NEWS reports say lawyers of Cebu City’s legal office will file Friday (July 5) complaints against former mayor Tomas Osmeña, three of his former aides, and 32 construction workers who had stripped bare Osmeña’s office at City Hall.
They allegedly conspired in (1) stealing valuable properties of the City Government under the Revised Penal Code and (2) causing undue injury to the government under the anti-graft law. Last June 27, they allegedly went up the eighth floor of the new City Hall building and gutted the outgoing mayor’s office and took everything away.
‘Act of all’
The city lawyers allege conspiracy, meaning, from Tomas and his three aides down to the workers who were recruited from a private construction company, plotted the crimes; meaning, the act of one is the act of all.
It is doubtful if the workers were told or knew that they were to do unlawful acts. What they must have known was that the outgoing mayor was taking back the properties that he installed in the office in 2016. The narrative Tomas gave the public must have been what the workers were told.
Intent to gain
Theft? That requires unlawful taking and intent to gain. Did the 32 workers remove the furniture, fixtures, cabinets, lavatory, toilet bowl, ceilings and tiles for themselves--or for other persons but were paid for it?
As to knowledge of wrongdoing, many of us couldn’t even distinguish, until it was explained, when a movable object would become immovable. That’s why Tomas supporters were not quite prepared to see it as a felony. It was just weird. They didn’t think a public official, their idol no less, could be so vengeful and petty.
Law’s blurred lines
If more educated people couldn’t see blurred lines of the law, those workers--who must have thought it was a chance to do overtime work and earn extra pay--couldn’t have seen it as a crime. The order came from the mayor and their construction boss sent them to City Hall. To the laborers, it was just a job order.
Did the workers violate the anti-graft law? The law cited by City Hall lawyers (Section 3-c of Republic Act 3019, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act of 1960) speaks of causing “undue injury” to the government and, “unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference.” This must apply to the other would-be respondents, Tomas and his aides, not to the workers who have no “administrative or official functions.”
Did the workers take part in a conspiracy to commit a crime, which if proven will make each one of them, along with Tomas and his aides, liable for the act of all?
The City Hall lawyers may be behaving like some prosecutors who use the shotgun method in filing cases: shoot at as many persons as you can and inevitably take a few down.
Woe to the construction workers. But while ignorance of the law provides no excuse, the intent to violate the law, the criminal intent, is still required.
It was not like being ordered to murder someone, like the execution last June 19 of a hospital-detained mayor by 15 killers in that Medellin, Cebu hospital. Or instructed to haul away illegal drugs or other contraband. Doing violence on a room, a requirement before renovation, is standard practice.
The 32 laborers were doing a task that to them, at the time, the mayor had the right to do. Besides, their employer ordered them. It was ordinary labor for them.
It was not unlawful per se. The prosecutor or the court still has to decide whether it was a criminal act or an owner’s legitimate claim to his possessions. It was just weird, most everyone will say that.