By Dean Lozarie
College of Mass Communication (CMC) organizations on Friday killed the motion to suspend journalism representative Norman Lee Benjamin Riego, saying it hadno merit.
The Council of Representatives (COR), a body comprising representatives from CMC-based organizations, refused to vote upon the motion in the joint meeting with the CMC Student Council (CMCSC) and student publications in the university to clarify the accusations hurled against Riego.
In the Sept. 26 motion, Riego was accused of “dishonesty in office, misconduct, indecency, or failure to cooperate in Council activities,” “abuse of authority,” and “undermin(ing) the integrity of the Council.”
Nigel Patrrick Cornel, CMC Representative to the University Student Council (USC), filed the motion and recommended that Riego be suspended for 28 days.
Cornel cited two incidents to support the motion.
Riego included his title as journalism representative in a letter he wrote as convenor of the multi-sectoral alliance MASSCOMMUnity.
According to the motion, “The inclusion of Mr. Riego’s positions within both bodies in the aforementioned document implied the Council’s knowledge and support in an event they knew nothing about.”
The motion also cited a statement Riego drafted for the September forum “Coffee Write.”
The draft was to be a joint statement between the CMCSC and Solidaridad, an alliance of student papers in the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), on the state of the student publications in the campus.
However, Solidaridad said the statement had many erroneous claims and they were not consulted about the statements’ demands. According to the motion, Riego did not inform the council about his plans, thus violating protocol.
The motion stated, “The fact that Solidaridad reacted to Mr. Riego’s statement implies the compromise of the CMC Student Council’s name and reputation, put in a bad light (sic).”
The council voted 5-4 through secret ballot in favor of suspension. As per the CMCSC charter, COR’s decision was equivalent to two votes.
No harm done
In the joint meeting, Solidaridad clarified that they did not seek to suspend Riego, but only wanted to have a dialogue with him and the rest of the council.
The members of the COR present during the meeting argued that contrary to the motion, Riego’s actions did not undermine the council’s reputation since the statement was never released.
COR Convenor and CMCSC vice chairperson Erika Paola Migriño said that the COR believed Riego did not risk the council’s reputation by including his title as journalism representative in the MASSCOMMUnity letter.
The organization representatives also believed that Riego did not need the council’s permission to use his title, Migriño said.
The representatives argued that Riego did not use the title for his own gain, Migriño said.
Katherine Molina, chairperson of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP CMC (STAND-UP CMC), called the issue “petty” and asserted that the college’s attention should be focused on more pressing concerns such as the impending budget cut in UP.
Molina also questioned why Cornel, Riego’s colleague in the council, filed a motion against him when the CMCSC should be forging unity among its members.
CMCSC chairperson Sherwin Su said that it was never the council’s intention to be divisive and that they were only following the procedures outlined by the CMCSC Constitution in suspension cases.
Su admitted that the council’s constitution had flaws and “gray areas”. It does not offer a filtering mechanism to determine whether a motion merits an investigation.
“The constitution of the student council falls short on that, on explaining the proper procedures to be taken on determining the merit of a violation,” said Jan Kevin Rivera, Broadcast Communication representative. “The [Constitution] cannot determine the merit of a case.”
Su said the council will amend its constitution to prevent conflicts like this from arising in the future.
Meanwhile, Riego said in a text message to Tinig ng Plaridel, “Tapos na ang usapan, nagkaroon na ng consensus ukol sa isyu. Sinuman ay hindi na kailangang magsalita pa sana sa isyu.” He added that the College should move on to more important matters such as the budget cut and the commemoration of the Maguindanao Massacre.
With reporting by Alexandra Gabrielle Francisco