The USG Judiciary held a formal impeachment hearing today, January 17, at the Yuchengco Building Room 607 to process the complaint against a batch government officer on charges of gross negligence of duty.
According to the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, FOCUS2012 Legislative Assembly Representative Nina Cervero had accumulated four unexcused absences, a violation of Article IV, Section 1.7 of the USG Code of Conduct, which states that only three unexcused absences each for Regular and Special sessions in a given academic year is permissible.
A pre-hearing was conducted last December 13 which also included LA Representatives Frances Vista (FOCUS2011), AJ Dy (65th ENG), and Bianca Tanchuling (CATCH2T16) who were also charged for gross negligence of duty. It was found, however, that they had not violated any rule on attendance. Their cases were dismissed, with the exception of Cervero.
Prior to the beginning of the hearing, questions from both sides were raised on the validity of the evidence presented by both the defense and prosecutors. One of those in question was an excuse letter for her absence on October 25 which was submitted online to the Executive Secretary.
The prosecutors stressed that the letter was not valid since the reason stated was family-related which was not applicable for a regular LA session. The defense, however, argued that the Executive Secretary had indeed approved the excuse on the same day it was sent.
Proof that a letter was indeed submitted to the secretary was requested by the prosecutor, but the defense was unable to present the said message, citing that Cervero could not open her e-mail account.
During the trial, the defense contended that her absence on October 18 should not be considered because her parents had prevented her from attending. They explained that parental authority was superior in that situation. The defense also asserted that her absence on October 25 was excused, citing that a letter was indeed made and that it was miscommunication and error on the part of the secretary.
It was later found that there was an error in the database, as confirmed by the LA Secretary Russell Cheng. He cited that there was a discrepancy in the record for the October 18 and 25 record as the two were interchanged in the input.
He stated, however, that the disputed fourth unexcused absence was recorded as ‘blank’, meaning that it was not yet deliberated as either excused or unexcused by the LA Secretaries in-charge of the session that day.
After thoroughly processing the case, the court reached a majority decision and ruled that Cervero was found guilty of gross negligence of duty. They argued that neither side was able to verify whether the excuse letter for her absence on October 25 was truly legitimate or not, but because it was an absence nonetheless, she was unable to fulfill her duties as an LA Representative which was sufficient for her to be found guilty.
The court also ruled that she be impeached from her position, citing that suspending her from the LA would affect the decision-making process of the Assembly.
Almost a week after the impeachment, however, USG President Jose Miguel Moreno issued a conditional pardon for the LA representative following the rationale that Cervero was complicit with living up to other LA responsibilities, such as the filing of resolutions. Taking from his official statement:
“I find that the guilty verdict and the sanction of impeachment given by the Judiciary had insufficient evidence to prove that there was indeed gross negligence of duty based on the following grounds:
1. Attendance in LA sessions is not the only function of an LA Representative as stated in Article XIV Section 5 of the 2009 USG Constitution.
2. In her alleged fourth unexcused absence on October 25, 2013, Ms. Cervero coauthored one of the resolutions that was discussed and eventually passed by the LA that day which fulfills one of the functions of an LA Representative that is “to
pass resolutions and legislations that are of relevance to the studentry.” (Article XIV Section 5.8 of the 2009 USG Constitution)
3. There were inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the documentation of LA matters and concerns such as the LA attendance by the LA Secretariat under the Office of the Executive Secretary (OSEC) which neither Ms. Cervero nor the LA have control over.
Ms. Cervero may have been negligent in keeping track of her attendance but this should not be the sole indicator for gross negligence of duty. As part of the current effort and initiative of the USG to clarify its identity and purpose in the University through the proposed amendments in the USG Constitution, it is necessary to clearly define and determine the specific grounds for gross negligence of duty.
One possible definition for gross negligence of duty can be “the multiple and consistent violations of at least three (3) roles and responsibilities of a USG officer as defined in the USG Constitution and its by-laws.” However, I leave the matter with the Legislative Assembly to discuss and decide on. By clarifying the specific grounds for gross negligence of duty, it will further aid the Judiciary to have a more objective interpretation and evaluation in deciding whether a USG officer is guilty of gross negligence of duty or not.”
Moreno then decided to grant Cervero a conditional pardon should she issue a statement of public apology addressed to the President, Chief Legislator, Chief Magistrate, College Government of Science (CGS) President, and her batch. The statement should also contain her specific commitments as the LA Representative of FOCUS2012 for the remainder of the academic year.
Cervero has since issued a statement of public apology, accessible at the link below:
The official statement of pardon may be accessed at this link: