SUSPENDED Toledo City Mayor John Osmeña is reportedly abroad. He said he’d leave for Europe when last August he was suspended by the ombudsman for one year for “grave abuse of authority.”
Sonny had refused to release the real property tax (RPT) share of Bry. Daanlungsod totaling P17.73 million (covering the last two quarters of 2014 and fiscal year 2015). In defense, Sonny said he wanted to protect the city’s interest since there was a boundary dispute between barangays Daanlungsod and Sangi. A gaping hole in that shield: the quarrel was settled by the city council in 2008 yet.
Who caused it
Daanlungsod chief Jose Letrago who filed the complaint that took out Sonny must be a political enemy who had offended the former senator. Otherwise, Sonny wouldn’t have blocked the barangay’s RPT funds for many years.
For that, Sonny was slapped the one-year suspension and would face before Sandiganbayan six counts of violation of the corrupt practices law.
What’s puzzling is why Sonny, a super-smart veteran politician, ignored the risk of dire consequences, which already threw him out of office, albeit temporarily, and could send him to jail. Letrago must have been a pain in the ass and Sonny is Sonny.
This Osmeña, a political watcher once said, has “the memory of an elephant.” He remembers to his last breath everyone who slighted him, including his cousin Cebu City Mayor Tomas.
Sonny may be outside the country but he must have initiated, as “capo,” the blitz that suspended Letrago for six months. Seven of the eight councilors in the City Council are members of his Team Alagad and the eighth belongs to One Cebu, Sonny’s ally.
For now he has total control of the City Council, thus enabling the swift operation against Letrago. Only a regional trial court can remove an elective local official; if the City Council had the power, the City Council would’ve expelled him. Acting Mayor Jun Yapha, an LP who’s at odds with his former “mentor and boss” Sonny, is helpless to overturn it.
Yapha, on dyCM radio yesterday, was stumped why the City Council included in the suspension the bry. accountant and secretary and the penalty period goes beyond the term of the bry. officials.
Letrago may raise those issues when or if he chooses to contest the sanction in court. And this: whether he was afforded due process before the vote was taken.
Sonny once complained about his city being shut out by media coverage: “you only come when there’s a major calamity or a massacre.” Well, here’s one issue that the Cebu press may find interesting: not as riveting as the BOPK-Barug Team Rama clashes but a worthy source of study on how politics can screw good governance.