Rama pushes for stricter privilege speech guidelines at the City Council
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Cebu City Council is considering to create stricter guidelines in the conduct of privilege speeches to protect the Sanggunian from controversial and possibly illegal or unethical use of the privilege speech.
Vice Mayor Michael Rama said this during the City Council session amid Councilor Niña Mabatid’s naming two alleged victims of sexual harassment allegedly by a City Hall official during her privilege speech during the council’s session last week.
Rama said the incident should not happen again because the council members might be making controversial speeches that would fail to protect parties of certain issues or downright put the Sanggunian in a legal situation.
He said the privilege speech might be a special privilege provided to council members, but this must be used with caution and the welfare of the public must be placed in utmost regard.
Mabatid’s privilege speech included a recorded phone conversation between her and the alleged victims which was played during the speech to prove that she did not encourage the victims to withdraw a case against a division head, who allegedly sexually harassed them.
Mabatid played the recorded phone conversation to prove that allegations of former Apas Chief Ramil Ayuman and former councilor Pastor Alcover against her were not true.
Rama said that he was surprised when Mabatid played the recorded phone conversation during her privilege speech because this was not included in the copy of her speech that he received from the councilor’s office.
“Good enough, there was a motion from Councilor Niña to strike it out from the record. That will have to be respected. But since there were many people in the session hall, and the speech was recorded by the media, that is another thing we will have to discuss because that might get us into trouble,” said the vice mayor.
Although the recording and the names of the alleged victims were stricken out from the Sanggunian’s official minutes, at least 100 people witnessed the speech, something that Rama the council members could not turn a blind eye to.
Rama said one of the victims had already refused to talk to the media because she was scared after Mabatid named them in front of many people.
He said he would be talking with Barug PDP-Laban members to discuss the issue of Mabatid and fellow party mates Ayuman and Alcover, especially that Mabatid filed charges of libel against them, in hopes to settle them.
In the council, Rama said he would convene the council members to draft stricter rules for privilege speech and reminded them about their responsibilities as public servants that should be held with regard to the making of their speeches.
As for Councilor Mabatid, the vice mayor said he could not yet say if her speech could be considered illegal and violating pertinent laws on wire-tapping, as she claimed that the victims knew the conversation was recorded, or unethical for naming the alleged victims of sexual harassment.
However, he said it was a lesson to be learned, a first of its kind in the City Council, and hopefully the last. /dbs
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