AN INQUIRY began yesterday on two solicitation letters traced to the Cebu City mayor’s office, even as the mayor’s secretary admitted signing one of them.
“I signed it,” said Belinda Navascues, when asked if she was responsible for signing and sending letters asking some business establishments to donate bread last June 12, Independence Day. Navascues is Mayor Michael Rama’s secretary.
An investigating officer asked yesterday if there was enough evidence to show that the solicitation violated the law.
Navascues and four other personnel from the Office of the Mayor appeared before lawyer Johnson Hontanosas, City Hall’s resident ombudsman, for the inquiry.
“Naka-pirma gyud ko ato sa letter for the bread for Independence Day, di gyud ko mo deny ana (I signed that letter asking for bread for Independence Day. I don’t deny that),” Navascues told Sun.Star Cebu.
Hontanosas allowed journalists to witness the investigation he conducted yesterday. Questions about the practice began last week when Councilor Sisinio Andales of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan asked about the solicitation for bottled water, which would be distributed during the mayor’s annual report this week.
Navascues said that the company that donated the bread requested for the letter for their inventory, and that there was nothing wrong with it because she did not benefit from the solicitation herself.
It was the second solicitation letter bearing Navascues’s signature that got circulated on Facebook.
“In the letter, klaro man kaayo to didto nga di man to para amo (it was very clear that it wasn’t for our benefit. It’s not a solicitation with malice in mind because it was really taking care of the children who would perform for a national event,” she said of the solicitation letter for bread.
A portion of the letter said: “Once again we would like to knock on your kind heart for our upcoming Independence Day Celebration on June 12, 2015. We earnestly request that you will be able to share bread to be served to our school children who will be joining the parade.”
Aside from bread, Navascues said, bottled water was also given by Nature’s Spring as a donation for the students who participated.
Navascues identified Gardenia as the bread’s donor.
But as to the solicitation letter for bottled water that will be distributed during Mayor Rama’s State of the City Address (SOCA) this week, Navascues was non-committal.
“As to the bottled water for the SOCA, I can’t recall still if I was able to sign the letter,” she said.
Hontanosas asked the public to present more substantial evidences. “I would appreciate if anybody would produce something that would make the accusations more serious than mere intrigues,” he said.
Under the law, solicitation and acceptance of gifts are prohibited under Republic Act (RA) 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Section 7, paragraph d of RA 6713 states: “Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their political duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office.”
Among those who appeared during the investigation were Carlota Paglinawan, Hazel Jimenea, Hazel Mandal and Filomina Aracan, who are in charge of all the incoming and outgoing documents, as well as the procurement process, of the mayor’s office.