College of Liberal Arts (CLA) College President Aya Watanabe is faced with a one-week suspension, following an impeachment hearing held earlier today at the University Student Government (USG) office.
Watanabe was initially on trial for impeachment on grounds of gross negligence after incurring five unexcused absences in the Activities Assembly (AA). However, after the defense presented evidence and a witness, the plaintiff–Frances Lim–and the defendants decided on a settlement instead.
In addition to the one-week suspension, Watanabe was mandated by the judiciary to submit a public apology to the judiciary, to be published through campus newspapers, as well as through the USG and Arts College Government (ACG) Facebook pages.
The settlement reached was a result of the plaintiff’s request. Anton Rafael Mariano, Lim’s counsel, said that “the plaintiff thinks this could be salvageable through a settlement,” referring to the case. Her reason: Watanabe’s offense was not severe. According to Mariano, “I really do agree with her [plaintiff’s] sentiments. Because this case, even though it was about breach of obligations, they are not very absolute because it’s minor breach of obligations. It’s a failure to submit an official document within a given time period.”
On Watanabe’s absences
As stated in the USG Code of Conduct and Responsibilities, “USG Elected officers are entitled to unlimited number of excused late and absences from the meetings” with reasons restricted to health, academic, and practicum concerns under Article IV, Section 3.6.
However, all officers are limited to three unexcused absences for the entire academic year. In turn, officers are required to submit an excuse letter to the Office of the Executive Secretary (OSEC) two working days after the officer’s absence for it to be valid. An impeachment case may be filed against an officer who exceeds the maximum number of unexcused absences.
Watanabe accumulated a total of five absences, three of which she claimed were excused. Watanabe reveals the reasons behind her excused absences. “The first one for January 22 was because of a meeting [I attended] for an upcoming ACG project. For January 29, it was because of sickness. For February 12, I had to attend a conference in Ateneo,” she explains.
She also clarified that her two unexcused absences last October 13, 2017 and February 26, 2018 were both due to time restrictions. “I wasn’t able to get there [at the meeting] on time because I live in Antipolo,” she discloses.
In clarification of her late submission of excuse letters, Watanabe admits that it was her fault as she was “under the impression that it was not needed at that time yet.” Moreover, warnings were not given to Watanabe about the matter which caused the reported absences to accumulate.
Prior to the hearing, both sides were given until June 13 to submit all pertinent documents and evidence. Watanabe, however, requested the deadline to be extended until June 14, which the Judiciary granted to both parties.
Watanabe and her party, however, were unable to comply with the deadline, passing her documents on June 17. On the other hand, Anton Rafael Mariano, representing Lim, submitted on June 14. With this, the Magistrates voted 4-3 to void Watanabe’s documents and evidence.
The Magistrates then allowed the defense to procure new evidence and bring up a witness. A screenshot of a message showing OSEC Patricia Andulte’s acceptance of Watanabe’s excuse letters was presented.
During the trial, Lim was unavailable because of personal reasons. However, Mariano was able to clarify the reasons behind filing the case. According to him, the plaintiff decided to do it out of duty. As a part of the judiciary department, it is their job to make sure all rules are being followed. “Given that there was a breach, no one was filing it, Frances Lim saw it to herself to file a complaint against Watanabe,” he says.
Watanabe claims that the incident gave her a sense of direction as to what she would do and it also served as a reminder for her about the responsibilities now that this is her last term as the College President of CLA.
In regard to her failure in submitting documents on time, she shares that it served as a reminder for her to be more mindful of her duties which include submitting excuse letters according to schedule.