Seares: Gutting the mayor’s office: He could do it, he did it. But what for?

FORMER Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he spent P2 million for his office on City Hall’s eighth floor. The City Council in 2016, then controlled by the opposition Barug party, refused to give him the money for the renovation.

Thursday night until Friday dawn last week (June 27 and 28), workers from Dakay Construction, with a mayor’s assistant overseeing the operation, stripped the office bare: furniture, fixtures, floor tiles, ceiling and others. Everything removable was removed, taken down and hauled away.

Scraped to the bone

The images in media were not those of a facility burglarized, ransacked or scavenged.

It was an office scraped to the bone, nothing left, not even the wirings and outlets for electricity or the fittings for the toilet bowl.

Apparently, the intention was not just to take away the goods and materials in it. They wanted to leave it totally unusable for the next occupant.

The reasons why

A number of reasons from Tomas Osmena’s aides and supporters swirled amid the attacks from people in media platforms:

• The materials removed were his. He lawfully could take them away with him.

n The area is now in the same state before he renovated it. It is not any worse than the original condition of the place three years ago.

• Edgar Labella, the new mayor, may want his own design for the office. Tomas is even doing him a favor by doing the demolition for him.

• Tomas is Tomas. Let him behave the way he usually does. Besides, he lost the election. Don’t beat him up; he was already mauled at the polls.

• Those who complain can sue, which is often used to justify errant behavior. One does what one wishes, let them go to court.

Getting even

But listen to Tomas: “I decided to remove everything so he would know what it feels like,” he said in a dzMM radio interview, according to an ABS-CBN story. Revenge is best served when entirely naked.

In a separate talk with City Hall reporters, on speaker phone, he also griped about his leaders being threatened, their houses strafed and some of them killed during the run-up to election day.

So it was not just wanting to get what his money paid for; there was more. He wanted to hit back and vent his anger for being refused funds three years ago and being defeated last May by the alleged use of violence and intimidation.

Murky area

The new administration hinted of suing Tomas. The problem is that the facts are still to be sorted out and the law made clear.

Assuming the mayor could use private funds for a public facility, was it authorized and the donation accepted by the city government? Tomas cited a program of works as evidence of his ownership of materials and fixtures. But when they were installed at his office, a public property, wasn’t ownership supposed to pass to the City? Or was there a document providing that the mayor retained ownership?

There’s also the matter of Tomas’s “friends” contributing to the renovation. Was it donation to Tomas? If it was, did it not violate the anti-graft law, especially that it was reportedly not authorized by the City Council and didn’t go through procedures in donating to the government?

What Tomas lost

OK, assume that the mayor had the legal right to take down and cart away those materials, did he have to remove those that couldn’t be removed without wrecking them?

Tomas may win the court battle in months or years to come, but he already lost in one night and one dawn much of his public’s trust. One doesn’t have to probe murky recesses of his mind to know that.


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