SO THE Office of the Ombudsman Visayas has found probable cause to indict Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama and four former members of the Cebu City Bids and Awards Committee for graft and corruption. The case stemmed from a case filed by “has-been” mayor Tomas Osmeña last 2017 against the respondents over the procurement of waste disposal service in 2015 from the Asian Energy System Corp. (AESC).
Rama, who was then mayor during the commission of the alleged questionable transaction, twice procured the services of AESC, which operates a private landfill in Consolacion town, for a total amount of P25 million through direct contracting. The Ombudsman, in its resolution, gave weight to the allegations of Osmeña that such services should have been bid out as there were many available service providers, which were capable of doing waste disposal services.
Rama and company will face trial before the anti-graft court for violating Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for “giving preference, unwarranted benefits or advantage” to AESC. Well, Mike has to “dance with the music.” Tomas must be laughing now because he initially scored victory in the Ombudsman’s level. Let’s see the scattered (makitang katag) gyud ni sa Sandiganbayan.
But this issue also raises suspicions on the conduct or possible bias of the Ombudsman. If Osmeña is the complainant, the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas headed by Deputy Ombudsman Elmer Paul Clemente is quick to resolve cases in favor of the complainant. But if Osmeña is the one charged before their office, the anti-graft office takes its time to resolve the cases filed.
Take, for example, the case of the two Dodge charger cars donated by Bigfoot Entertainment Inc. to the Cebu City Government during the incumbency of Osmeña which ended up in the private hands of the Osmeñas. It took several years for the Ombudsman to resolve the case. Basan Amora, leader of the Basilica del Sto. Niño Vendors Association, also filed a case against Osmeña in connection with the missing vintage canon installed at the plaza, which ended up in the house of Osmeña.
Osmeña was also charged before the anti-graft office, filed by then Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) director now Philippine Charity Sweeptakes Office General Manager Royina Garma, on his alleged involvement in the butane canister refiling business. Osmeña went to the Parian Police Station and ordered the police to release three persons arrested for allegedly refilling butane canisters.
The CCPO filed charges of obstruction of justice, grave abuse of authority, misconduct and violation of RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, against Osmeña. That was about two years ago, but nothing has been heard about the cases.
Douglas Labra, a businessman who once supported Osmeña, named the “has-been” mayor as the alleged protector of the illegal business in an affidavit submitted to the Ombudsman Visayas to support the charges filed by the police against the former mayor.
Also, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed cases against Osmeña for stripping his office before he stepped down last June after losing in the May elections to Mayor Edgardo Labella. All the office fixtures, furniture, cabinet, tiles, ceiling, electrical wires and even the lavatory and toilet bowl were removed from his office. That was almost a year ago, and we don’t know what happened to those cases.
The Ombudsman plays an essential role in preventing the state from gaining absolute power without constraints, accountability or controls. If the public is to have confidence in its government, constraints must be imposed on the power it exercises. People will run to the Ombudsman to seek justice against abuse of power and to stop graft and corruption in the government. But how can people attain justice if the Ombudsman moves at a snail’s pace and has its own biases?