DILG asked: Junk Buendia’s plaint

SUSPENDED Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, through his legal counsels, wants the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to dismiss the administrative complaint filed by Labangon Barangay Captain Victor Buendia.

Rama’s counsels said that the barangay leader has no personality to sue or be sued.

During the second day of hearing on Buendia’s complaint yesterday, Rama’s son, Atty. Mikel Rama, questioned the capacity of the village chief to sue the mayor.

The matter was brought up after Buendia’s camp questioned, in Tuesday’s hearing, City Legal Office Chief Atty. Jerone Castillo’s capacity to defend Rama.

Buendia’s counsel cited a conflict of interest because Castillo is representing the City to which the barangay is also a part of.

Mikel yesterday said the title of the complaint filed by Buendia only identified himself as the “complainant” and not as a “barangay captain” of Labangon.

Buendia sued Rama over the alleged unlawful demolition of a median structure or center island on Katipunan St.

Mikel pointed out that the party of the complaint should be properly identified so that the mayor can also avail himself of sufficient defenses.

Atty. Benjamin Militar, Buendia’s lead counsel, however, told DILG hearing officer Atty. Isidro Barrios that such technicality should no longer be entertained, so the merits of the complaint will already be tackled.

Militar said the technicalities are not the main issue about Buendia’s complaint, but whether Rama is guilty of abuse of authority and misconduct over the demolition of the median structure.

Militar said that Buendia did file the complaint in behalf of Labangon. Attached on Buendia’s complaint, the lawyer said, was an authority from the barangay council to sue Rama.

He further said that the title of the complaint can be easily changed but it should be the body and its essence that should be given consideration.

Mikel, though, argued that changing the party of the complaint from Buendia to Labangon as represented by Buendia would be a substantial change to the complaint.

Barrios then asked Buendia if he filed the complaint only on his personal capacity, the latter said no.

Asked by Barrios what additional defenses would they include now, Mikel answered they would question the barangay and Buendia’s capacity to file complaints in behalf of the barangay.

Castillo, who is the lead counsel of Rama, added the barangay has no power and authority to sue and be sued as it does not have its own charter unlike the City.

He said that his team reexamined the Local Government Code after Militar, during last Tuesday’s hearing, said that the village chief sued under a charter of the barangay.

Barrios said that if Buendia is suing in behalf of the barangay, then Castillo may be disqualified from representing the suspended mayor. This, while Rama’s camp will continue to raise Buendia’s capacity to sue in behalf of the village.

Due to the long arguments about the matter, Barrios called for a recess and talked to DILG 7 Legal Officer Aiza Fiel Nogra.

Nogra was later seen talking with Buendia’s lawyers and suggested to their camp to no longer question Castillo’s capacity to represent Rama anymore so as not to delay the proceedings.

“It will not work on your favor,” she told them.

Nogra said there is a ban on administrative proceedings against elected officials, which will start 90 days prior to an election. It will commence on Feb. 9, she said.

Asked if she was allowed to talk to parties, considering that she is part of the DILG that is investigating Rama, Nogra said there is no problem with it.

When the hearing resumed, Barrios said he will resolve all the issues raised by both camps today and will issue an order concerning the matter.

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