The case of provincial education superintendent Natividad Bayubay started as an office dynamics. Sometime last year, several aggrieved senior education officials filed a complaint against her for graft and abuse of authority. That was something that commonly happens in governance. All that was to be done was for the Department of Education to hear the case within its confines and make decisions.
A system is supposed to be in place to address such cases. As part of due process, an accused government official is placed under preventive suspension if there is merit to the case. This is so that he or she is unable to influence the outcome of the investigation while it is under adjudication. In the instance of Narra mayor Gerandy Danao, this was determined by the provincial board and he was promptly placed under preventive suspension. Eventually, he was convicted and meted a 20-month suspension.
In the case of Superintendent Bayubay, the preventive suspension was issued by no less than the Secretary of Education, who signed the order on December 1. When the exclusive Palawan News story broke last month, Bayubay coyly ignored it. Her office kept a stonewalled silence on the matter as she went on a Christmas holiday, all the time keeping to her post.
Earlier, the provincial board expressed concern about the implication of the case on the urgent task of the education department in the middle of the health crisis. They passed a resolution calling for the immediate replacement of Bayubay. The latter was unfettered and simply brushed it aside. Even the regional office of the Department of Education for MIMAROPA was strangely silent on the matter.
Wittingly or unwittingly meanwhile, Bayubay stirred controversy around herself. While adamantly refusing to address a matter of public concern, she flaunted her personal affairs on social media. On at least two occasions, she gushed about having had the privilege to use the personal airplane of the Palawan governor in her travels, doing selfies and posting them on her Facebook timeline. She even brazenly posted photos of her pet endangered turtles, prompting the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to confiscate the animals as she had no permit for it, but giving her a pass by not charging her for violation of the Wildlife Act.
It was either Bayubay was also not clued about health protocols involving travel to Palawan at this time of the pandemic or she felt she was exempted from it. But last week, she was picked up by the provincial IMT at her office as soon as she arrived in the city aboard the governor’s plane and brought to a quarantine facility.
The Capitol has tried to officially distance itself from Bayubay’s affairs, perhaps in an apparent attempt to insulate Governor Jose Alvarez from the ethical issues surrounding her use of his private plane. In a couple of statements, it insisted that such a gesture is routinely extended by the governor to anyone in need.
What Governor Alvarez appears to have not taken into account in the case of Bayubay is the fact that she is heading a department that will play an important role in the holding of the Palawan division plebiscite in March, a matter that the provincial government is strongly invested and campaigning for ratification. This has caught the attention of the civil society group Save Palawan Movement (SPM) which last week called on the department to fire Bayubay for her indiscretions.
The Bayubay case has gone on to become a spectacle clouded on interesting backstories fueled by speculations. The Department of Education needs to come clean and explain what is going on in this case, where a mid-level official who flaunts abut her perceived political connections can exempt herself from accountability.