CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña defended Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa (Cebu City, south) in his criminal and administrative cases over his involvement in the City’s scholarship program when he was still a city councilor.
In his news conference yesterday, Osmeña, a political ally of Abellanosa, said Abellanosa did not take advantage of his position by requiring the city’s scholars to enroll in his school.
“He was just more innovative in providing the service. Many took advantage of it because of all the accredited schools for the scholarship program, he was the cheapest but he never forced anyone to enroll in his school,” Osmeña told reporters.
Osmeña’s defense came after opposition Councilor Raymond Garcia accused the mayor of keeping double standards in dealing with the decisions of the Ombudsman.
In a statement last Wednesday, Osmeña criticized House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in his decision not to implement the dismissal order of Rep. Gwen Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district).
Osmeña said the cases of Abellanosa and Garcia are different from each other.
“We (City) did not favor his school, he had no special incentive for his school. It was a normal playing field but he was just smart to provide the better package. He offered a cheaper education, which our scholars benefited from,” he said.
In 2016, the Ombudsman filed graft charges against Abellanosa before the Sandiganbayan after they accused the congressman of violating Section 3(i) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft Corrupt Practices Act by allowing his school to participate in the City Government’s scholarship program.
At that time, Abellanosa was a city councilor who sat in the City’s scholarship committee.
Following the findings of the anti-graft office, Abellanosa was ordered dismissed from service.
However, the First Division of the Sandiganbayan dismissed the criminal case filed by the Ombudsman against him last year.
In the province, two representatives agreed that the Ombudsman cannot discipline or dismiss members of Congress.
Cebu Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas (Cebu, 1st district) said he will support the decision of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in refusing to implement the dismissal order against Garcia.
“I’m not a lawyer. I’m in no position to tell anyone who’s right or who’s wrong. But at the end of the day, I am a member of Congress, Speaker (Alvarez) is our leader and we will support our leader in his decisions,” Gullas said.
Rep. Peter John Calderon (Cebu, 7th district) also agrees with Garcia’s stand.
“Naa na man gud na sa balaod (It’s in the law). The House has the right to discipline or expel its members,” Calderon said. (RVC, JKV)