Human rights commissioner suspended for ‘grave misconduct’

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Commissioner Coco Quisumbing faces charges of grave misconduct and violations of the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees

SUSPENDED. The Office of the Ombudsman orders the preventive suspension of CHR Commissioner Cecilia "Coco" Quisumbing. Screenshot from YouTube

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the 6-month suspension of a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commissioner over charges of grave misconduct filed by her staff.

On February 14, the Office of the Ombudsman released a joint order for a 6-month preventive suspension of Commissioner Cecilia “Coco” Quisumbing effective February 19.

CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales confirmed the suspension to Rappler.

“It’s true…the Ombudsman’s enforcement ruling was February 19 and they sent it to us, and we transmitted this to the person involved, [and] made it effective on the same day,” Rosales told Rappler in a phone interview.

The charges involved grave misconduct and violations of Republic Act 6713 or the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees.

In a statement Thursday, February 27, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) said Quisumbing is being investigated for administrative and criminal cases filed by her former employee, Regina Eugenio, last Sept 24, 2013.

A copy of the joint order showed that Quisumbing allegedly promoted Eugenio after requesting and accepting from the employee her salary increase to put it supposedly in an office fund.

PAHRA said her complaints were corroborated by 3 other former co-employees of Eugenio.

There were also complaints of Quisumbing requesting and accepting a share of her staff’s salary, and employing and maintaining ghost employees.

Valid complaints

“Preliminarily, it appears that the evidence of guilt is strong against respondent [Quisumbing] for violation of RA 6713 and grave misconduct,” the joint order read.

Rosales said they endorsed a show cause order after the issue was brought up by the staff of Quisumbing.

“Complaints of the staff were valid. We cannot afford that tolerated on the basis of the standards of the Commission in accordance to the…Constitution and the laws of the land. We sent, supported the show cause order, [and] as a result of the initial study by the Ombudsman, they felt it proper to have her suspended [for] 6 months,” she added.

Another commissioner, Norberto dela Cruz, is also facing charges filed with the Office of the Ombudsman since August 2013. PAHRA said “no substantive actions” have been taken by the CHR.

“Such incidences of violations, though alleged, by avowed promoters and protectors of human rights, cannot but erode the credibility of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR),” PAHRA chairperson Max de Mesa said in the statement.

The group also called for the following:

  1. Designation of an independent committee of inquiry especially regarding the case against Commissioner Norberto dela Cruz as well as to recommend measures and actions that would strengthen the CHR;
  2. Certifying as urgent the passage of the new Charter of the CHR with the added provisions on the selection process of the Commissioners and the Mechanism for Transparency and Accountability of the Commissioners and Directors;
  3. Creation of a committee that would propose a process of selection for the next new members of the CHR similar to the selection of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

A former broadcaster, Quisumbing is a daughter of retired Supreme Court associate justice Leonardo Quisumbing and the late former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing.

The CHR is a constitutional commission created by the 1987 Constitution. –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.