THE Office of Ombudsman has dismissed several cases that were filed against 47 barangay captains (village chiefs) of Cebu City for lack of probable cause and substantial evidence.

The anti-graft office did not find sufficient grounds for Team Rama-allied barangay captains to be charged with criminal complaints for carnapping under Republic Act 6539; malversation of public property under the Revised Penal Code; violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Sec. 3-E or “causing undue injury to any party including the government”; and violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, Section 4, a, b, c, and d, which deal with professionalism, political neutrality, upholding public interest and not giving undue favors. 

It also dismissed the administrative complaints for gross misconduct, gross insubordination and grave abuse of authority against them.

Councilor Margarita Osmeña, during her stint as acting mayor last year, filed the complaint against the barangay captains after they failed to return their city-issued vehicles that were recalled for inventory. 

Osmeña issued a memorandum on May 17, 2016, directing barangay captains, officials, and employees of the City to immediately return all City-issued vehicles.

In a joint resolution, the anti-graft office said that not returning the vehicles on time is not tantamount to carnapping because of the failure to establish the elements of the crime. 

It gave weight to the respondents’ argument that Osmeña’s memorandum stated that patrol cars, ambulances and other emergency vehicles, among others, were not included in the recall. 

In most cases, vehicles issued to barangays are used as ambulances and patrol vehicles when the need arises.

Osmeña, for her part, said that the dismissal of the cases was moot, adding that the purpose of filing them was already served. 

She said that she just wanted to protect the City’s interest since some of the barangay captains refused to return the vehicles, prompting her to file the case to compel them into action.

“Basically, the point was made. At that point, in behalf of the City, I just wanted to protect the interest of the City and asked them to return. Some of them refused that prompted us to file a case,” Osmeña said. 

Meanwhile, the 47 barangay captains were happy about the development. 

Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president Phillip Zafra said the ombudsman resolution justified their actions and and that the case was political harassment and persecution.

“I was thankful to God that finally the truth has come out and justice has prevailed. We stood our ground that we have violated no laws neither did we commit any abuses. The so-called inventory of those government vehicles was for me a coverup and/or a ploy to paralyze barangay operations. Again those vehicles, which include among others, patrol cars and multipurpose/emergency vehicles, are very essential in the operation of the barangay,” Zafra said. 

Zafra, who is also the barangay captain of Tisa, said the issuance of vehicles to barangays was backed by resolutions and ordinances passed by the City Council and approved by the then mayor. 

Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman said that they have been vindicated from a crime they never committed. 

“Maghinaut ko mausab ang pamaagi sa nagduma sa City Hall nga pulos panggukod (I hope the current administration will change its ways and stop going after members of the opposition),” he said. 

Now that legal fight before the anti-graft office is over, Councilor Joel Garganera said they can focus on defending themselves from another case for violations of Article 221 and 231 of the Revised Penal Code filed against them in court over the same vehicles. 

“They started on the wrong foot when they assumed into office, instead of being humble in victory, they indiscriminately filed cases against the barangay captains,” he said. 

Garganera is included in the case as he was the barangay captain of Tinago last year.