Budget case vs. Rama dropped

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Friday, December 20, 2013

FOR lack of probable cause, the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas dismissed the criminal complaint filed by former south district congressman Tomas Osmeña against Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

The case that was filed by Osmeña against Rama was in relation to the budget hearing in 2011 for the City Government’s 2012 proposed P11.8 billion annual budget (only P5.2 billion was approved) wherein the mayor directed City Hall’s department heads not to appear before the City Council for a pre-budget hearing.

When Rama made such order, Osmeña said the mayor violated several provisions of Republic Act 3815 or the Revised Penal Code.

This includes Article 131 or the prohibition, interruption and dissolution of peaceful meetings, Article 233, or the refusal of assistance, Article 177 or the usurpation of authority and Article 226 or the removal, concealment or destruction of documents.

Particularly for Article 177, Osmeña said the mayor usurped the Department of Finance’s appointment of Tessie Camarillo as acting city treasurer when he insisted to have then assistant city treasurer Emma Villarete to defend the budget.

Lost trust

Rama insisted on having Villarete appear before the legislative body, saying he has already lost his trust and confidence on Camarillo.

For Article 226, Osmeña said Rama concealed communications from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which declared the 2011 annual budget and two supplemental budgets inoperative.

In its seven-page decision, the Ombudsman dismissed Osmeña’s complaint against Rama.

For the refusal of assistance, Darius Sagadal, Ombudsman’s Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer I, said it was dismissed because “it lacks vital element of damage to public interest.”

He said this is clearly established by the approval of the 2012 budget.

Lack of proof

For the prohibition, interruption, dissolution of peaceful meetings, Sagadal said it is dismissed for lack of evidence.

Sagadal said the notice of the mayor asking the department heads not to appear before the council cannot be taken as evidence.

“The complainant proffered no other evidence to show that respondent had prohibited, interrupted or dissolved the council’s budget hearing,” he added.

For the concealment of documents, Sagadal said it is dismissed for lack of evidence.

For the usurpation of authority, Sagadal said it was not established by the complainant.

“What was extended by the respondent to Villarete was merely a designation and not an appointment. There is a great difference between an appointment and designation,” he said.

Sought for comment about the Ombudsman’s decision, Osmeña said he filed the case for the people and not for their own selves.

Rama, for his part, said the dismissal of the case was an early Christmas gift for him.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 20, 2013.

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