‘She stands up for what’s right’
CEBU CITY — A woman of integrity and one who speaks her heart out.
These are the known qualities of customs official Mandy Therese Anderson who was berated by some lawmakers for calling Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez an “imbecile.”
Laura Diaz Chiong, a childhood friend of Anderson in Cebu City, said she was amazed when she saw her buddy in the news although Anderson’s brave remarks did not surprise her.
“Ever since, she was as strong-willed as her mother and grandmother. They were brought up to stand tall and to stay on their ground as long as the cause was worth fighting for,” Chiong told the Inquirer.
Chiong, who grew up with Anderson, said standing up for what was right was an inherent character of her friend.
“They were taught to always speak out. That is how they were raised. Their family is vocal,” she said.
Ktec Alazas, Anderson’s football coach back in high school, had nothing but compliments for his former player.
“I am proud to see what she has become today,” Alazas said in a separate interview.
He recalled Anderson as a jolly and humble teenager who aimed for the best in whatever she did.
Aside from football, Alazas said Anderson was also fond of swimming.
“Mandy has always been firm in what she believes in. She really stands up for what is right,” said Alazas, a former member of the national football team who later served as coach at Cebu City National Science High School.
Messages of support have flooded the Facebook account of Anderson since she became controversial when she called Alvarez an “imbecile” in her online post.
On July 26, during the House inquiry on the P6.4-billion “shabu” confiscated by the Bureau of Customs from a warehouse in Valenzuela City, Anderson, who is currently chief of staff of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, was scolded by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas for insulting Alvarez.
Fariñas had received word about Anderson’s Facebook post commenting on an Inquirer article about Alvarez’s threat to dissolve the Court of Appeals.
In her post about the story, Anderson said, “I’m hoping and praying he tries so he realizes what an imbecile he is when he fails. Isn’t there anyone else in the House composed of 200+ representatives who can actually be Speaker? Nakakahiya na!”
Her cousin, lawyer Tercel Maria Mercado-Gephart, defended Anderson, saying Anderson did nothing wrong.
“By publicly humiliating Mandy over an insignificant matter, over her assertion of her right to freedom of expression, a right inherent to every Filipino citizen, whether a public employee or not, Fariñas justified (and exemplified) Mandy’s ‘imbecile’ comment,” Gephart said in her Facebook post.
“He called her unlady-like, questioned Faeldon’s judgment in appointing her, and asked her demeaningly, ‘Who are you?’ What Fariñas failed to see is that Mandy is the people. She is a part of the sovereign who put him in his seat and whom he is supposed to serve and that is why people in his office are called public servants,” she added.
When a citizen, albeit a public employee, asserts his or her right to express an opinion, Gephart said, expressing an opinion, even if it might be offensive, was protected by the Constitution as long as it did not concern personal or private matters.
Gephart was fifth in the 2013 bar exams while Anderson ranked fifth in the 2015 bar exams.
Mel Sta. Maria, dean of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law, cited a Supreme Court ruling which stated that “complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech.”
“Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and unjust accusation. The wound may be assuaged by the balm of a clear conscience. A public official must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comments upon his official acts,” the ruling said.
Sta. Maria, who served as Anderson’s law professor at Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), advised legislators to contemplate on their actions and avoid being “onion-skinned” when criticized.
“As the saying goes: ‘If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,’” he said in his Facebook post.
Anderson graduated law at ADMU. Aside from being a lawyer, Anderson is also a certified public accountant. Anderson’s family is based in Barangay Capitol Site in Cebu City.
She finished high school at the Cebu City National Science High School then proceeded to get a degree in accountancy from the University of San Carlos.
Anderson worked briefly for Sycip Gorres and Velayo accounting firm in Cebu City before she decided to take up law. Her family owns a taxi fleet in Cebu and a realty business.
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