Yesterday evening, the University Student Government (USG) Judiciary ruled that the complaint on gross negligence of duty filed against incumbent Vice President for External Affairs Mae Mae Gonzales and incumbent Executive Treasurer Rupert Laurel was found to have merit. As such, the court will proceed to a hearing to decide on the impeachment case both Gonzales and Laurel are facing.
On the other hand, the complaint on illegal disbursement of funds against both respondents was dismissed. The decisions came after a judicial deliberation of Magistrates Angel Pascual and JC Santos during the pre-hearing held yesterday at the USG Conference Room.
As previously reported by The LaSallian, undergraduate student Norben Sagun Jr. filed the complaint against Gonzales and Laurel to the Judiciary on October 13 following the non-receipt of his balance from a scholarship grant he was awarded in March this year. Sagun was the first place winner of the Lasallian Exchange Scholarship Grant (LESG) and had only received P15,000, half of his grant.
The LESG is a project of the Office of the Vice President for External Affairs (OVPEA) and the Office of the Executive Treasurer (OTREAS) headed by Gonzales and Laurel, respectively.
On the case against Gonzales
In yesterday’s pre-hearing, respondent Gonzales petitioned to drop the charges filed against her because of lack of probable cause. Gonzales argued that the circumstances only proved late delivery of Sagun’s grant and there was no evidence for gross negligence and illegal disbursement of funds. Gonzales further argued that her role in the activity, as stipulated in the memorandum of agreement (MOA), was only to process the A-Form (activity approval form), PPR (project proposal), and the post-activity report, as well as forming a committee to decide on the winners of the grant.
Gonzales reasoned that it was not her duty to be involved in the disbursement of funds for the winners of the grant. However, she admitted to having offered Sagun P7,000 after knowing that he had been unable to receive the remaining balance of his grant, a suggestion that was turned down by Sagun.
On questioning the funds for the program, Sagun raised that one of the requirements for the post-activity report is a list of expenses incurred during the event. Gonzales stated that while she should be a signatory for the said document, the post-activity report has not yet been coursed through her. Gonzales reasoned that since the other half of the grant has not been given to Sagun, the post-activity report for the LESG cannot be processed yet.
On the other hand, Laurel’s roles in the activity relate mostly to logistical needs, such as preparing the booth, application kits, registration, and publicity materials. Even though the MOA did not explicitly mention Laurel’s role in the disbursement of funds, Laurel stated that his involvement in financial transactions for the activity was implicitly reflected in his role as the incumbent Executive Treasurer under the USG Constitution.
Like Gonzales, Laurel reasoned that the case filed against him should be dismissed because of lack of probable cause. He stated that gross negligence cannot be alleged against him because there was no intent on his part for the delay of payment. He also explained that there was no agreement between the parties on the date when the grant shall be settled.
On the grounds of illegal disbursement of funds, Laurel stated that all disbursements were authorized. On the issue raised by Sagun regarding Boto Lasalyano, Sulong Pilipino (BLSP) allegedly being “prioritized” over LESG, Laurel responded that the amount utilized for BLSP was not appropriated for LESG.
Laurel also argued that one of the main causes of the delay in the processing of the money was the OTREAS’ relationship with the accounting office, citing that sometimes the procedures for cash advances and reimbursements may take months or even years.
From the pre-hearing yesterday, it was revealed that the initial amount given to Sagun was sourced from sponsorships and the personal money of Laurel, and that no money was withdrawn from the operational funds of OTREAS for the said event.
Laurel also argued that he was not immediately made aware that Sagun was already accepted into an exchange program prior to applying for LESG. Sagun left for Japan to participate in the exchange program on March 20, only 10 days after he was announced as a winner of the LESG. Laurel explained that he was under the impression that aspirants will first apply for LESG before applying for an exchange program.
The Judiciary announced that their opinion on the matter will be released no later than October 26.