Friday, July 19, 2019

Bzzzzz: Sandiganbayan ruling recalls City Hall 'cook moonlighting' case

CEBU. Former Cebu City councilor Gerardo Carillo. (SunStar File)

FIRST, people are talking about...

* WHO'S NOT IN THE LIST. The official list of candidates still has to be released, intensifying the mood of candidates whose qualification is being challenged. Imagine the influence of Comelec decision-makers now, with their ability to destroy chances of an aspirant by simply crossing him or her out. There must be a mad scramble for influence peddling, a politician commented to a local journalist over the weekend. Once the name is deleted, it may not be included in the ballot.

Once a candidate is notified that his COC was nullified, he can file an appeal within five days and failure to do so will result in a certificate of finality being issued by the Comelec. But Comelec spokesman James Jimenez didn't say whether an aggrieved bet who files a notice of appeal would still have his name in the ballot. Printing was scheduled to start April 23 to 25.

No "inordinate delay"

Former Cebu City Councilor Gerry Carillo's case before the Sandiganbayan has drawn public attention anew since the day the anti-graft court denied his motion to quash. The court's second division made the ruling last December 27 but the holidays put off its publication until this second week of January.

Carillo argued there was a long delay, two years and eight months, for the ombudsman to finish the preliminary investigation. No "inordinate delay," a favorite refuge of public officials charged with corruption, after the Supreme Court shut down the Aguinaldo "forgive and forget" doctrine. The delay, if any, was not "vexatious, capricious or oppressive." The Sandiganbayan said Carillo was given due process, including answer to the complaint, counter-affidavits and MRs (motions for reconsideration).

The ombudsman decided in July 2017 that he was guilty of serious dishonesty for the "moonlighting" done by his City Hall executive assistant, Michael Abellana, to cook at Carillo's restaurant "Baryo Grille" from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday to Friday, while he was in the City Hall payroll at P10,401 a month, for about 17 months from July 2013 to December 2014. The Grille paid Abellana a P250 a week stipend.

Carillo's claim that the resto was open from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. only was refuted by the testimony of seven waiters who said the place operated 24 hours each day.

The ombudsman decided that Carillo either authorized the "deceit" or was grossly negligent. It ordered his dismissal but it was moot since he was no longer a councilor in 2017, after losing the 2016 election. Instead, he was ordered to pay a fine equivalent to a one-year salary of a councilor, forfeited his retirement benefits and was perpetually disqualified from public office.

The motion to quash that the Sandiganbayan rejected? That relates to the criminal aspect of the case. It is far from over. A skilled law practitioner, Carillo might still beat the charge.

His own people

The evidence against Carillo may look to others, including the ombudsman and the anti-graft court, as weighty because his accuser was no other than the "beneficiary" of the arrangement. Abellana got paid with City Hall money and the stipend from the restaurant, although the work as cook was less glamorous than drafting resolutions and ordinances for the councilor. And he is the one principally squawking.

And the others were Carillo's secretary, Rune Maquiling, and the waiters at the councilor's restaurant: his people, so to speak. One possible explanation is that they had a beef against Carillo or didn't like him as a boss, or rival politicians got to them. Or, another explanation, is that they were just telling what they knew.

Bebot used it too

Representative Bebot Abellanosa also used the defense of "inordinate delay," which the Sandiganbayan rejected too.

What the court accepted was Bebot's claim that there was no conflict of interest, the councilor -- who owns the schools with which the city government contracted for its scholarship program -- was merely "suggesting" in the City Council resolution that he helped approve. It was the mayor who decided which schools the contract would be awarded, Bebot contended.

The Sandiganbayan chose to believe that and got Bebot off the hook. The court could find a reason for acquitting Carillo if they decide to.

"Deep in my heart"

When in July 2013, Carillo was accused of hitting a boy with a rock during a pub brawl at a Pelaez St., Cebu City restobar called Querks (the same Barrio Grille, renamed, or another place?), he didn't cite God as witness. Instead, he said, that "deep in my heart, I know I did not do it."

He was not there at the time, he said. "Improbable, impossible," he said, "Konsehal mamato?"

That may impress a rabid constituency but Carillo would need something else to take down the testimony of his own people in the City Hall cook case.

P.S. No report was found about what happened to the alleged stoning incident. Maybe someone can.

Gerry Carillo is not running this election but his son is. And the young Gerardo is flying high in the surveys, according to Torni Frank of "Frankahay Ta" on dyCM. But news that reported the list of Barug-PDP Laban bets who filed their COCs mentioned "former councilor."

That made a number of people think Gerry the father could be the one running. Maybe, media should clarify that point, although the older Carillo's fan base could also help the son.


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