04 January 2015

NEDA Director Guilty of Sexual Harassment

Romeo Escandor
On 10 November 2014, the Sandiganbayan fifth division has convicted a former director of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in Central Visayas for sexually harassing a female subordinate, the Office of the Ombudsman said.

Jose Romeo Escandor, a former director of NEDA Region VII, was slapped with a laughable PhP 20,000 fine without a jail term since he was also convicted of similar offense in October 2013 by the court's third division.

In the latest case, the fifth division used as mitigating circumstance the absence of evidence showing that Escandor used his superior position to threaten the complainant or to entice her with a promotion.

"(T)he Court is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the acts of sexual harassment perpetrated by the accused against (complainant) resulted in an intimidating and offensive environment for (her). Wherefore, premises considered, the Court finds Jose Romeo Escandor guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of sexual harassment," the court said.

According to the testimony of the complainant who was an Economic Development Specialist and served directly under Escandor, the regional director harassed her for almost a decade from 1994 to 2004 and she found courage to file a criminal case against him when she could no longer stand his advances.

Facing the witness stand, the victim recalled that Escandor called her to his office in 1994 and told her that he was "falling in love" with her despite of the fact that she is already married.

Embarrassed by the declaration, she kept the problem to herself and simply chose to ignore the matter in the hope that Escandor will lose interest.

Instead, he started making physical contacts on several occasions like forcing her to sit beside him during lunch meetings and caressing her hands under the table; sending her pop-up love notes on her office computer; and at one time, forcibly dragging her and kissing her on the cheek while saying he missed her.

In her statement, she said that Escandor also started sending vulgar messages on her email discussing sex and forwarding sex jokes, including a picture of a bare-breasted former United States First Lady.

Feeling upset, the complainant began consulting officemates and showed them Escandor's messages on her mobile phone.

The complainant learned that Escandor has a habit of regularly borrowing pornographic films from a male officemate.

Worse, the defendant's wife started confiding to her that Escandor has an "intense appetite" for sex that tires her out.

To her mind, the problem became a lot more serious when the accused suggested twice in 1999 that they should start a sexual relationship.

As she continued to ignore the defendant's amorous attentions, Escandor changed his tactics by starting to berate her during staff meetings in Neda Central Visayas.

It was then that she decided to take action by forwarding one of Escandor's e-mail to then Neda Deputy Director General Raphael Lotilla and filing a complaint with the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

The CSC dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction but endorsed the matter to the Office of the President.

The OP ordered an investigation by the Neda, which eventually resulted in Escandor's dismissal from government service in 2007.