Akbayan's Villarin: 'Indecent man' Jing Paras should be banned from House

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin wants Labor Undersecretary Jing Paras, whom he accused of theft, to be banned from entering the House of Representatives.

Villarin delivered a privilege speech on Wednesday, May 30, a day after Villarin announced he had filed a complaint against Paras for attempting to steal his iPhone X in March 20. 

Paras was a former lawmaker and a lawyer who is a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Courruption. He is also one of the candidates to replace Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III should the latter become Ombudsman.

In his speech, Villarin urged his colleagues to “express our disdain to a very indecent act” committed by Paras, whom Villarin said may be punished with a preventive suspension by the Ombudsman.

"I seek your support to have Undersecretary Paras be censured by the House and be banned from entering our premises until full redress of my grievances have been settled,” said Villarin.

A day before, Villarin showed CCTV footage screenshots showing Paras placing his phone on top of Villarin’s iPhone X during a committee on labor hearing held in a hall on the first floor of the House’s South Wing Annex. The CCTV footage stills showed Paras left the hall carrying both phones. 

Villarin said his iPhone X was later found by House security personnel abandoned at another hall on the second floor, where Paras had attended another committee hearing. 

Paras has denied Villarin’s accusations, saying he might have accidentally taken the phone. He also said he has nothing to gain from attempting to steal the lawmaker’s phone.  

But Villarin argued if Paras truly got his iPhone X by accident, then Paras would have immediately looked for its owner instead of abandoning it at the House.

“A decent man could have called his aide to look for whoever owns that phone or retrace his steps and memory to find the owner who, at that very moment, must be frantically searching for it... But sad to say, Mr. Paras is not a decent man,” said Villarin.

The lawmaker said it is now clear to him why an "indecent man has the nerve to steal" his phone. Villarin believes Paras wanted to see the contents of his phone, as he is party mates with Senator Risa Hontiveros. 

Paras had filed several cases against Hontiveros last year for taking custody of minors who were witnesses in the killing of 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos. 

"It confirms my fears about the reason why my privacy is being violated because this indecent person can gain favors with the powers-that-be. Never mind if the person being violated is a sitting member of the House of Representatives. Never mind if it was done right inside our august chambers, the House of Representatives," said Villarin. 

Paras, however, said it was Villarin who was indecent for using his privilege speech to "spread his lies and make malicious accusation."

He said Villarin's complaint against him was "very weak," which was why the lawmaker had to deliver the speech.

"He said he already filed a complaint, so why does he not wait for me to receive a copy of his complaint and let me answer it?" said Paras in a text message to Rappler.

– Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.