Comelec to probe alleged use of City vehicles in UNA rally

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama will have to answer allegations that City-owned vehicles and other resources were used in the preparations for the rally of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) at the Plaza Independencia last night.

Yesterday morning, Commission on Elections (Comelec) 7 Director Temie Lambino directed Provincial Election Supervisor Eddie Aba and Cebu City election officers Marchel Sarno and Edwin Cadungog to conduct a formal investigation on the alleged use of City-Government owned vehicles, fuel and other resources to set up the stage for last night’s rally at the Plaza Independencia.

Rama reportedly admitted that using government-owned vehicles for campaign activities cannot be avoided. Team Rama is an ally of UNA.

“There are news reports that City Government officials allegedly used government properties to set up the stage. So what I did is I ordered attorneys Aba, Sarno and Cadungog to write a letter to Mayor Rama and ask for his statement and explanation on the allegations. They will write the letter today,” Lambino told Sun.Star Cebu.
Complaint

He said it would have been ideal for Comelec to act on a complaint. But as there is none at present, the election office will base its inquiry on newspaper reports.

Lambino, however, urged news reporters and witnesses who heard Rama’s admission on the use City-owned vehicles to put their statements on record.

“We are asking them to substantiate their statements. If they have evidence that the mayor really said that some government resources were used, it will be good because we are not privy to their conversation with the mayor,” he said.

Lambino said he did not give the election officers a deadline to wrap up their investigation, since it would depend on the submission of the documents by the concerned parties.

Citing the Omnibus Election Code, he said those found using government properties during a campaign and other partisan activities may be sentenced to one to six years in jail without probation.

They may also be disqualified from seeking public office.

UNA campaign visit in Cebu
UNA'S FIRST. The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) holds its first campaign activity in Cebu, starting with a motorcade in the cities of Talisay, Cebu and Mandaue. Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia (right) joins UNA's national figures -- including Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and son Jack, senatoriables Miguel Zubiri and Milagros "Mitos" Magsaysay -- on a truck. (Sun.Star Photo/Alex Badayos)


Disqualification

Those who are running in the elections this May may also be disqualified to run, if found guilty of the said offense.

But in a press conference yesterday, Rama said his only role in the UNA rally is deciding where it will be held and providing whatever is needed in line with basic services, like peace and security.

In his news conference yesterday morning, Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City south district) challenged Comelec to run after Rama for the alleged use of the City’s dump trucks to deliver materials to Plaza Independencia, where the UNA rally was held, even with the
absence of a complainant.

“There are two aggravating circumstances that compound the gravity of his offense.

First he’s using government vehicles and fuel. Second, he’s flaunting it and bragging about it,” the congressman said.

Bias

Osmeña said that if poll officials insist on acting on the issue only after receiving a complaint, he would think that they are biased.

“Comelec is supposed to be an independent body and the reason for their existence is to ensure fair play. There are laws that empower them to do so that’s why I’m appalled to hear them say that they need a complainant,” he said.

When sought for comment, Rama described Osmena’s statements as manifestations of his insecurity and fear of defeat in the coming elections.

“Na-rattle na na sila (They are scared),” he said of his opponent in the mayoral race.
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