Rama laments changes at City Hall
CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama. (Photo from Cebu City PIO)

Rama laments changes at City Hall

SUSPENDED Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama took offense with the several adjustments and policy directions made at City Hall, particularly the slashing of the Palarong Pambansa’s budget and the omission of some items, as well as the negotiation with the leadership of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) and the Cebu Port Authority (CPA).

But for Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, he has not made any changes in the policy direction at City Hall or Rama’s direction, as both officials wanted only to deliver quality services to the people of Cebu City.

In an interview with “Beyond the Headlines,” SunStar Cebu’s news and commentary program on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, Rama said he did not like the current changes in the Palarong Pambansa preparations, citing the P405 million budget allocation, including the items and programs, was scrutinized and approved by the City Council even before his preventive suspension last May 10.

“In totality, I really took offense kay mora man unsa diay gusto nila nga (ipagawas) nga gusto mi mangawarta. Unsa man pareho mi nila kaniadto, dili na ha. Maong klarohon nato nga ang gabuhat anang (plano sa) Palarong Pambansa kay, sus, it was intrigued by an eye of the needle (In totality, I really took offense because they want to show that we want to make money. We were the same, so not anymore. So let’s be clear who are planning for the Palarong Pambansa because it was intrigued by an eye of the needle),” Rama said.

Rama questioned where Garcia was during the budget deliberation when the latter was still the presiding officer of the City Council as the vice mayor.

He added that he empowered the Department of Education-Cebu City Division, City Councilor Dondon Hontiveros as chair of the committee on education and scholarship, and Cebu City Sports Commission Chairman John Pages to spearhead the preparations.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Garcia said he only trimmed down the budget for the Palarong Pambansa as part of accountability, in which he said Mayor Rama wanted the people’s taxes to be used diligently.

Garcia stressed that he would be held accountable for all expenses and spending of the City Government if it were not properly disbursed.

On June 3, Garcia announced the trimming of the Palaro 2024 allotted budget of P405 million down to P143 million following the result of his review.

Moreover, Rama also said he was disappointed with the current policy direction of the City Government, including Garcia’s negotiations with the leadership of the MCWD and the CPA.

He said that he was insulted when Garcia signed the requested excavation permit of MCWD, which was witnessed by MCWD Chairman Jose Daluz III at his office, with the background of his portrait.

Rama, since last year, has been in a rift with Daluz and the rest of the MCWD board of directors over the local water district’s leadership.

On the other hand, Garcia stressed that he signed the excavation permit due to necessity, as it was expected to deliver the long-delayed water supply to 5,000 households, particularly in the upland area.

Garcia said that households would benefit from the much-needed water.

He also clarified that in his one month as the acting city mayor, he has done nothing wrong and has only delivered services to their constituents.

He said that he still holds the highest esteem and regard for Rama, as he emphasized that they are doing this for the benefit and welfare of all Cebuanos.

Rama said that Garcia should have just run as city mayor, lamenting that both ran in tandem and won under Team Barug during the 2022 election.

He added that the last time he spoke with Garcia was when the latter visited him following his preventive suspension, and he emphasized that he did not tell Garcia to change the policy direction.

“Giguba ang akong mga policy direction. Caretaker ra na sila mao rana simple ra kaayo. Nasayop diay ko nga ako siya gibuhat nga vice mayor (It destroyed my policy directions. They are caretakers, so this is very simple. So I made a mistake when I made him the vice mayor),” Rama said.

Garcia said that he has no conflict or tension with Rama, adding that he is open to having a dialogue with the city mayor to clear things out.

“Up until now, he still holds my highest esteem and regard. My highest respect, my highest regards, my highest esteem kay naa gihapon ni (is still with) Mayor Mike, and that’s not changed,” Garcia said.

Preventive suspension

Rama emphasized that he is still the elected city mayor and that his “preventive” suspension was not a punishment but rather a result of an unfortunate chain of command in the issue with some city hall employees who did not receive their 10 months worth of salary due to a conflict over their assignment. The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the six-month preventive suspension of Rama and six other officials over a complaint filed by four city hall mappers over a dispute with reassignment orders and the non-payment of the latter’s salary.

Rama explained that he was not a payroll officer and that the city mayor has the prerogative to assign city hall employees to other offices and departments.

He only received an official copy of the complaint on June 5.

He filed a motion for reconsideration and compliance on June 3 before the Court of Appeals Special 10th Division in Manila concerning its May 17, 2024, resolution. / EHP

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