CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama began his 60-day preventive suspension with an emotional speech in front of City Hall, while his lawyers asked the court to annul Malacañang’s order.
The mayor yesterday yielded his post to Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, his political ally, and asked him to take care of City Hall.
“Akong hangyo, unsa ma’y ugma, ampingi Edgar Labella ning City Hall (Whatever happens, I appeal to you, Edgar Labella, to take good care of City Hall),” said Rama in a speech he delivered at the Plaza Sugbo Grounds after an “enlightenment mass” that began past 10 a.m.
The mayor also returned his City Government-issued vehicle to City Hall yesterday, a day after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) 7 served the preventive suspension order against Rama and, in turn, ordered Labella to take over the mayor’s office.
The mayor was preventively suspended in relation to an administrative complaint that Labangon Barangay Captain Victor Buendia filed before Malacañang after the City Government demolished a median structure or road island in his barangay.
The mayor’s lawyers, who asked the Court of Appeals yesterday to annul the suspension, said it was the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that ordered the removal of the center island.
“Clearly, there is no basis (for Malacañang) to rule that there is strong evidence of guilt against petitioner (Mayor Rama) for grave misconduct by ordering the clearing of an illegal and unauthorized structure for being a danger to the traveling public,” the petition read.
In a separate interview, Acting Mayor Labella said that despite the suspension, Rama will remain involved in the Sinulog and the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), both in January 2016.
He said that Rama can continue to serve as chairperson of the Sinulog Foundation Inc., because it has nothing to do with his public functions.
Rama said he found the preventive suspension “hurting, disappointing, and upsetting.”
He said he is being “crucified” for upholding the rule of law.
“They want my neck. They want me out of government but as I have said, ‘Into Thy hands, I commend my future politically, into Your will I will abide.’ Into God’s dictate, I will never defy because I am a child of God and of my parents…Whatever is my fate in this political struggle, Thy will be done,” he said in his speech.
Rama’s lead counsel on the case is his son, Atty. Mikel Rama, who will work on it with private lawyers Floro Casas and Jasper Pelagio.
While he previously said that any suspension would be “over my dead body,” Rama said it is just unfortunate that Malacañang did not listen.
Had he not removed the median structure, Rama said, he would also be responsible for any vehicular accident or death in the area.
At one point during his speech, Rama took off his barong onstage to show that he is “just an ordinary man.”
In a press conference he then called after the speech, Rama said that Malacañang’s suspension order shows the battle lines being drawn between the Liberal Party and the United Nationalist Alliance, of which he is a member.
“I am disappointed. It is quite nauseating. I have become a victim. It is just disappointing how politics has degraded governance into a sheer mockery,” he said.
“The people voted for me. They alone have the sovereign right to remove me. Not even Malacañang (can do that),” he said.
He declined to say how he plans to spend the next 60 days.
Rama’s opponent, former mayor and south district congressman Tomas Osmeña, said it seems that Rama is trying to get the sympathy of the public over his suspension.
“He might get some public sympathy but not from the people of Labangon...One thing is for sure, his demolition victims won’t shed a tear for him,” Osmeña said.
Away from City Hall, the mayor’s lawyers quietly went to the appeals court to file a petition for certiorari and to ask that Malacañang and the interior department be restrained from suspending him.
Rama, his lawyers argued, “has every right to hold the office as mayor and protect it from any frivolous and unmeritorious incidents that would impede the performance of his duties and powers.”
In his 25-page petition, Rama said that Malacañang committed “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction” in suspending him.
The center island that City Hall removed in 2014 was illegal and unauthorized because Buendia “illegally deviated and substantially modified” the approved plan and scope of work, the mayor’s petition said.
Cebu City Ordinance 1481 declared the center island as a nuisance, which was why it had to be demolished, it added.
“Petitioner has the clear and unmistakable right not to be unjustifiably disturbed in his public function, lest delivery of basic services to his constituents be compromised,” the petition said.