I AM BACK: Atty Buenaventura Go-Soco Jr. Column

Impartiality of a Presiding Officer or the lack of it

Feb 13, 2024, 12:32 AM
Atty. Junie Go-Soco

Atty. Junie Go-Soco


In the “countless” meetings I have attended, there was an incident many years ago (in the 90’s) that struck me. It was a meeting of the Regional Development Council of Southern Tagalog (Region IV) with Governor Pete Medalla of Occidental Mindoro presiding. I was seated beside him when he suddenly announced that I, as Vice-Chair, was taking over as Presiding Officer. I thought he would leave the meeting.

The venue was the conference hall of the Philippine Coconut Authority Building in Quezon City (near the Quezon Memorial Circle). The meeting was well attended. Southern Tagalog was composed of eleven provinces and it was the largest region in the country, from Palawan to Aurora to Romblon. Later, it was divided into two regions - CALABARZON and MIMAROPA. (Do you know these provinces in each region?)

So much for geography.

Governor Medalla explained that he would continue to attend but there was an item on the agenda which he wanted to discuss and support. In other words, items he was partial to.

To many, this could just be one of those things that can happen in a meeting attended by Governors, City Mayors, and Regional Directors of more than twenty agencies.

It was not a simple preference. It was a noble thing to do. Governor Pete must have read Robert's or he came to know of the principle from experience. This gesture was admirable. Later I looked it up in Robert’s Rules of Order and several other references,

And I share this quote:

A cardinal principle in the exercise of the powers conferred on the presiding officer is the obligation of impartiality.

It is improper for a presiding officer to remain in the chair when an issue involving himself or herself is being discussed.

I will add a phrase, even if the link is indirect, to avoid suspicion.

What is the value of writing about this?

It is useful to our readers to know this principle because it often happens in meetings whether it is a civic organization, a legislative council, or an interagency body like the Regional Development Council. Presiding Officers should be aware of the requirement that a Presiding Officer must be impartial.

Therefore, if there is an agenda item that would place her or him in a position where she or he will be suspected of being biased or partial then she or he must turn over the task of presiding that part of the meeting to the Co-Chair or the Vice-Chair. It is that easy. She or he should not wait for somebody to raise it on the floor and suggest that the Presiding Officer turn-over the task to another attendee.

I will continue writing on this topic in the next issue where the concept of impartiality is analyzed in the context of two other terms: Delicadeza and conflict of interest.

It is going to be “explosive”.

#IAmBack #JunieGoSoco #RDC #PeteMedalla #PresidingOFficer #Delicadeza #Impartiality #ConflictOfInterest #OpinYonColumn #OpinYon #WeTakeAStand

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