Accusations and lessons: Behind the impeachment complaint

Art by Yanni Kaye Wingarts/ THE FLAME

ON Mar. 21, less than a week before the start of the 2019 Artlets Student Council (ABSC) general elections, a memorandum released by the Board of Majors (BOM) rocked the Artlet community.

It was an impeachment complaint filed by 28 Artlets, composed mostly of Asian studies seniors, against incumbent ABSC President Rafael Arellano for “gross negligence of duties,” citing the “disappointing” AB Week and the failure to distribute last academic year’s official AB merchandise.

After the BOM’s deliberation on the complaint, it concluded that Arellano will not undergo an impeachment trial due to “lack of sufficient evidence” to support the accusations of the complainants. However, the BOM, which acts as the impeachment tribunal of the Faculty, said Arellano “is still liable and accountable” for the undistributed AB merchandise.

The issue captured the attention of many Artlets, who deemed the impeachment complaint a brave step to demand accountability from the council. However, even after the issue was concluded, the Artlet community remains in the dark on what really transpired regarding the impeachment complaint. What were the thoughts of the complainant, the tribunal, and the accused?

Caught unaware

Arellano told the Flame that he was taking an exam the night the complaint was publicized and was only alerted by his friends over text messages and calls.

Nagulat na lang ako na everyone knew pala before pa ako, sa online ko lang nalaman, actually sa post [ng Flame] ko lang nalaman. ‘Di ba dapat ako [ang] nauna?” he said.

However, BOM Speaker John Steven Usero claimed to have given Arellano a show cause notice before releasing the memorandum online, stating that it was Arellano’s right to be notified first.

“Nagbigay na talaga kami noon ng hard copy, ng soft copy, pati ‘yung email ng buong letter kasama ‘yung mga signatories sa impeachment complaint […] talagang sinabi namin una kay Raffy since karapatan ni Raffy na malaman bago masabi sa public,” he explained.

Section 3 under Article XII of the 2005 ABSC Constitution states that “any accused officer of the Executive Board shall be given prior notice, of at least one week, of the charge/s against him or her.”

The BOM gave Arellano five days to explain his side of the issue and release a statement regarding the impeachment complaint, but Arellano waived this right.

Insufficient evidence

Arellano said that he opted not to respond to the complaint because he knew from the complaint letter itself whether the case would prosper or not.

“From the level pa lang ng BOM, kaya na nilang i-assess kung valid ba or hindi [‘yung complaint]. So for me, whether or not mag-reply ako or sabihin ko ‘yung side ko, clear as night and day ‘yung substance and ‘yung merit no’ng complaint eh, so hindi na lang ako nag-reply,” he said.

“Legally speaking, hindi [valid] kasi very vague ‘yung use of term na ‘gross negligence.’ Unang-una sa constitution natin, walang definition kung ano ‘yung gross negligence […] Pero I didn’t want that set of Artlets to feel na parang mali ‘yung pag-iisip nila […] Ayaw ko na lang ipamukha sa kanila na mali ‘yung complaint,” he added. “At some point it’s a matter of concern pa rin for them, at some point grievance nila ‘yun eh and I don’t want to brush off ‘yung grievance nila.”

The complaint letter, penned by Asian studies senior Moses Rivera, read: “AB Week was disappointing and did not meet the bare minimum expectations.”

“It is unbecoming of a Thomasian to become incompetent, more so for a student leader like Arellano. His poor performance affects the reputation of the Artlets Student Council and must not continue in the succeeding academic year,” it concluded.

Article XII, Section 2 of the ABSC Constitution lists gross negligence of duties, malversation of the funds or properties of the council, and willful or culpable violation of the constitution as some of the possible grounds for impeachment.

As for the BOM Speaker, the gravity of impeachment complaint was lacking and there was no sufficient evidence to support the accusations.

Hindi natin nili-limit ‘yung mga student council as event organizers,” Usero said.

BOM member and Legal Management Society President Pamela Apacible echoed the argument, saying that the complainants just focused on their sentiments about the AB Week when they could have given more substantial points for the complaint to merit a trial.

“AB Week is more of a custom naman talaga, hindi naman ito parang nakalagay sa constitution na one of our duties is to give the best AB Week,” Arellano said.

On the issue of the undistributed AB merchandise, Usero explained that even if Arellano is currently president and the concerned merchandise are those of last academic year’s, when he was the ABSC treasurer, he is liable because he remains to be a council officer.

“Parang sinabi na pinarusahan ka do’n sa pagkakamali mo ng nakaraan na nadadamay ‘yung ngayon” Arellano said.

The issue was not considered a ground to forward the impeachment process since the complaint pertained to Arellano as the ABSC president and not as treasurer.

“I think it’s an issue of accountability on Raffy’s part kasi trabaho niya naman i-distribute lahat [ng AB merchandise]… Since nanalo naman siya as president, mas may capability siya na ayusin ‘yun ngayon,” Rivera said. “I hope ibalik na nila ‘yung merch since hindi naman nag-push sa trial. Ayusin niyo na ‘yan habang may natitira pang panahon.”

Arellano said they are already addressing the issue about the merchandise with the dean, the faculty council, and the supplier.

“Inaayos na lang namin ‘yung arrangements and ‘yung final date for release ng merch, kasi nasa supplier na siya. May mga inaayos na lang kami na agreement tapos okay na siya,” Arellano said.

Shortcomings of the ABSC

Apart from the issues on AB Week and the AB merchandise, Rivera was also concerned on how ABSC handled the students’ grievances, concerns, and welfare.

Minsan ‘pag minessage mo ‘yung ABSC, hindi nag-re-reply unlike ‘yung last year. ‘Yung mga last, last terms, siguro ba dahil walang PRO (public relations officer)? Pero at least man lang may officer na kumikilos man lang,” he said.

Rivera cited as a point of comparison the 2017-2018 Central Student Council which only had a secretary and PRO as its officers but was still able to function as effectively.

“E itong ABSC, nawalan lang ng [vice president] internal at saka ng PRO, parang pilay na silang lahat,” he argued.

Arellano admitted that the ABSC had its shortcomings as there were many challenges during his term.

One of the challenges was the council’s absence of a PRO, who has the duty to disseminate information to the Artlet community.

“We have our promotions head and I wanna give thanks to her, pero iba pa rin kasi talaga kapag may point person ka for that. Kung meron ka na elected person for that kasi iba pa rin kung talagang obligated siya na gawin ito or meron siyang capacity or power to do it. So laking hirap din talaga na walang PRO,” Arellano said.

Another challenge according to Arellano were the lack of commitment and passion from the officers and the staff as most of them are graduating students and have different priorities.

Lessons learned

As the check and balance of the council, Usero thinks that the Artlets’ assessment of the outgoing ABSC’s performance should serve as an eye-opener for the next council.

“I hope na sa mga susunod na ABSC, mahanap nila ‘yun, ‘yung student leadership na matagal na nating hinahanap. Kung ano ba ‘yung definition itself [ng council], kasi sa buong year natin nawala tayo,” he said.

Rivera said he hopes that the next council will have a clearer vision for the Faculty, “hindi ‘yung basta nag-put up lang ng [projects], nagkaroon lang ng goal tapos wala na. Dapat meron talaga siyang plan of action na ma-a-accomplish niya throughout [the] term.” F

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Vol. 54, Issue No. 4 of the Flame. View the entire issue through this link.

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