Ex-Cebu City councilor accused of taking pics under lawyer’s skirt

Ex-Cebu City councilor accused of taking pics under lawyer’s skirt
SunStar Local News GPX

A FORMER Cebu City councilor is facing a complaint before the prosecutor’s office in Pasay City for allegedly taking pictures under a female lawyer’s skirt before a Cebu-bound flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last February.

Maria (not her real name as she requested anonymity) filed on March 19, 2024, cases against Nendell Hanz Abella for alleged violation of Section 4(a) Republic Act (RA) 9995, or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009, and Section 4 of RA 11313, or the Safe Spaces Act.

This was Maria’s second filing of the cases. She first lodged her complaints against Abella before the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office, which dismissed them as it had no jurisdiction.

Abella resigned as Cebu City councilor in 2017 after then President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him commissioner in the 7th Division of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

SunStar Cebu contacted Abella through Facebook Messenger twice to get his statement, but received no response.

In her complaint-affidavit, Maria said she was at NAIA last Feb. 12. While boarding a plane bound for Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City, Maria stopped along the aisle because a fellow passenger in front of her was loading multiple pieces of baggage into the overhead cabin.

She later noticed Abella holding his phone in an unnatural manner that suggested he was taking a photo or video under her skirt.

When confronted by Maria, Abella denied that he took pictures and videos. He then showed an empty image gallery on his phone, an iPhone.

Maria then reported the incident to a flight attendant, who then reported it to the lead cabin crew.

Upon arrival at MCIA, the flight attendant informed Maria to approach the senior flight officer in order to narrate the events. The victim was with flight attendants and a security officer who requested Abella to reveal the image gallery of his phone.

Abella showed the image gallery, insisting that he did not record any video and take photos during the flight. But he resisted when Maria asked him to show the recently deleted album.

Accidental unlocking

The airline staff and security personnel later pressed Abella to show his recently deleted album, but he became uneasy and uncomfortable.

“Unknowingly, the ‘recently deleted’ album in respondent Abella’s phone was unlocked by his facial recognition and the album suddenly opened, revealing its contents,” Maria said in her complaint.

Maria and the airline staff saw “several photos and videos depicting women, clearly showcasing a portion of their legs, upper thighs, and buttocks, taken from the lower angle.”

“Respondent Abella then promptly locked his mobile phone, kept it in his pocket, and immediately apologized to me for his actions,” Maria said.

When Maria asked Abella again to unlock his phone, the former councilor introduced himself as a member of the NLRC and showed his ID. Abella then told Maria and the airline staff that he will not show his phone anymore and told them that they should just file a case if they want to.

“My primary concern at that moment was to ensure the removal of any footage, as I strongly felt my privacy had been invaded and I couldn’t bear the thought of him having footage of me,” she said.

“Respondent abused his power by arrogantly telling everyone that he works in the NLRC during the confrontation in the aircraft when we found the footage in the recently deleted folder in the photo gallery of his mobile phone,” she added.

After leaving the aircraft, Abella and Maria were assisted by a security officer to the airport police station at MCIA.

Maria had the incident recorded on the blotter. The police, however, did not arrest Abella nor confiscate his phone.

The female lawyer also filed a complaint against Abella before the NLRC. / RJM


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