CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama will not stop seeking donations and financial aid from donors for projects and activities that will benefit the public.
From now on, however, Rama does not want his staff to use the word “solicitation.” He asked them to use “partnering” or “tapping” instead.
He also said he already called the attention of Belinda Navascues, his secretary, and told her that all letters that will be sent to potential donors should be cleared by him and should bear his signature.
The mayor gave the order following an inquiry on the move of Navascues to write a letter to a water company requesting it to donate bottled water for Rama’s State of the City Address (Soca) on Saturday.
City Hall’s resident ombudsman already cleared Navascues of any liability after an inquiry was concluded Monday afternoon.
Despite the inquiry and insinuations that the practice violates Republic Act 6713 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Office of the Mayor was informed yesterday that a businessman who is a former councilor will donate 7,000 bottles of water to be distributed to those who will attend the Soca.
Another donor will donate 5,000 pieces of bread for the same event.
“Nganong ato mang hutdon ang kwarta sa City Hall para aning butanga nga naa may daghang gusto motabang? Unsa may sala ana? Kun naay mangabot nga tubig ug pan, ato nang ipauli? Unsa may sala ana (Why should we use City Hall money if people want to donate)?” Rama asked during his news conference yesterday.
He said “tapping” the private sector for donations or “partnering” with them is consistent with his “people-privately driven governance.”
It’s the same concept as the “Piso Mo Hospital Mo” campaign to raise funds for the construction of the Cebu City Medical Center, for which he also solicited money during his trips to the US.
Through partnerships with the private sector, Rama said the City was also able to improve the Fuente Osmeña area and was able to build new parks, police and fire stations.
“Ang CCMC, soliciting man sad to. What they don’t realize is that it’s a matter of who will be the beneficiaries. If the beneficiary is the public, it’s called initiative and resourcefulness on our part, and kindness and generosity on the part of our donors,” he said.
When asked what the donors will get from the City in return, the mayor said “nothing,” and that they should just consider it a charitable act or their corporate social responsibility.
It was City Councilor Sisinio Andales who first brought up the impropriety of soliciting from private companies or individuals, saying it is a prohibited act under RA 6713.
Last week, Andales posted a copy of the letter signed and sent by Navascues to a company asking for bottled water on his Facebook account, and later brought it up during the City Council session.
After the resident ombudsman, lawyer Johnson Hontanosas, cleared Navascues and her staff of any wrongdoing, Andales said he will discuss with the other councilors the possibility of asking a higher authority to investigate Navascues, possibly the council itself or the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas.
Hontanosas said Navascues and three other personnel were exonerated because there was no proof that they personally benefited from the donations.
“Under the law, any solicitation by public officials is prohibited, and it doesn’t distinguish if it’s for personal or public use. But anyway I’m just happy that she admitted she signed those solicitation letters,” Andales told Sun.Star Cebu.
He said, though, that the resident ombudsman should also look into other solicitations made in the past, perhaps for more valuable items, and if there were all accounted for.
In a phone interview yesterday, Hontanosas said he already wrapped up the inquiry and signed a resolution stating that his office did not find any probable cause or hold Navascues and her staff liable for any violation of the law.
“I didn’t see anything wrong. As a matter of fact, I said that the intent to defraud is not apparent, and mental deception is not shown… They did not personally benefit from any of the donations,” Hontanosas said.