THE Office of the Regional State Prosecutor (ORSP) has directed the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office to proceed with the preliminary investigation on the libel suit Mayor Tomas Osmeña filed against businessman Jonathan Guardo and two Sun. Star Cebu journalists.

Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane, ORSP chief, also denied City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon’s request to let public prosecutors inhibit from handling the complaint, saying he “does not find compelling reason” to approve it.

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“The objectivity of the Cebu City prosecutors in resolving the complaint could not be affected on account alone of financial assistance,” Gubalane said in his three-page memorandum.

“It is therefore unfortunate that the proven independent-mindedness of the Cebu City prosecutors had seemingly been doubted in this instance…The apprehension that

they succumb to undue influence from Cebu City officials is factually baseless,” said Gubalane.

Sun.Star Cebu visited Sellon in his office yesterday afternoon for his reaction but his staff said he was out of the office.

Guardo’s lawyers had filed a motion for the fiscals to inhibit from handling the complaint, saying they will not be impartial in treating the case since they are receiving a P5,000 monthly allowance from the City Government.

Last Feb. 12, Sellon ordered the city prosecutors to cease from conducting the preliminary investigation on the libel complaint Osmeña filed against Guardo “for the sake of delicadeza.”

“Even without touching on the merits of the said motion, and in order to dispel any suspicion of bias or partiality in the handling of the case, the undersigned deems it more appropriate…to refrain from conducting the preliminary investigation of the case,” Sellon’s order read.

Sellon also ordered that the entire records of the libel suit against Guardo and the two other accused be forwarded to Gubalane.

But in his memo, Gubalane did not buy Sellon’s argument and that the ground Sellon stated in his order was not also provided for in the Revised Manual for Prosecutors.

Although Guardo doubts the impartiality of the City Prosecutor’s Office, Gubalane, however, said that such reason is not a legal ground for the city prosecutors to refrain from dutifully performing their tasks in resolving cases.

Gubalane said Guardo did not even cite a specific instance that Cebu City officials interfered or tried to influence the prosecutor’s office in the investigation on the criminal complaints the City Government has filed for violation of city ordinances or the National Building Code.

Still, Gubalane said the monthly stipend given to the prosecutors is not from the personal money of either Osmeña or any other city official.

“It should be pointed out that under the law, all government units who are financially capable may grant additional allowances to prosecutors and even to judges,” said Gubalane, citing Republic Act 7610.

“It would cause serious disruption in the performance of their respective functions if they refrain from accepting cases involving the concerned local government units simply because the laws allow them to receive some financial assistance,” he added.

Osmeña has sued Guardo for saying that City Hall prohibited the latter’s allies from distributing relief goods to the fire victims in Barangay Calamba.

Also named as respondents to the complaint were lawyer Pachico Seares, Sun. Star Cebu editor-in-chief, and reporter Rene Martel.