Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A lesson learned in voting within a collegial body

Lesson learned:  No matter how convincing your arguments are, before moving for division of the house, make sure you have the numbers.

Pending with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Ilocos Norte is an administrative case against a municipal official, who happens to be the SK Federated President.  Apparently, the youth leader was a participant in a sex video being circulated around the province.

The complainant is a girl, and only 14 years old at the time of the incident.  The complainant and the SK president had sex during an eye-ball.  They videotaped themselves doing the deed.  It was their secret until the guy allegedly leaked them to other people.  Her friends and school mates started harrassing her, she felt embarrassed and ashamed.  Hence, she filed an administrative complaint with us.

Natanggap namin yung ANSWER today, just before the session, and since the issues have been joined, I moved that we recommend to the governor the preventive suspension of the respondent.

I thought, due to the gravity of the offense, all of my colleagues would support my motion.  I mean, who wouldn't?  Out of the 13, 9 were parents.   

And the law was on my side.

Section 60 of the Local Government Code states:

"SECTION 60. Grounds for Displinary Actions. - An elective local official may be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office on any of the following grounds:
x x x
(d) Commission of any offense involving moral turpitude or an offense punishable by at least prision mayor;
x x x
(h) Such other ground as may be provided in this Code and other laws.
x x x"

For a public official, and a youth leader at that, to have sexual intercourse, even if consensual, with a minor, is liable under Sec. 60(d).  Obviously that is an offense involving moral turpitude.

(Moral turpitude is an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. [case title withheld for tactical reasons])

And even if one argues that its not, the act is an offense punishable by prision mayor.  Let's see, pwede siyang "Corruption of Minors" (Art. 340, Revised Penal Code), Qualified Seduction (kahit na prision correctional lang), Simple Seduction (kahit na arresto mayor lang), Sexual Abuse (Sec. 5(b), RA 7610), and Obscene Publication and Indecent Show (Sec. 9, RA 7610).

And even if one can argue that its not (which is highly unlikely), the respondent can fall under Sec. 60 (h).  He is liable under The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which requires all public officials (including SK and Barangay)  to at all times respect the rights of others, and refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest (Sec. 4(c), RA 6713).

So walang lusot.

Section 63(b) or RA 7160 sets the ground rules for a preventive suspension.  The law provides:

"(b) Preventive suspension may be imposed at any time after the issues are joined, when evidence of guilt is strong, and given the gravity of the offense, there is great probability that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence. x x x"

First, evidence of guilt is strong.  Both parties admit to having sexual intercourse and videotaping it.

Second, there is great probability that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses. In this case, the respondent could use his being SK president to influence potential witnesses (as to who leaked the video).
Because of this, and because I wanted us to act expeditiously on the matter (ang bagal bagal kasi, admin case na nga lang, ang bagal bagal), I moved to recommend to the governor the respondent's preventive suspension.

After a lengthy debate with the Vice-Governor, I forced a vote.

I thought the motion would be carried.

Imagine my surprise when my motion lost 5 to 6.

I couldn't believe it.

After we adjourned (it was the last business of the day), some of my colleagues who voted against me explained their vote.  They wanted to have a formal hearing first.  In fairness to them, if that's what they truly feel, I respect that.

But I just want to clarify that in preventive suspension di na kelangan ng hearing.  The Supreme Court reiterated the rule that the preventive suspension of a civil service officer or employee can be ordered even without a hearing, because such suspension is not a penalty but only a preliminary step to administrative investigation.  Its purpose is to prevent the respondent from using his position or office to influence prospective witnesses, or to tamper with the records which may be vital in the prosecution of the case against him. [case title withheld for tactical reasons]

So di kelangan ng hearing.  As long as the issues have been joined--and they have, then we can recommend the preventive suspension.

Ang mali ko lang, di ko nasabihan yung isang kakampi ko na habang nagsasalita ako, eh, siguraduhin niya na lamang kami.

Lesson learned.

Before calling for a division of the house, make sure you have the numbers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's always a numbers game Kris even before our UP USC days. :)But you're doing a great job advancing truth and justice!