Seares: Something about Niña Mabatid: sex, lies, tape in the City Council

Pachico A. Seares

IN TWO moves, Cebu City Councilor Prisca Niña Mabatid raised to the public forum an issue that contains the three ingredients in the 1989 Steven Soderbergh film “Sex Lies and Videotape”:

[1] Last Nov. 26, in a privileged speech before the City Council, Mabatid slammed former Barug political allies Jun Alcover and Ramil Ayuman for spreading the “lie” that she tried to convince three women who were allegedly sexually harassed by Lorenzo Basamot, head of records & archives division at City Hall’s Department of General Services. She did not try to get Basamot off the hook, she said. To support her claim, she played an audio recording of a phone call between her and one of the women complainants.

[2] Two days later, on Nov. 28, Mabatid filed a complaint for libel against Alcover, Ayuman and one woman involved in the harassment case. At the same time, she threatened to slap the two politicians with more cyber-libel complaints, saying they had been “harassing” her by circulating lies in their Facebook posts.

Sex, other ingredients

There is sex, concerning alleged sexual harassment of three City Hall women employees by one of the city officials. The division chief allegedly made sexual advances to the women, asking one for a kiss in exchange for a birthday cake she wanted.

There are lies, which Mabatid alleges Alcover and Ayuman have been spreading about her, and the woman victim has said about the councilor. In return, the two politicos have thrown back the accusation, saying Mabatid is distorting the facts in the sex scandal. As chairperson of the City Council committee on women and children, Mabatid has taken the side of the alleged abuser, not the women victims, Alcover and Ayuman said.

And there’s the audio tape, or more accurately, the CD that contains the recording of the phone talk between Mabatid and the abuse victim. Alcover and Ayuman allege Mabatid violated the Anti-Wire Tapping Act of 1955. She recorded and re-played the private conversation at the public forum. Recording, possessing and re-playing are among the acts prohibited by the law.

Contrasting claims

There are contrasting claims though about the sex, the lies, and the tape.

The division chief denied the accusation of sexual abuse; so did Mabatid who defended him, one of her campaigners in the last election.

Their claims contradict each other. Which side peddles falsehood? Even during the election season, Alcover and Ayuman were already sniping at Mabatid for alleged solo campaigning and junking of her Barug teammates. The result–her feat in surviving the BOPK 6-2 sweep in the north and landing as #2 in getting the most votes there, compounded by the defeat of Alcover and Ayuman and other veteran colleagues–raises suspicion if not amazement but, by itself, doesn’t prove the accusation. That explains the bad blood between them since then but doesn’t prove who is right.

Conflict-prone

The alleged wire-tapping is serious. A finding of guilt could strip Mabatid of her hard-earned and dispute-riddled councilor’s seat, perpetually disqualify her from government service and send her to jail. Her defense is factual: she said all the parties to the conversation, including the alleged sex abuse victim, “authorized” the recording. Mabatid says she has a recording of the alleged authorization: Was the recording of the supposed authorization authorized, or was it part of the authorized recording?

There must be something about Mabatid that has drawn controversies, in her business, politics and personal life. Remember that hotel incident where she was confused by its staff as a prostitute?

But all that requires more column space, in some other time perhaps when she disentangles herself from, or once again gets entangled in, another bruising conflict.