YR 47 Issue 1 2011
     BOM acquits ABSC pres, convicts vp for ‘gross negligence of duties’
THE IMPEACHMENT Tribunal acquitted last February Arts and Letters Student Council (ABSC) president Julius Romel Fernandez and convicted ABSC external vice president Rhodel Sazon of the impeachment charges filed against them by The Political Science Forum (TPSF) last December.

Voting seven out of 10, Fernandez was acquitted of the grounds that he willfully and culpably violated the ABSC constitution particularly Article III, Section 2 (promotion of socio-cultural activities) and Article III, Section 3 (council’s duty to disseminate its position on matters affecting its interest to the administration and faculty sectors).

The complaint filed against the defendants stemmed out of the disqualification of crowned Ms. Insignia Joliv Catiis from The Search for Ideal Thomasian Personality (TSITP). Catiis, who stands 5’3’’, was disqualified from the university-wide pageant because the TSITP requires a minimum of 5’4’’ for female candidates.

The Board of Majors (BOM), acting as the Impeachment Tribunal, said that Fernandez’s project, Insignia, “is actually one of the council’s adherences to the principle behind the provision (Article III, Section 2).”

Furthermore, the BOM said that Fernandez did not violate Article III, Section 3 because the complainant misunderstood the provision itself, which is about the role of the council as the voice of the student body.

“The accusation lies on a misconstrued understanding of the provision. This provision, instead of being a provision on transparency, is actually a provision that enshrines the role of the council in bridging the gap between the parties mentioned,” the BOM said in its statement.

However, the BOM said there is a “possible violation” of Article IV, Section 2 which is about the right of students to public information, but it decided to favor Fernandez because the provision was not discussed due to the uncertainty of its nature-whether the violation was willfully executed or not.

“Basic knowledge tells us that an act, to be considered willfully done, involves a clear contemplation of the act and an obvious intent for doing such act. Assuming but not conceding that Fernandez committed a violation of the constitution, the court doubts that the accused willfully acted on the said violations,“ the BOM decided.

The BOM also decided to acquit Fernandez of the grounds of gross negligence of duties. Voting six out of 10, in favor of Fernandez, the BOM said that Fernandez fulfilled his constitutional duty as president of the council.

“While the petitioners argue that it (information dissemination) is the command responsibility of Fernandez, the court sees that another leadership maneuver-the delegation of responsibilities- is in effect. Coordination was fulfilled in the delegation,” the BOM said.

However, the BOM maintained the presumption that negligence was committed during the Insignia search, which was the stem of the impeachment complaint.

Meanwhile, Behavioral Science Society president Patrick Remo and Literature Society President April Villacorta expressed their dissent over the decision. They said that Fernandez’s failure to prevent the negligence committed on the project was indeed a manifestation of his “own negligence.”

“It would be very impossible that the decisions made by Sazon, the officer-in-charge of the project in question, was not approved by Fernandez. He has all the capacity to prevent any negligence to be committed by any of his officers,” Remo and Villacorta said in their joint dissenting opinion.

Sazon’s conviction

The BOM absolved Sazon on culpable violation of the ABSC constitution (five out of 10 voted for his acquittal) and abuse of power as vice president for external affairs (eight out of 10 voted in favor of Sazon).  However, the BOM convicted Sazon on the ground of gross negligence of duties (seven out of 10 voted for his conviction), relieving him from his post.

The BOM said that Sazon, as the chief organizer of Insignia, failed to provide a copy of the project’s mechanics to the persons concerned “conscious[ly] and continuous[ly] before the commencement of the said project” and “despite the continuous petition of the stakeholders concerned.”

Moreover, the BOM found that the “conscious failure to publicly disseminate the information of the mechanics of Insignia,” the council’s failure to implement the pageant mechanics, and its failure to release an official statement and apology regarding Catiis’s disqualification from TSITP amounted to gross negligence of duties on the part of Sazon.

“The root of all these is the council’s failure to disseminate and strictly implement the guidelines,” the BOM said.

Further stressing that the project was conducted for more than two months, the BOM said that, “Every day spent for the preparation of the pageant’s culminating night is a day of willful neglect to strictly implement the guidelines set by the organizers.”

The court noted that Sazon committed “grave neglect” because “it has a nature of bringing forth more issues to be resolved,”  “brought disunity among the members of the student body,” and “cause[d] dishonor to Catiis.”

However, three members of the BOM expressed their dissent on Sazon’s conviction. Asian Studies Society president Paul Tacorda, Economics Society president Sara Cristobal, and Legal Management Society president Virgilio Dolina, Jr. said that Sazon did not commit gross negligence of duties.

Dolina, who also sat as the chief legal officer of the Impeachment Tribunal, said that he agreed to the arguments presented by the defense. Cristobal further said that one project is “not enough” to impeach an officer.

Tacorda noted that the complaint should have been “declared lacking in merit” because the act of negligence lacked “deliberateness, graveness, and frequency.”
“The simple neglect of duty that led to inconsistencies in the pageant cannot be regarded tantamount to gross negligence,” Tacorda said.

He explained that the defense argued that the TSITP mechanics “came in late,” and “there was no opportunity to have it incorporated in the various pageants in the Faculty, which on the contrary the prosecution argues the ABSC led by the President and Vice-President External could have been implemented.”

Tacorda also said that the prosecution, led by Jester Ivan Ricafrente of the TPSF Policy Board, failed to exhibit “compelling evidence and reasons” during the pleadings and the hearings conducted.
He further said that the general welfare of the Artlets community was not affected by issue that sprung from the Insignia issue.

Upon knowing the court’s decision, Ricafrente said the prosecution “respects and submits to the decision of the honorable Board of Majors.” Meanwhile, Fernandez said he was thankful for the decision of the Court.

“[I would like to say] thank you to the Board of Majors for siding on my arguments, but I really feel sad for Kuya Rhodel (Sazon),” Fernandez said.

Fernandez added that he, along with his political party Students Democratic Party (SDP), will help Sazon in his appeal. The latter, on the other hand, told the Flame that he plans to appeal to the “right body” after the defense is finished studying the ratio decidendi.

“The defense is still studying the merits of the case and will look for the right body to make our appeal,” Sazon said. “Hindi ako pwedeng umalis ng UST nang may bahid ng dumi ang pangalan ko na talagang malinis naman,” F
Year 47 |  Issue 3 |  2011
Year 47 |  Issue 4 |  2012