Ex-NEDA director convicted of sexual harassment denied community service plea

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Ex-NEDA director convicted of sexual harassment denied community service plea

ANTI-GRAFT COURT. The facade of the Sandiganbayan building in Quezon City.

Photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler

Former NEDA director Jose Romeo Escandor says he could no longer perform manual labor or work outside an office because he is already 70 years old with health problems

CEBU, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan denied the petition of a former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director, convicted of sexual harassment, to render hours of community service instead of serving jail time after being convicted of sexual harassment.

On October 17, 2013, the anti-graft court found the former official, Jose Romeo Escandor, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of sexual harassment and sentenced him to six months of imprisonment, along with a P20,000 fine.

The victim, who was Escandor’s female staff at the time, claimed that the former official abused his authority and influence over her by making sexual advances. 

The acts included groping and sending inappropriate text messages.

Escandor had unsuccessfully sought the reversal of the 2013 decision.

He later filed a motion on July 14, to perform community service at the Office of the Barangay Captain of Tisa in Cebu City.

Escandor aimed to serve as a consultant for the barangay, performing office work for at least two hours daily for a period of not less than two months but not more than six months.

In his motion, he stated that he could no longer perform manual labor or work outside an office because he was already 70 years old with health problems.

His medical conditions include diabetes mellitus type 2, asthma with chronic rhinitis, chronic renal insufficiency, and dyslipidemia.

“Given his age, his medical circumstances, and the fact that he is a widower who lives alone, he claims that serving in Barangay Tisa would allow him to render community service and at the same time take his maintenance medicines 3 times a day at home,” part of the court’s resolution read.

The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division rejected Escandor’s motion for community service on Wednesday, September 13, for lack of merit.

Requirements

Based on the Community Service Act, community service should be conducted in the place where the crime was committed and not where the accused resides, the court pointed out.

Escandor admitted that the crime was committed at the NEDA Central Visayas regional office, located in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, and not in Barangay Tisa, where he wished to carry out the community service.

The anti-graft court pointed out that the proposed community service program should have been prepared by the barangay chairman or the authorized representative of the barangay.

The court also noted that the program identified in Escandor’s motion did not include the required rehabilitative counseling that the accused must undergo.

Based on the requirements prescribed by the law, the accused should also indicate that he has not previously availed of the benefits of the Community Service Act to be considered eligible.

“The accused-movant has not attested that he has not previously availed of the benefits of the Community Service Act,” the court stated.

Despite the court’s denial, Escandor may still file an application to render community service that complies with the requirements specified in Republic Act 11362.

Who is Escandor?

Escandor served in public office from April 19, 1976, until his retirement from NEDA in the Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan (MIMAROPA) region on July 1, 2014.

During those years, he held various positions, including director of NEDA in Central Visayas from 1992 to 2005, Bicol in 2007, and MIMAROPA until his retirement.

Escandor was named a partner in the 2005 Framework Plan for Women crafted by the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW).

In November 2014, he was also found guilty of sexual harassment after a another victim, a female economic development specialist who worked under his office at NEDA Central Visayas, filed a complaint against him. –with reports from John Sitchon/Rappler.com

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