Ombud junks case vs Rama, officials

FOR lack of merit, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the criminal and administrative complaint filed by two private citizens against former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and two other local officials.

In her ruling, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales cleared Rama, Association of Barangay Council (ABC) president Philip Zafra and former ABC vice president Joel Garganera from the cases lodged against them for allegedly organizing City Hall employees to stage a rally in October last year.

Last Oct. 7, 2015, at least a thousand individuals including some City Government employees gathered in front of City Hall to protest the City Council’s decision to defer the approval of the P2.8 billion first supplemental budget last year.

Similar complaints for violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Section 4(a), (b), (c) and (e) of RA 6713 Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees were separately filed by Patricio Salado and Felix Mangyao last December.

Mass action

The complainants contend that the respondents’ participation in the mass action violated Civil Service Resolution No. 021316 and their acts on organizing and speaking before the assembly violated RA 3019 and RA 6713.

Morales said the complaints were dismissed because the evidence was insufficient.

Other than their allegations, Morales said the complainants only submitted newspaper clippings as evidence.

In a jurisprudence she cited, the Ombudsman said the Supreme Court held that newspaper articles amount to hearsay evidence.

Sought for comment, Rama, Zafra and Garganera said they were thankful that the cases were dismissed.

“Thank God that truth and justice prevailed. It was a peaceful assembly, we have the freedom to assemble. It is a basic fundamental in the constitution,” Rama said in a phone interview.

Garganera said what they did was just an expression of how they felt about the move of delaying the approval of SB 1 since the items under it will be used to fund the basic services of the city.

For his part, Zafra said that even when the cases were filed, they were confident they will be dismissed because they believed they did not violate any law.

“We just wanted to express our sentiments that time,” Zafra said.
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