The University Student Government (USG) Judiciary has found outgoing Vice President for External Affairs Mae Mae Gonzales guilty of gross negligence of duty in a court hearing held on November 4 at the Board Room in St. La Salle Hall.
However, Magistrates JC Santos and Angel Pascual ruled that the case was not meritorious in the actual impeachment of Gonzales. Gonzales was instead sanctioned with providing a public apology addressed to petitioner Norben Sagun Jr. and the undergraduate students of the University.
Last night’s court hearing was initially supposed to cover the impeachment cases being faced by both Gonzales and outgoing Executive Treasurer Rupert Laurel. However, only Gonzales’ case was pursued during the hearing since Laurel was not present. The plaintiff’s motion to move Laurel’s hearing to a later date was sustained by the court. Defendant Gonzales was likewise not in attendance during the hearing because of a doctor’s appointment.
A motion to suspend the trial
Gonzales previously stated in a Manifestation submitted on November 3 that she “will not attend any more hearings or other judicial activity so long as this Court has not reached the required number of Magistrates as stated in the USG Constitution.” On the same day, an Urgent Motion to Suspend Trial Proceedings was also filed. The defendant’s counsels argued in the urgent motion that all trial proceedings must be suspended because the Judiciary is not complete and unable to sit en banc.
The USG Constitution states that the number of Judiciary magistrates “shall be the number of undergraduate colleges, such that each college is represented.” For this academic year, five out of seven magistrate positions are left vacant, with Santos and Pascual being the only magistrates, representing the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business and the School of Economics, respectively.
However, on the morning of November 4, the Judiciary released its Resolution regarding the matter, where the urgent motion was denied. The Judiciary argued that the court is complete given that two magistrates are able to sit en banc, reasoning that the current members of the Judiciary were the only magistrates qualified for the position and duly appointed by the USG Executive Committee, which Gonzales is a part of.
The Judiciary also ruled that the timing for the submission of the motion is questionable. Moreover, the Judiciary stated that unless a court order has been issued to stop all judicial activities, the court will proceed with the hearing accordingly.
The hearing proper
Only the legal counsels for Gonzales were present for the defendant side. The counsels opted not to enter a plea and build a defense but instead made the court aware of a meeting that was presided over by University Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission Br. Michael Broughton FSC with Gonzales, fellow officer facing impeachment Laurel, and petitioner Sagun earlier this week. The parents of Gonzales and Laurel had earlier sent a letter to the University administration regarding the hearing and the impeachment case. It was alleged by the defendant’s side that the case will be elevated into the jurisdiction of the administration if the ruling arrived at by the Judiciary will not be satisfactory to either party involved.
The defendant’s side maintained their stance regarding the earlier motion to suspend trial proceedings since they alleged that Judiciary is not in quorum and unable to sit en banc during the hearing. However, the Magistrates ruled that the hearing will proceed with no defendant.
The plaintiff declared in the opening statements that the “severe delay” of the grant is unacceptable, alluding to the fact that the full amount of the grant has not yet been awarded to Sagun as of press time despite having been named a winner of the Lasallian Exchange Scholarship Grant (LESG) in March. The plaintiff’s side also argued that the act of Gonzales offering her personal money to Sagun was only a mere contingency and will not cancel out the former’s liability to the latter.
The plaintiff further emphasized discrepancies found in the pre-activity requirements submitted by the Office of the Vice President for External Affairs (OVPEA) for the LESG program. The PPR (project proposal) of the said program indicated that an amount totaling to P50,000 shall come from operational and depository funds of both the OVPEA and the Office of the Executive Treasurer (OTREAS), headed by Gonzales and Laurel, respectively. However, a breakdown of the prize money allotted to the grant winners totaled to P60,000.
Moreover, the plaintiff argued that the statements of Gonzales during the preliminary hearing were contradictory to the information reflected in the pre-activity requirements of the LESG. Gonzales, as one of the project heads for LESG, was a signatory for the PPR. During the pre-hearing, Gonzales had stated that she was not involved in the financial matters of the program. However, the plaintiff reasoned that since the PPR indicated an amount was to be withdrawn from both OVPEA and OTREAS for the project, such a transaction would have involved Gonzales’ authorization.
After a judicial review of the evidences presented by the plaintiff, the Magistrates found Gonzales guilty of gross negligence of duty.
The Judiciary will release the Court Opinion on the hearing for Gonzales’ case not later than Saturday, November 7. Meanwhile, Laurel’s hearing is rescheduled to November 6.