Cebu mayor to Ombudsman: Probe Tomas Osmeña-A A +A
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
CEBU CITY -- Mayor Michael Rama filed Tuesday a complaint against Representative Tomas Osmeña for alleged offenses related to the latter’s use of vehicles that were supposedly donated by a lessee of the South Road Properties (SRP).
He said there was a public clamor for him to file the complaint.
In his seven-page complaint, Rama asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to immediately conduct a preliminary investigation and to file appropriate complaints against the respondents.
Accompanied by hundreds of supporters and some City Hall employees, Rama filed before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas a criminal complaint that also included Tomas’s sister Maria Victoria “Minnie” Osmeña and her son Paulo Osmeña Jacinto as respondents.
Rama cited five alleged offenses of Tomas, including violations of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” RA 6713 or the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees,” Presidential Decree 46, and Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits the illegal use of uniforms or insignia of an office not held by the person using it.
“I’m doing this for the sake of the children, that they may know the truth… It’s good for the people of the city; it’s good for him (Tomas) because he will have a chance to air his side at the proper venue. This is a case that will be good for jurisprudence… Let justice be served. He asked for this, so we’re filing it,” Rama told reporters.
The vehicles in question are the two Dodge Charger cars that look like police cars, which Bigfoot Entertainment Inc. chairman and owner Michael Gleissner intended to donate to the City Government in 2009.
Gleissner was the first to invest in the SRP, as the lessee of a 20,000-square-meter lot where he built a movie studio in 2007. He also negotiated to buy a 16-hectare area of the SRP.
The lease contract for the SRP lots was signed and negotiations for a lot purchase were made when Tomas was still mayor.
With the help of Tomas who lobbied for his Filipino citizenship in Congress, Gleissner became a Filipino citizen in 2006, and was thus allowed to invest in the country.
Among other offenses, Rama said that Tomas violated RA 3019, which prohibits public officers from soliciting or accepting gifts, for themselves or for another, in connection with any contract or transaction between the government and any other party, wherein the public officer in his official capacity has to intervene under the law.
The same law prohibits private individuals “having family or close personal relation with any public official to exploit such relation by directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift from any person having some business, transaction, application, request or contract with the government, in which such public official has to intervene.”
Congressman Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) welcomed the filing of the complaint, but he said that Rama should be prepared to prove his allegations and present evidence.
“He’s just grandstanding, it’s all show business. I’m still trying to analyze what he is accusing me of… He says I used cars donated by a businessman. I did not get any gift from Michael Gleissner. I could have gotten a gift from him because I was no longer connected to City Hall, but I didn’t… Let him prove that I accepted, the burden of proof is on him,” Tomas said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Earlier this month, City Councilor Margarita “Margot” Osmena said her husband has been using the vehicles because Gleissner donated these to Tomas, and not to the City, after learning that he would no longer be mayor by June 2010.
In an interview in her office on Tuesday, Margot said the information she gave reporters was incorrect.
“I was corrected, I was wrong,” she said.
Tomas also later corrected the information, and said that Gleissner had offered to give him the vehicles. But because he declined the offer, Tomas said his sister Minnie bought the cars, and these are now in her and Paulo’s names.
Rama found this hard to believe. He alleged instead that Tomas caused the transfer of the vehicles to Minnie and Paulo “to further cover up his crime.”
“In a flagrant attempt at cover-up, Tomas and his wife Margot deliberately misled the public with contradicting statements to the media. In the process, they displayed gross misconduct and/or conduct unbecoming of public officials,” Rama said in his letter-complaint addressed to Ombudsman Carpio-Morales.
Copies of the complaint were also sent to Tomas, Minnie, Paulo, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
“Clearly Osmena’s acts constitute grave misconduct and dishonesty against the public and cast his integrity in a bad light. His actuations are unbecoming of a public officer, especially a mayor and a congressman,” Rama added.
Before the complaint was filed at 10:56 a.m., hundreds of Rama’s supporters joined him for a mass at the Capitol parish early Tuesday morning, where the priest’s homily centered on transparency, accountability and good governance.
They then proceeded to the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas office in Capitol Site. Some took Kaohsiung buses and City-owned vehicles while others marched with their placards condemning Tomas. They also had a scale model of the Dodge cars.
At least five of the supporters told Sun.Star Cebu that they were told by Rama’s political leaders in their barangay to go to the Capitol church and join Rama at the Ombudsman.
One of them said she decided to go after being promised that they will be given money and snacks after the activity.
But Rama denied that the people were forced to go.
“If there was anyone who forced them to go, it was not us because I have no money. In my pocket, I only have Sto. Nino,” he said, showing reporters a small image.
Others said they did not know what they were there for, but they went after some neighbors asked them to go. Two participants said they were from Mandaue City.
On their way to the Office of the Ombudsman, the mayor’s chief of staff, Philip Zafra, yanked down a “Type O” streamer hanging from one of the offices within the Department of Agriculture compound.
The tarpaulin, which belongs to Tomas’ political group Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan, had to be taken down in line with Rama’s directive to keep all public places clean, said Zafra.
Rama will run against Tomas in the mayoral race next year, but the mayor’s legal consultant, Jade Ponce, insisted the complaint wasn’t politically motivated.
“This is about the rule of law, it has nothing to do with politics. He (Tomas) violated the law so he has to answer for it,” said Ponce, adding that more complaints will be filed against the former mayor.
The vehicles in question look like police cars, and had a police siren and the official seal of the City and were marked “Cebu City Police.” But last week, Tomas showed reporters that one of the cars, which he borrowed from Minnie, had been painted white to give it a “civilian” look. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 19, 2012.