NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Two committee reports exposed the entire membership of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) to a widely held public perception of partisan politics and political vendetta involving Jagna Municipal Councilor Anthony “Tonton” Aniscal who is identified with the political opposition bloc in the municipality and province.
The recent contrasting recommendations and subsequent action of the SP unnerved a number of officials belonging to the opposition raising creeping fears that the “tyranny of numbers” will result in the oppression of minority members of legislative bodies.
Hugging the limelight is the Committee on Good Government, Justice and Human Rights with Senior Board Member from the 3rd District, Dionisio Victor Balite as Chairperson with 3rd District Board Member Elpidio Bonita and Romulo Cepedoza, President of the Liga ng mga Barangays, Bohol Chapter as members.
The first committee report involved the complaint filed by Aniscal against his colleague Arnold Pielago for physically assaulting him without any provocation as their regular Sangguniang Bayan (SB) session started on October 1, 2019.
The session was abruptly disrupted as cooler heads prevailed and the police were stationed at the session hall for the duration of the session.
With six members belonging to the majority and four from the minority, Aniscal was reprimanded for showing to the public the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of Pielago throwing a sucker punch at an unsuspecting Aniscal but left Pielago unscathed with nary a reprimand.
Elevated to the SP, the committee headed by Balite recommended for the dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that Aniscal failed to “specifically alleged the infraction or violation of which respondent (Pielago) is charged.”
The report claimed that “such omission is in violation of the constitutional guarantee of the accused of the right to be informed of the nature and the cause of the accusation against him.”
The SP agreed with Balite’s recommendation with no move to censure, reprimand or impose the least disciplinary action against Pielago.
However, the committee report recommended that Aniscal can “refile” his complaint and specifically allege “on what infraction or violation of which the respondent is charged.”
On the second complaint, this time seven members of the majority swiftly came to the defense of its Presiding Officer, Vice-Mayor Theodore Abrenilla after Aniscal exposed his absence in Jagna during the pandemic staying in Cebu when a number of Locally Stranded Individuals (LSI) and Overseas Filipino Workers were scrambling to return home.
Abrenilla also filed a complaint before the SP over Aniscal’s Facebook (FB) posts over his long absence in Jagna as Aniscal admitted that he made an FB post reflecting his sentiments over the absence of Abrenilla.
The committee’s findings cited several Supreme Court rulings on the treatment of technical rules including corrections for defective documents submitted by the complainants.
Lawyers from the Provincial Legal Office represented by Atty. Paul Magallano and Atty. Lady Victoria Dejano of the Office of the Vice-Governor was present during the final deliberation on November 25, 2021.
Aniscal was meted a three-month suspension and one day for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for maligning the Vice-Mayor of Jagna.
Both committee reports showed the glaring disparity between the manner the complaint of Aniscal against Pielago was handled compared to the complaint filed against Aniscal by the Vice-Mayor and seven members of the SB, according to Aniscal.
While he was assaulted by Pielago, his case was dismissed due to the absence of allegations based on any violation of the law while his accusers in the second complaint involving the vice-mayor were accorded all the remedies to correct lapses in their documents, rued Aniscal.
The actions of the SP have sent shivers among those who criticize those in power for alleged abuses using the power of numbers as a political whipping tool to put them in line, observed Aniscal. (Chito M. Visarra)