TOLEDO City Mayor John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña has urged Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente and anti-graft investigators to inhibit from acting on the complaint lodged by lawyer Pablo John Garcia against him and seven city officials for their alleged use of public funds worth P210 million under the City's “Clean and Green” program to pay ghost employees in 2018.
During the press conference on Thursday noon, March 14, Inocencio de la Cerna Jr. said Garcia and Clemente were classmates in the University of the Philippines Law Class of 1993.
“We have records and cases from the Supreme Court which support our view, that rightly or wrongly if there is a perceived relationship, or if any of the party can ask lack of confidence with the judge or agency hearing the case, then it is a matter of decency and procedure that a judge or the agency must inhibit himself or itself,” said de la Cerna, Osmeña's counsel.
The lawyer endorsed a motion asking the anti-graft office to inhibit from investigating Osmeña after the press conference.
Garcia, for his part, said he has not talked to Clemente after they graduated more than 20 years ago.
He pointed out that Clemente was the one who issued the dismissal order against his older brother, former Dumanjug mayor Nelson Garcia, and suspended his other brother, Barili Mayor Marlon Garcia.
Osmeña's camp questioned Garcia's motive in filing the complaint against his political opponents, especially since he did not include City Councilor Arlene Zambo, who also reportedly availed herself of the program. De la Cerna said Garcia had filed a similar complaint against Zambo in 1998, but Garcia did not name Zambo in the complaint as they belong to One Cebu Party, an ally of administration party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
“So, we see here the deliberate attempt to besmirch all the candidates of the other side while keeping to himself the candidates that are allied with him,” he said.
Osmeña, Garcia and former Pinamungajan mayor Geraldine Yapha are running for the congressional seat of Cebu's third district in the May 13 midterm elections.
Garcia said Osmeña should be the one to charge Zambo if the mayor has evidence against her.
De la Cerna said the mayor should not be blamed alone as city councilors and barangay officials also participated in the program by hiring personnel to clean the streets.
Aside from Osmeña, Garcia requested the Ombudsman to investigate Executive Assistant Justin Anthony de Jesus, Acting City Budget Officer Gethsemane Mahinay, City Administrator Ferdinand Marquez, City Treasurer Leonardo Rivera, Councilor Marjorie Perales, Councilor Leo Dolino and ex-officio Councilor Ophelio Dolino.
De la Cerna said Garcia's camp has been spreading fake news to discredit Osmeña as the mayor is favored to win the congressional race according to a survey.
Asked if the clean and green program was anomalous, de la Cerna said it will be premature to issue a statement as the Commission on Audit still has to look into it.
He also said the program had long been implemented before Osmeña became mayor of Toledo City. (From SCG of SuperBalita Cebu, KAL)