO Lasalliana, DLSU-D Chorale, La Salle Filipiniana Dance Company (LSFDC), Lasallian Pointes ‘n’ Flexes Dance Company (LPNFDC), DLSU-D Symphonic Band, Lasallian Pop Band, and Visual and Performing Arts Production Unit (VPAPU).
HF held interviews with all seven PAG Presidents, also known as Council of Presidents (COP), and the administration concerned and obtained significant documents to validate the interviews.
CAO has a P150 collection fee per student. Each year, the office receives a fund estimated by the Accounting Office and has the discretion to divide the fund among the seven PAGs. Every year, unused funds are saved up in the CAO Trust Fund, and as of April 17, the CAO has accumulated P4,200,000 since the beginning of CAO.
In the CAO Annual Budget Projection created and submitted by Refuerzo to SDAO during the start of the academic year (AY), the total of CAO fund this AY is P2,530,000. The division of funds is as follows: per organization, they are given a separate budget of P50,000 per semester which they can utilize for bookstore requests, recitals, and repairs among others. Other funds include cultural competitions, major productions, PAG midyear workshop funds, among others. In total, with these separate funds, one PAG organization has a total budget of P280,000 this AY.
However, on money matters, some PAG presidents seem to know less than they’re supposed to.
“Hindi kami well-informed kung ano talaga ‘yung type ng budget namin, kung magkano ‘yung budget namin,” Rudy Alduñar, LSFDC president said.
Rica Barinque, TEATRO Lasalliana president, said the CAO is not given breakdowns of how much has been spent and how much still remains in their budget.
“Yes, actually lahat kami (PAG) ‘yun ‘yung problem namin. Ang problem namin with the CAO, ‘yung transparency with the budget na parang wala kaming breakdown,” Barinque said, “At ‘yung suggestion sana namin is magkaroon ng breakdown kung magkano ba talaga ‘yung budget namin for this sem[ester] at paano ba namin siya ma–u-utilize kung nababawasan ba namin siya, [at] kung nababawas, magkano na?”
Refuerzo dismissed this claim, “I don’t know kung paanong lack of transparency, kasi unang-una ang kanilang [External Vice President for] Finance dapat ay nag-re-record din lahat ng expenses nila… kaya hindi nila pwedeng sabihin na hindi transparent sa budget kasi sila among themselves alam nila kung ano ‘yung gastos nila.”
In an interview with the PAG presidents, they said they record their balance and remaining budget, however, they still need to have verification from the CAO.
During the initial interview with HF, the CAO Coordinator showed a blue logbook where he keeps CAO’s record of spending per PAG organization which he presents to PAG members inquiring about their balances.
Contrary to what the CAO Coordinator says however, certain PAG presidents said they have not seen the said logbook nor any documents from the CAO. Meanwhile, other presidents say that Refuerzo has mentioned that there is a logbook but has still not shown it to them.
Melissa Sta Cruz, VPAPU President, states that Refuerzo showed it to her once, but he does not use it regularly.
“Netong mga sumunod na taon wala kaming papel na nakikita na nando’n na nakalagay na ’Ito ‘yung budget niyo this year,’ wala ding monitoring,” Barinque said.
The TEATRO president says CAO does not clearly mention their remaining balance of PAG budgets despite having already inquired with the CAO.
“Kapag may ipapa-approve kang bookstore form, PRF (Payment Requisition Form), mga gano’n, sige pirma [ka lang], pero ‘di mo mache-check kung ano ‘yung balance [talaga] namin. Nag-i-inquire kami pero [ang sasabihin]‘a sige kaya pa naman [ng budget]’ parang wala kaming makitang figures, laging statement lang,” Symphonic Band President Lawrence Samson added.
During the weeks covered by HF for the inquiries for this article, the reporters learned that the CAO released a working financial performance summary per PAG organization for the AY 2017-2018. The said report was based from Refuerzo’s logbook and the Accounting Office’s report, and HF was given access to these documents.
According to the summary, almost all PAG organizations aside from Symphonic Band, TEATRO and LPNFDC, lack financial reports of at least one event which determines how much funds are used up by the organizations. (As of press time, some organizations may have already submitted some of the statements.)
In a follow-up interview, Refuerzo clarified that he needs to obtain the remaining unaccomplished financial reports of some PAGs in order to compute the remaining balance on the budget of the different groups, which he previously failed to give the exact and official amounts.
“Kasi lahat sila nagkaroon ng major prod[uction]…kasi ang hinihintay ko ‘yung financial statement nila para ma-verify ko talaga kung magkano ‘yung nagastos,” he said.
Upon releasing the summary, the different groups started submitting their own lacking financial reports.
At the beginning of the AY, each organization’s Plan of Activities (POA) must be presented ahead of time to be included in SDAO’S Integrated Plan of Activities (IPOA), the annual projection of the flow of activities for the entire AY by all student organizations and councils under SDAO, which includes the PAG. However, there are also instances wherein events arise that are not part of the IPOA.
“May mga times kasi na unexpected, nasira na [kagamitan], hindi naman siya nafo-foresee ng IPOA,” Alduñar mentioned.
This year, LSFDC had to buy two new instruments, an Agung and a Kulintangan which costs P20,000 and P17,000 respectively after their existing instruments started to sound out of tune. Alduñar said their members had to shoulder the expenses of the instrument, and different costumes, as these purchases were immediately needed and they would not be able to wait for the long processing time through the administration which involves a bidding process.
Eric Balaoro, LPFDC president, backed up Alduñar, saying that “Mas ayos na diretsong pera na lang [namin] para kung san namin gusto, madali na.” He also added that the Purchasing Department, in charge for university-related purchases through school funds, only considers companies for bidding that are accredited by the school.
Refuerzo said he did not know that LSFDC did the transaction with the two instruments, “Hindi nga nila ipinaalam na bibili sila (LSFDC) ng Agung e, nalaman ko na lang nakabili na nila kasi may nag-offer daw ng magandang Agung, hindi nakarating sa akin na nag-ambagan sila,” he clarified.
Alduñar admitted that they failed to inform the CAO Coordinator when they used their own money to purchase costumes and instruments.
“Sobrang hirap kasi sa case namin ‘di ba like may mga specific talaga na bilihan ng damit ta’s may kilala kami [na mapagbibilihan], ta’s kailangan na namin agad, ang tagal kasi ng process kaya parang imbes hintayin mo pa na ma-process mo pa ‘yung proposal mo do’n sa costume o instruments, kailangan na namin mag-shell out ng sarili naming pera,” Alduñar added.
Barinque supported the use of petty cash, or back-up money for emergency situations, for the PAG organizations which can be useful in immediate transactions as PAGs currently do not have a petty cash on hand. The CAO Coordinator also did not see the need for one when asked.
Refuerzo added that if the LSFDC informed the CAO in advance about their interest to buy the two instruments, the office could have made a purchase resolution and forwarded it to the Purchasing Department to undergo a bidding process. This set up would need a one-month leeway according to him, which contradicted to the immediate need of the LSFDC of the said instruments.
In cases of immediate purchases, CAO said the PAG should have considered reimbursement if the COP collectively signed a budget resolution approving the said reimbursement. When asked, some members of COP said they have not tried making reimbursements for their purchases.
The TEATRO president shared how their productions this AY are affected by unforeseen “debts” that supposedly fall under the CAO Fund.
Recently, the organization had an event at Alumni Auditorium, where TEATRO usually holds their productions. Venue costs at Alumni Auditorium, priced at approximately P100,000, is automatically charged to the CAO fund.
“Ang inaano samin [ng CAO] for the past years, hindi daw kami nakakapagbayad ng venue so kailangan namin siyang bayaran, so may utang daw kami na kailangan naming bayaran,” Barinque said.
During the firsts semester of AY 2017-2018, Barinque shared that TEATRO was “not allowed” to do a production because of “huge amounts of debt” from the previous productions.
However, Barinque said they are not given proper means to track whether the said “debt” has been paid and how much still remains of their budget, “Kaso wala kaming sinusundan na ‘okay bayad na, okay na, magkano na ‘yung nagastos, magkano na ba yung puwede naming gamiting ngayon.’”
CAO’s Refuerzo dismissed the existence of any alleged debt, “That’s impossible kasi hindi naman sila nakagamit no’n (venue) kung hindi ko napirmahan. Naka-charge sa CAO Trust Fund [‘yung venue].”
Moreover, the “debt” seemed only to be an encouragement by the CAO Coordinator for PAG organizations. The term “debt” was used to reassure increase in ticket sales after the previous productions of TEATRO failed to meet expected ticket sales that created deficits and net loss which the CAO Fund needed to shoulder, something CAO was trying to avoid.
In a second interview, Refuerzo mentioned this when asked if he actually told TEATRO that they still had “debts.”
“Kapag minsan kasi sinasabi ko lang na kailangan niyong (PAG members) bayaran para ma-push kayo na ma-effort kayo na makapag-sell kayo ng ticket. Kasi pag kampante ka na naka-charge na kasi kay CAO ‘yung venue, mag-re-relax ka na eh,” he added.
Barinque said these hidden meanings within Refuerzo’s messages are part of the reason why communication between CAO and the PAG organizations has become disorderly, as what the CAO Coordinator says is different from what he means.
Refuerzo admitted that the TEATRO production which was supposed to happen during the first semester this AY did not take place not solely due to “debts” but problems in manpower and papers.
“Nagkaproblem sa paper at sa manpower…anong petsa na wala pa silang script, anong petsa na wala pa silang plano,” he said.
He added that the proposals were not finished, and that TEATRO, only comprised of nine members, lacked actors, wherein during productions, the organization had to hire actors outside the school which the CAO coordinator discouraged as he said he needs to see TEATRO actors dominate the stage during performances.
Chorale president Jarold Jacob said their budget was surprisingly lower than they expected this semester. After using up only P5,000 this semester, their supposedly P45,000 budget shrank to a P30,000-budget which they said were what the Coordinator told them.
“Nito pong second sem[ester] mayro’n po sana kaming event then kumuha po kami sa fund ng P5,000 for the venue then after po no’n na–cancel po hindi po siya namin nagamit so ine-expect po namin na meron pa kaming P45 [thousand] kasi so far wala pa naman po kaming alam na pinaglalaanan ng pera,” Jacob said.
As per Jacob, the problems with budget transparency and PAG-CAO coordination affected his trust with the CAO Coordinator.
“Epekto po nu’n is ‘yung trust namin sa coordinator namin. Kumbaga as Performing Arts po, siya po sana unang nag–e-encourage sa amin [kaso ang] lagi pong say is ‘walang budget, walang ganito,’” the Chorale president said.
For the case of Chorale, according to their working financial summary which came from Refuerzo, they have used up a total of P7,451.75 which still lacked exact figures as there are two events wherein Chorale did not provide their own financial reports, as of press time.
Tightening of budget
Apart from issues regarding unclear balance, other PAGs also mentioned how CAO tends to restrict them from operating their budget or even holding certain events.
EVP for Finance of Symphonic Band Arlet Kalagayan raised the concern of budget constraints, stating “Kaya ko naman siya natawag na unreasonable tightening of budget kasi nasabihan niya [Refuerzo] ko ng ‘anak baka maubos na ‘yung budget niyo bago pa ‘yung event niyo’ at do’n ko naisip na bakit niya nasabi ‘yun eh ang liit pa lang ng nagagastos namin.”
The Chorale President attests to the lack of support from the CAO Coordinator, however they continue to follow his advice, “Sinabi niyang ‘ganito na lang’ (on event planning) pero syempre at the back of our mind, nag-iisip ‘bakit din san napunta du’n ‘yung ganito?’”
Scholarship and other problems
As a result of the K to 12 program and few students enrolling in the University, scholarships of organizations were part of the University’s cost-cutting plan in the past and current AYs. As per Balaoro, PAG was one of the first organizations to have scholarship cuts. However, monetary concerns is not the mere reason for their scholarships, stating “Oo kailangan namin ng scholarship, pero in a way isa din siyang pagpo-promote ng cultural awareness lalo na ngayon papasok ‘yung first year kapag nag-enroll sila.”
Symphonic Band President Samson stressed that the scholarship is also a source of motivation for their members, “Parang isa ‘yon (scholarship) sa nag-mo-motivate [sa amin]—kasi maging praktikal na tayo, na hindi mo lang hobby, hindi mo lang passion ‘to kaya sasali ka ng org[anization], siyempre, may benefit ka rin, isa na ‘yun, ‘yun na ‘yung scholarship.”
Samson also raised concerns over Emilio Aguinaldo College’s (EAC) Band scholarship, as he said the other organization receives a 100 percent scholarship. “Isa ‘yun (scholarship) sa kinakasama ng loob ko, kasi bakit yung EAC nagagawa nilang 100 percent ‘yung banda du’n, lalo na ngayon hirap kami (PAG) lahat sa members, kami nga 11 members nalang kami,” he said.
However, Refuerzo argues this by stating PAGs shouldn’t compare their scholarships with others schools and PAGs should consider themselves lucky with the scholarship they have now as De La Salle University (DLSU) – Manila only has P12,000 to P13,000 allocated for their Performing Arts Groups when he talked to the PAG Coordinator of DLSU-Manila.
“More than anything else it’s not about the scholarship na kaya kayo nag PAG. ‘Yung scholarship, bonus lang ‘yan. Nung una palang alam ng mga parents mo na it’s more of your talent that we hone,” he added.
Moreover, storage for all PAG organizations is also an issue as most of their leftover equipment and props from past productions are left in the small rooms of Gregorya Montoya Hall (GMH) building, where the PAG offices are located. Previously, the PAG together with other organizations residing in GMH such as The HERALDO FILIPINO used the Vito Belarmino Hall (VBH) rooms as their storage rooms for their props. However, since the VBH was converted into classrooms, the storage had to be relocated.
Refuerzo is aware of this issue as well and says that CAO will prioritize a stockroom as soon as their funds normalize in the coming AYs, “In the future matagal narin naman na plano, kasi nga wala kaming stockroom. Wala kaming tambakan ng gamit.”
He wishes that the administration could lend the PAG a storage room for all their props and costumes once the plan to transfer the administration offices to Ayuntamiento and the GMH is converted into a student center.
Venues for production also pose a challenge to PAG groups as in-campus venues as per Refuerzo have high rental rates such as the Ugnayang La Salle, Alumni Auditorium, Salrial Hall, among others.
“Ang problema ko ay ‘yung mahal na rentals dito ng venues. If doon lang, medyo mabigat talaga. You know what I mean, the ULS the Auditorium, the Salrial… kung tutuusin kung half man lang sana or kung talagang kuryente lang, kuryente lang babayaran or maintenance,” he said.
The CAO Coordinator said since there are excess budgets coming from the CAO Trust Fund which is now at P4 million, he could check if the CAO could use it to fund a venue solely for PAG productions so the groups would no longer need to rent other venues.
The COP also shared the same sentiments questioning why venue heads give free accommodation and discounts to
events held by departments, councils, and activities that are deemed “academic.”
After raising these concerns to the SDAO, the director said she is currently “evaluating” the current matters of PAG and CAO.
Guidelines and seminars
Upon interviewing the SDAO Director Ma. Luisa Ongcol, the CAO Coordinator, and COP, they said that the CAO has no central rules and guidelines that other organizations such as the University Student Council, Student Commission on Elections, and The HERALDO FILIPINO have.
In an interview with the SDAO Director, she showed old copies of constitutions of Chorale and Symphonic Band. According to some members of COP, some still utilize the constitutions and some need to have their guidelines updated as well.
Refuerzo said all PAG organizations have their rules and guidelines sometimes in the form of a constitution such that of Symphonic Band and Chorale. However, these policies need to be “revisited” as some have not been updated after years.
He also added that he has guidelines for membership, scholarship, purchase through resolution care of the Purchasing Department, among other guidelines. Although Ongcol and Refuerzo admitted that there were no central rules and regulations for the CAO alone where the roles of the CAO Coordinator and how he/she should handle the seven organizations, the funding, and the process of financing these organizations are indicated.
Alduñar agreed that a “list of laws and regulations” of CAO would be a good way to avoid misunderstandings and decrease instances where they have to ask the CAO on different matters.
The CAO Coordinator said he plans to implement CAO Policies “as soon as possible.”
The PAG presidents also contested how there was no Role Orientation Seminar (ROS) for the PAG officers this academic year, an annual CAO seminar at the start of the academic year where they expected to have been oriented on PAG matters—including financial matters. Refuerzo admitted there was no ROS this year saying it was “redundant” as leadership seminars by the SDAO are already attended by the PAG such as Butil, Sibol, and seminars
on how to have fundraising events.
The CAO Coordinator said if the absence of ROS is what the PAG members noted, he will double check the content of different leadership seminars attended by PAG.
Moreover, one of the main concerns for each PAG organizations is the lack of remaining members for next AY 2018-2019, with Chorale only having ten members, LPNFDC having three members, and Teatro only having two in the next academic year. As of press time, HF has yet to know the figures for the other PAG organizations. Balaoro from LPNFDC has yet to have a tactic how to pique the interest of incoming freshmen to join the dance company, “Dapat makaisip kami ng way para talaga sila ma-engganyo. Mahirap talaga mapakita na masaya or maganda ‘yung org (LPNFDC) lalo na kaunti lang kami.”
However, CAO’s typical 15-member limit, which requires PAG to have a minimum of 15 members otherwise the group will be dissolved, will be lifted during the adjustment stage until the K to 12 effects subsides and all the college levels are filled up again. Refuerzo furthered that the he will not allow any PAG to be dissolved in the upcoming AY nor does the administration have any plans to do so.
The non-transparency in budget has worried Samson from Symphonic, among others, over the next generation of PAG members.
“Di ako nagagalit, ‘di ako naiinis, nagwo-worry lang ako sa next generation, siyempre concern din namin ‘yun, scholar kami e, kasi kami nga [kahit] institutional org[anization] kami, di namin ma-feel na institutional org[anization] kami kasi limitado kami sa budget,” Samson said.
In another interview with the COP, they also raised that there is an inequality in how the school provides for varsity athletes, stating that athletes receive more benefits and overall support from the administration even if both groups compete and represent the school in off-campus events. “Ang ginagawa nila (athletes) is nagco-compete, bringing the name of the school. Pero bawat organizations naman under PAG puwede namang magcompete ‘yan e outside the country pa nga. Nagawa nilang (Chorale) pumunta sa Singapore without the support of the school what more kung may support coming from the school,” Barinque adds, “’yung mga benefits na meron sila na bakit hindi puwedeng ibigay samin?”
Refuerzo is aware of this discrepancy, and mentions that this even happens with other schools. He stated that even he voices out these problems to the admin but advises the PAG to accept the “reality” they are in.
Now more than ever, the Lasallian student artists need the school’s support, as PAG is not as supported as it was in the previous years. Barinque stated that “Kaya na rin malaki ‘yung value ng PAG sa school [dati kasi] marami siyang nagagawa sa school, marami siyang natutulong na mga activities pero kasi ngayon kaya kami ‘yung unang naapektuhan ng budget cut kasi ‘di na nila nakikita yung purpose namin.”
For the succeeding AYs, the support for PAG is up in the air as Barinque finalizes with, “Siguro aside from that ang pinaka-gusto naming ma-resolve sa CAO is ‘yung mabigyan ulit ng equal opportunities … ibalik sana yung dating nakaugalian ng PAG na lahat ng activities na mayro’n, ‘yung kung gano siya kaingay sa school, kung gano siya ka-valuable sa school.”
Going back to the role of CAO as per the DLSU-D Student Handbook for “providing opportunities for students to develop themselves in the area of culture promotion and the arts,” the PAGs current case begs to ask: throughout the years, is this role being fulfilled?
As of press time, this is a developing story as the two parties are in the process of discussing the issues concerned.