THE involvement of a government vehicle in Joavan Fernandez’s latest debacle may earn his adoptive father, Talisay Mayor Socrates Fernandez, an administrative case.
Mayor Fernandez yesterday confirmed one of his City Hall service vehicles was used to transport “puso” (rice) and lechon to a condo unit in Cebu City last Tuesday night for his son’s 27th birthday.
Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Palanca Santiago, speaking generally, said government vehicles can be used only for official business and on official time.
“Just give us the plate number and the time and place the vehicle was spotted and we will make the necessary inquires,” she added.
The use of the vehicle, a white Toyota Revo (SFR-595), defies a Commission on Audit (COA) memo that prohibits the use of government vehicles for personal gain, said another official.
Director Raul Aguiluz of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) said it is the Office of the Ombudsman that will initiate an inquiry on the use of the mayor’s service vehicle.
The anti-graft office is the lead agency in Task Force Red Plate, which runs after government vehicles used for personal errands or without trip tickets.
Joavan, however, arrived at the Fuente Osmeña Police Station yesterday morning to report his version of the incident involving Dennis Tuñacao, a security guard of Indiana Condotel at the corner of V. Ranudo and D. Jakosalem Sts., Cebu City last Tuesday.
Joavan reportedly sought the advice of his lawyer whether to file charges against the security guard for driving him and his friends away from the building.
Also yesterday, a police official said it was a legal operation when the police tried to check allegations Joavan was armed or threatened the guard that Armalite-wielding companions were on their way to the building.
Chief Insp. Arnel Banzon, chief of the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team of the Cebu City Police Office, said it was standard procedure to deploy the Swat team and members of the Mobile Patrol Group.
Director Aguiluz of the LTO said the COA policy strictly requires trip tickets containing the passengers’ names, as well as the trip’s purpose and destination.
If a trip lacks these tickets, the head of office can be held answerable for misuse of government vehicles, he said.
It was not clear, though, if the driver of the Revo vehicle was a staff member in the mayor’s office or any other government employee.
But Fernandez remained calm when interviewed on radio dyAB, saying he consulted the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) 7 regarding the use of government vehicles. As local chief executive, he believes he may use such vehicles for social activities beyond office hours.
Aguiluz, however, said this only applies if the activities are related to official functions.
Fernandez also revealed that Joavan called him up informing him about the presence of policemen outside the condominium building.
The mayor reportedly managed to ask if his grandchildren had eaten dinner.
Joavan has been charged with several criminal cases but has never been convicted, because his complainants always end up submitting affidavits of desistance.
Tuñacao, the guard-on-duty at the condominium, named at least four companions who joined Joavan’s party as Aya Cuenca, Renan Delo, Jefferson Sy and Benedict Gabasa. He listed their names in the logbook.
A certain Benedict Gabasa was Joavan’s co-accused in the alleged snatching and mauling of two vulcanizing shop workers in Tabunok, Talisay City in August 2008.
Also at the party were Joavan’s female companion and three children.
In an interview over dyAB, Tuñacao clarified that Joavan was not frisked by the Swat team, as the mayor’s son only came down after the policemen left the area.
The guard called up for police assistance after Joavan and his friends allegedly refused to leave the condominium despite an order from the building owner.
Tuñacao and another guard were worried when Joavan allegedly told them his Armalite-wielding back-ups were coming.
SP01 Agustin Cullano, the desk officer who jotted down Joavan’s complaint, told reporters the mayor’s son did not mention anything about threatening Tuñacao.
This is Joavan’s version: When he arrived at the condominium, Tuñacao let him in. Joavan and his friends proceeded to a suite on the fifth floor occupied by his friend, Raphael Gregor Muntilla.
Moments later, Tuñacao came upstairs and asked for Joavan’s identification card. Tuñacao left, then returned shortly after and looked for Muntilla. Joavan told Tuñacao that Muntilla was on his way to the condo.
The third time Tuñacao visited the suite, he asked Joavan and his friends to leave the building.
While he was talking to the security guard, Joavan said in his complaint, the Swat team arrived. The mayor’s son claimed that the guard threatened to cut off the power to the condo unit, unless Joavan and his friends left.
Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez, in a separate interview, said the security guard did the right thing in the calling the police.
He also supported the Swat’s handling of the incident.
Nerez reminded Joavan to start “disciplining himself.”
“Kay kong di siya mohunong di pud namo siya lung-an kon sigi siya pabadlong. (If he doesn’t stop misbehaving, neither will the police stop watching him.) This should serve as a fair warning to him to start respecting the rights of other people. He should not consider himself above the law,” Nerez said.
Security guard Tuñacao said Joavan and his companions
brought two cases of beer, one case of softdrinks, one lechon and rice.
Tuñacao said he asked Joavan to leave because he had no permission to enter the suite. He said they arrived at the building in a red Isuzu Trooper Big Horn and the white Toyota Revo, which the mayor later admitted was government-owned.
Launched in Cebu in 2008, Oplan Red Plate is a multi-sectoral campaign against the unauthorized use of government vehicles.
Those caught using government vehicles after office hours and during weekends and holidays will be asked to explain. Once officials or employees fail to give satisfactory explanation, a formal investigation will be conducted.
Among the agencies involved are the LTO, Office of the Ombudsman, Philippine National Police, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission and the Philippine Information Agency.