A CONCERNED citizen has sued Mayor Michael Rama before the anti-graft office for alleged nepotism, grave misconduct and graft and corruption after he hired his wife’s two brothers to work as casual employees for the Cebu City Government.

Jonel Saceda, sporting the name “Inday Josa Chiongbian Osmeña” on Facebook, filed a complaint against Rama before the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

In a phone interview with SunStar Cebu, Saceda emphasized that the mayor appointed his wife’s brothers while “unjustly” removing at least 800 employees from City Hall upon the start of the mayor’s fresh term in July 2022.

“There are so many employees nga gipangtaktak nga walay hinungdan parehas sa mga personal reasons. Ang uban nagminaayo og trabaho, yet wala gi-renew. Nya here comes (the mayor) naay balaod nga nagdumili, it is a nepotic act ang iyang gihimo. I believe iya ning na-violate. Mao nang nifile kog kaso in support sa mga empleyado nga nawad-ag trabaho,” said Saceda.

(There are so many employees removed for no good reason, like those dismissed for personal reasons. Others did their job well, yet their contracts were not renewed. Then here comes the mayor. There’s a law that prohibits it. It is a nepotic act he has committed. I believe he has violated this, which is why I filed this case in support of the employees who lost their jobs.)

The complainant denied any connections to Rama’s political rival, former mayor Tomas Osmeña, as he said he only uses the screen name to hide his identity.

Saceda hopes that Rama respects the rule of law and removes his relatives from office.

Graft

Saceda accused Rama, among other allegations, of violating Sec. 59 of Executive Order 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987 that prohibits nepotic appointments in favor of a relative of the appointing or recommending authority.

He also cited Sec. 79 of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code which prohibits the appointment of a local official’s relatives within the fourth degree of consanguinity, such as a first cousin or first cousin-in-law.

Saceda also sued Rama for violating Sec. 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits acts that “cause any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative, or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”

According to Saceda, Rama violated the law when he appointed his brothers-in-law, Elmer Gimenez Mandanat and Gomer Gimenez Mandanat, as casual employees of the Cebu City Government.

Elmer and Gomer are brothers of Rama’s second wife, Marilou Gimenez Mandanat-Rama.

According to Saceda, Elmer works as a process server under Rama’s office while Gomer works as an administrative aide under the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).

In his nine-page complaint, Saceda said his allegations were based on evidence including a record of the plantilla of casual appointments from the Human Resource Department Office (HRDO) of the Cebu City Government that included the names of Elmer and Gomer.

According to the document, Elmer was appointed as process server at Rama’s office while Gomer was appointed as Administrative Aide III (Laborer II) at CCMC from Jan. 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022. Saceda said the brothers were appointed two months after Rama and Marilou were married in a civil wedding ceremony on Oct. 28, 2021.

Another document Saceda provided to the anti-graft office revealed that Elmer was reappointed to his position by Rama for the period of July 1, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2022. Saceda also provided another document from the HRDO which states that Gomer was reappointed as Administrative Aide III at CCMC in the same period.

According to documents provided to Saceda, Elmer had a pay grade for monthly salary of P15,909 in the second half of 2022, while Gomer had a pay grade of P14,125. However, both actually received more than that when the various allowances, benefits and claims were added to it.

Saceda also provided proof such as birth certificates to determine the brothers’ relation to the mayor’s second wife.

“While the law provides certain exceptions as to when relatives within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to the appointing or recommending authority may be appointed, the appointments made by Respondent Mayor Rama of his two brothers-in-law are not among those exceptions where allowable nepotic appointments may be made,” Saceda said.

Saceda is asking the court to not only preventively suspend Rama, but also to criminally and administratively charge him for violating the laws.

Coterminous

Reacting to the nepotism charge, lawyer Collin Rosell, secretary to Mayor Rama, told SunStar Cebu Wednesday that based on City Hall records, the two employees were in fact appointed to coterminous positions.

“In so far nga nag-work sila, they were already appointed by the previous late mayor. And then they were appointed in coterminous positions under Mayor Rama.”

The previous late mayor was Rama ally Edgardo Labella, who died in office in November 2021.

“Dili na siya bawal (It’s not prohibited) because coterminous positions are imbued with trust and confidence. There are ways nga mahire sila especially if need gyod ilang technical know-how. Anyway, coterminous man sila, when the mayor steps down, they step down,” said Rosell in a phone interview with SunStar Cebu.

Rosell said the case has no merit because there is no violation in the appointment of Elmer and Gomer Mandanat under any law.

The lawyer suspects that the case was filed with “malice” since Rama married his second wife only in 2021.

“Dili lang ni pulitika. It’s malice,” he said.

Rama, who is currently on leave, said he would answer the accusations in the proper forum.

“Tubagon lang. Sige lang, tubagon na nato. Mabalaka ra tag naa tay gibuhat, wala man. When it comes to appointment, ato sang tan-awon ang pleading kay dili ta ka deretsog tubag kung walay pleading,” said the mayor Wednesday.

(We’ll answer. We’d only be worried if there was anything we did wrong. But there’s nothing. When it comes to appointment, we’ll look at the pleading first because we cannot directly answer if there is no pleading.)