Rama’s plea to defer hearings junked

THE Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) denied the plea of the legal counsels of suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to defer hearings on the administrative complaint filed by Labangon Barangay Captain Vic Buendia over the allegedly unlawful demolition of a median structure in the barangay.

DILG also referred to the Office of the President their motion to lift the 60-day preventive suspension against Rama.

During the resumption of the marathon hearings yesterday, Atty. Mikel Rama, the son of the suspended mayor, asked DILG hearing officer Atty. Isidro Barrios to defer the proceedings on Buendia’s complaint due to a prejudicial question.

He pointed out that there is a civil case that Buendia’s camp also filed before the Regional Trial Court Branch 16 that is yet to be resolved.

The civil case, he said, raised identical issues with that of the administrative complaint filed by Buendia’s camp before the Office of the President.

The complainant claimed that the median structure on Katipunan St., which was ordered demolished by Rama, was not a nuisance per se but it was being argued over by Rama’s lawyers.

“The administrative liability of the respondent is intertwined and related to the case before the court. The civil case is very determinative of the possible administrative liability of the respondent,” he said.

Rama’s lead counsel, City Legal Office Chief Jerone Castillo, said that it is only the court and not the Office of the President nor DILG that can determine if the median structure on Katipunan St. was a nuisance.

“That issue should be resolved first. The court is the final arbiter,” he added.

Castillo said it will be absurd if there will be conflicting decisions on the matter— if the court will rule that the median structure is a nuisance yet Rama will be eventually held administratively liable by DILG.

Buendia’s lead counsel Atty. Benjamin Militar said, though, that the hearing of the administrative complaint can proceed independently.

He said that their prayers for the civil case are different from that of the administrative complaint.

Militar said they are asking the court to order the restoration of the demolished structure, while in the administrative complaint, Buendia is asking for Rama to be administratively disciplined.

Militar said that in the civil case, they are also asking that the barangay and the contractor be paid for damages.

“Nuisance per se is not limited to the court. It is already defined by law...This proceedings can proceed. The penalties and the remedies are different,” he said.

After several discussions during the three-hour hearing yesterday, Barrios rejected the motion of the Rama camp.

Barrios said that while the defense of Rama’s lawyers was a “valid defense,” the issue should have been included and raised in the motion to dismiss they previously filed.

He said the administrative complaint was filed in July 2014 yet, the civil case in March 2014 and the motion to dismiss was filed in July 2015.

“The defense is already available. The issue on prejudicial question should have been included. Since you failed, it seems to have been waived. So I cannot act (favorably) on it,” he said.

As to the motion to lift the preventive suspension, Barrios said Rama’s preventive suspension will already end on Feb. 7 or Feb. 8.

He said the DILG Manila already received it and will just refer it to the Office of the President for their action.

He said the DILG no longer submitted any recommendation for it due to the hearings they are conducting.

Barrios said they only have until Feb. 9 to wrap up the administrative proceedings.

The Local Government Code provides that no administrative proceedings against elected officials should be held 90 days prior to the elections. This year’s polls are scheduled on May 9.

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