Celine Dabao, the Batch Legislator for EDGE2018, was impeached by the University Student Government (USG) Judiciary last September 10 due to negligence and gross negligence of duty.
The Court ruled that Dabao violated the Rules of the Legislative Assembly (LA), which allowed legislators no more than three unexcused absences in all sessions for the entire academic year. According to the LA’s transparency report, Dabao logged unexcused absences for four consecutive sessions from June 25 to July 23.
The magistrates also found that Dabao failed to comply with the USG Code of Conduct and Responsibilities which requires officers to submit their excuse letters to the Executive Secretary.
However, she was determined not guilty of abandonment of office or position, since the USG Code of Violations, under which the charge was filed, had not yet come into effect.
The conviction removes Dabao from office and bars her from holding any other position in the USG.
The case was brought before the judicial branch by Batch Legislators Katkat Ignacio of EXCEL2021 and Aeneas DR Hernandez of EXCEL2022.
In a plea hearing last September 6, Lunette Nuñez, the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, said Dabao violated the LA attendance rule by recording four unexcused absences. According to Article 4, Sections 3.8 to 3.10 of the USG Code of Conduct and Responsibilities, each USG officer is only allowed to have up to three unexcused absences.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Andre Miranda asked Nuñez about the penalties that could be imposed if Dabao is found guilty. Nuñez cited the Code of Violations, which contains penalties in connection with the case. However, Miranda pointed out that the code, which was passed by the LA last term, is not yet in effect.
Nuñez further explained that Dabao’s violations are “not impeachable offenses” and that the “most we could ask for is a suspension.”
Miranda questioned Nuñez if the definition of negligence from Former Arts College Government Student Services Chairperson Angeli Andan’s impeachment case applies to the charges against Dabao. In response, Nuñez stressed that the Judiciary back then “distinguished the line” between gross negligence and mere negligence but was unable to cite any penalty for the latter.
Nuñez argued that the Judiciary is in a position to allow Dabao’s resignation and revealed that Dabao sent a resignation letter to Chief Legislator Giorgina Escoto, but she was not cleared by USG Executive Secretary Annika Silangcruz because “there was an investigation against [Dabao].”
Both parties initially attempted to arrive at a plea bargain, but the offer was eventually withdrawn. Dabao pleaded guilty to all charges.
Ignacio and Hernandez also filed a similar suit against BLAZE2020 Batch Legislator Anton Mapoy who is now awaiting trial. Mapoy and his counsel were absent during the earlier plea hearing.
The removal of both Dabao and Mapoy from the legislative body could tip the scales between the majority and minority floors from a 15-12 membership to 13-12 sans any new appointments.