IF THERE is one thing worth emulating about the hounds of God, as the Dominican preachers are called for their loud proclamation God’s word in and out of season over the vast ends of the earth, it is their unwavering commitment to their religious vow of obedience to the Master of the Order and to the Supreme Pontiff.

This example has been further illustrated with the resignation of the three top officials of UST–Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P., Vice-Rector Fr. Juan Ponce, O.P., and Fr. Edmund Nantes, O.P., prior of the Philippine Dominican province. Their resignations were accepted by the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, O.P. The three resigned when Father Azpiroz signalled his desire for a “new leadership team” that would “create the consensus necessary for future developments at the University and Hospital” in time for its 400th year anniversary, according to a circular from the UST Secretary General.

Obviously, judging from the statement, the issue is a dispute among the hounds of God on how best to proceed with developing the UST Hospital.

It could be said that Fathers Arceo and the University and hospital officialdom were compelled with the best of intentions to make the hospital succeed better. The UST Hospital after all is the Philippines’ premiere university hospital. As the hospital of UST, which has the oldest and most prestigious medical school in the Philippines and with a global renown, it is a showcase of the quality of medical education and care of UST doctors and health professionals.

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As a “Catholic” hospital, it is also a showcase and channel of the Church’s ministry of compassion and charity. In fact, the UST Hospital has the largest private charity ward in the country, which embodies Dominican compassion and the Church’s preferential option for the poor.

Unique among religious orders, the Dominicans care for the poor–as shown by their higher-education institutions catering to the middle-class to the lower-class and by their charity hospitals (the Filipino Dominicans’ UST Hospital and their Santo Domingo Church charity and dental clinics, as well as the Spanish Dominicans’ San Martin de Porres Hospital in San Juan), something that could hardly be said of other orders that seem merely in the education sector to charge high tuition and train the children of the elite, the filthy rich, and the wanna-be rich.

But because of the large capital and expenditures needed to operate the charity ward, the UST Hospital had admittedly suffered losses, which Father Arceo and the hospital management tried to reverse that by commercialization and expansion. They formulated plans to save the hospital and make it earn enough to support the charity division.

But as it turned out, the view from Santa Sabina, the Dominican curia in Rome, was different, perhaps even hostile.

It is said that the Master had already indicated his unhappiness with the way the hospital was going toward the path of full commercialization in a September 2006 order, in which he requsted that the expansion be suspended so that the Dominican curia could better study the matter. But the UST and Hospital leadership nevertheless went on with the expansion and contracted a P3 billion loan last April. UST Hospital CEO Dr. Cenon Alfonso said the loan was needed to expand the hospital and save it from bankruptcy, but admitted that the UST Dominican leadership might have committed in the process “objective disobedience.”

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The matter of course is something internal to the Dominican Order, but it has repercussions on the Thomasian community. In a way, it is a relief that the Master of the Order has stepped in in order to stop the dispute once and for all on how best to go about with the “redevelopment” of the UST Hospital.

The statement of UST Secretary General Fr. Isidro Abano, O.P. appears to indicate how the Master wishes the redevelopment to proceed: “The goal of redevelopment will be to ensure that the UST Hospital can continue to offer the highest educational standards of formation for future doctors and other allied medical practitioners and the highest level of medical care and services in both its Clinical and Pay divisions.”

The statement should indicate two things: one, the direct link between the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and the UST Hospital should be restored; and two, consequently, the incorporation of the hospital as an entity separate from the University should be stopped.

What does all of this mean? UST and its hospital are back to square one, as far as their legal and operational nature and functions are concerned.

Does this mean all previous efforts are wasted? Perhaps not. After all, the previous hospital leadership of Father Arceo and Doctor Alfonso had introduced innovations and projects to re-energize hospital operations.

In fact, Alfonso, in a message to medical alumni after quitting, appealed to the Master and the new UST leadership for a sanatio, a canonical remedy that would allow the hospital to build from the gains that had already been achieved. In short, UST and its hospital should now move on, building from what has been achieved, not backtrack and entrench itself further in penury and decay.

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Much will depend on Acting Rector Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa to lift UST from the slough of despondency that the Thomasian community now feels as a result of the leadership crisis. We, in the Varsitarian, pray for his success, as we had always prayed for him even when he was not anymore rector.

In a way, what’s good about what has happened is that the Master of the Order has pointed firmly what path UST should now take to develop the hospital.

Okay then, in the spirit of obedience, let’s chart the direction Father Azpiroz has pointed for us. Let’s get back to work. Let’s make UST and its hospital work for the greater good of the Church and for greater witness to God’s love and goodness.

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