Cebu officials charged over calamity aid distribution

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Thursday, July 3, 2014


CEBU CITY- Mayor Michael Rama and 14 other city officials are facing an administrative complaint before the Office of the President for the distribution of P20,000 as calamity assistance to all city officials and employees in 2013.

Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 other councilors are charged with grave misconduct and abuse of authority for the allegedly illegal appropriation.

In his complaint-affidavit, lawyer Reymelio Delute, who ran for barangay captain of Basak San Nicolas in the last barangay elections, accused the mayor of fabricating calamity victims, including himself, so they could avail themselves of the assistance.

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While many survivors of super typhoon Yolanda have yet to recover and are without electric, Rama used the money to pay his water and electric bills, Delute said, quoting a newspaper report.

Other respondents

The assistance was distributed last December to help city officials and employees following the earthquake that struck the province last October and Yolanda last November.

The other respondents are Councilors Nestor Archival Sr., Mary Ann de los Santos, Dave Tumulak, Nendell Hans Abella, Sisinio Andales, Alvin Arcilla, Roberto Cabarrubias, Nida Cabrera, Alvin Dizon, Eugenio Gabuya Jr. and Noel Eleuterio Wenceslao.

Only Councilors Margarita Osmeña, Lea Japson, Richard Osmeña, James Cuenco and Phillip Zafra were not in the complaint.

During the deliberation of the budget ordinance that covered the charging of the fund, Margarita Osmeña and Japson were on record saying they would not accept it since they were not severely affected by both calamities.

Delute is also asking for a preventive suspension against 14 officials.

“If they are asking for a preventive suspension, the tendency is Margot (Osmeña) will become the mayor,” former councilor and lawyer Jose Daluz III said.

By law, a succession should be made by the next higher elected official in case of the absence and suspension of a local chief executive.

Motive

Daluz said the giving of the calamity aid was legal since the council approved the appropriation.

“The filing of the case is like filing a case against all employees of the City who received the assistance,” he said. Daluz said the move may be politically motivated since Delute ran under the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK).

“This is quite serious because the Office of the President is a Liberal Party. It’s politically biased because that’s a political office. I hope they solve this fairly,” Daluz said.

Rama, for his part, will let the City Legal Office handle the matter.

“How many times they look for ways to pin down Mike Rama but they have to be reminded that we did not steal the money, it was given to the employees,” the mayor told reporters.

Labella, on the other hand, said it’s Delute’s right to file the case, but he questioned the latter’s move. “Your guess is as good as mine,” Labella told Sun.Star Cebu when asked if the move was politically motivated.

“We will face the case, head on,” he said.

He said Delute’s argument is questionable since the budget ordinance was carried unanimously by the council. “Why did he not implicate the council as a whole?” Labella said.

He also found a discrepancy in the complaint that included de los Santos as a respondent even though she was absent during the deliberation.

If Delute’s reason for including de los Santos in the case was because she received the P20,000, Labella said, then all the employees who got the aid should also be included.

If Delute is after transparency, Labella said, he should have filed the complaint before the anti-graft office, which is considered as an independent constitutional body. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 04, 2014.

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